It's that time of year. We're racing to the finish line, polishing off our holiday concerts, pressing submit on reports, maybe jumping on a plane to Midwest. And let's face it, we're exhausted. We need to recharge our batteries, both musically and personally. Here are four ways you can reconnect to yourself and to great music during the holidays, to get inspired and excited for the year ahead.
Whether you've had an incredible year, or one you'd rather forget, when it gets to December we're all flagging. Our batteries are drained and need a serious recharge. Unfortunately, we spend a lot more time recharging our phones than we do recharging ourselves. Sometimes we can be so drained that we come up against some existential dread.
Why am I doing this?
What am I here for?
Why do I even bother?
Or, you might also be at the place of Wow I love what I do so much - I can't wait to get back to school next semester! If that's you - go you good thing! It's still a good idea to give yourself a break and a boost. Keep reading :)
But if, like many of us, you're feeling like you're in a slump, it's important to give yourself real time to recover, both personally and musically. If you've been listening to eight-graders day in, day out, for months, your ears are probably craving some high-quality, fabulous sounding, sophisticated music-making. I'm not saying eighth-graders can't be all those things, but often they're not...yet.
So to get yourself inspired and excited for the year ahead, here are four ways you can recharge, and reconnect to yourself and your passion during the holidays.
To recharge our musical batteries, and remember what astonishing music making looks and sounds like, we need to be deliberate about exposing ourselves to great music, and new things. Things that open our eyes and ears and inspire us, or show us something we've never seen before.
What we need is an aural and emotional bath. To indulge ourselves in luxurious, decadent, passionate, honest, music making. Whether that be through attending a live concert (if you're going to Midwest this week you're spoilt for choice!), or watching or listening to something great online.
Performances I love that I keep coming back to when I need a boost are:
For laughs and wow factor: They Don't Let You in the Opera by Kelli O'Hara
For jaw-dropping conducting inspiration: Le Poeme de l'Extase with Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berlin Philharmonic
To see sheer fun music making: Tank & The Bangas Tiny Desk Concert
For joyful, ripping up the keys piano playing: Hiromi's I Got Rhythm at BBC Proms
To remember how fun 'classical' music can be: Carlos Kleiber conducting the Vienna Phil
Want even more joyous musical performances? Check out our Musical Inspiration for Conductors playlist on YouTube - I'm constantly adding new fabulous content as I find it!
There are a few classic TED talks and videos I return to time and time again. Each time it's like easing my feet into some cosy slippers. I feel myself relax, and go 'ahhh....YES! That's right. That's it. That's why I'm doing this!'. My top two all time favourites are:
Conductor Benjamin Zander's The Transformative Power of Classical Music
Mime artist (and my huge inspiration) Bud Beyer's dive into how musicians communicate Dialogue by Music
To stretch your brain and make you see differently: A Different Way to Visualise Rhythm
To make you delight and marvel: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale
To explode what you understand about listening: Dame Evelyn Glennie's How to Truly Listen
Want even more interesting talks to elevate your conducting? Check out our TED Talks for Conductors YouTube playlist.
I also love digging up resources that at first glance it may seem unrelated to conducting. Yet often, when we get beyond our close sphere of reference and comfort zone, we can find some amazing ideas waiting for us!
Want to make better connections with others and be a more effective leader? Watch the Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
Flagging, and want to know the value of sticking it out (for us and our musicians)? Unpack Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance with Angela Duckworth
Want to really think about what we do in schools? Challenge ideas through Do Schools Kill Creativity? with Ken Robinson
Feeling unheard and unappreciated? Learn How to Speak So that People Want to Listen with Julian Treasure
Conducting can bring about a lot of tension, both mentally and physically. Sometimes what you need is to physically unwind. I love the free YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene, which has plenty easy follow along videos ranging from a couple of minutes to nearly an hour. I have NO yoga experience, and do not fold in half like a pretzel on command! I find them easy to do and in no way intimidating. Unlike a class, you can do these anytime, anywhere (Midwest hotel room, anyone?). Best of all, this is one time you'll be happy no one's watching you!
Get your flow going with these:
Yoga for Neck, Shoulders and Upper Back (10 minutes)
Feel Alive Flow (15 minutes)
Want to just be still? Do a meditation. Though it's a huge buzz word at the moment, it's the kind of thing it's easy to put off until you might really need it. Gift yourself a few minutes of stillness and feel the results on your mood, nervous system and mind. New to meditation? Check out these free tracks and apps:
Headspace - 5 Minute Meditation (Spotify)
Got some great resources you think others should know about? Let people know on our Facebook page!