I am an introvert by nature. And because of that, I have had many of what I like to call, “stretching moments” in my life. I remember one of those stretching moments very clearly when I was growing up.
When I was a teenager my Mom was the choir director at church. She decided to give me the job to call all the choir members to remind them about choir practice each week. I couldn’t tell you how awful that was for me at the time. I literally thought I would die making these phone calls. To help me get through it, I would write out a script with exactly what I was going to say. My heart would be pounding as the phone would ring and I would hear “hello” on the other end. I can’t say I ever got comfortable with making phone calls (I still don’t like them), but I will say that time in my life was a stretching moment. If it wasn’t for that experience, as uncomfortable as it was, I probably wouldn’t have gotten hired as an early morning front desk receptionist when I was newly married, a job we desperately needed.
Stretching moments are what help us grow and progress. They usually force us out of our comfort zone. But when it’s all said in done, the stretching moments help us become and do what we are capable of becoming and doing. Whether an introvert or not, everyone has stretching moments to learn from.
When I am teaching, I will try to remember to call out a stretching moment when it presents itself. This helps ease the student into the moment and create a more positive experience. Many times these stretching moments start out as a “challenge” piece. A challenge piece is a piece of music that is a little more challenging that will stretch the student if practiced well and allow them to climb over that hill that they might be stuck on.
Sometimes a stretching moment may present in a performance. Maybe the student isn’t too keen on the idea of going on stage and performing in front of an audience. They might worry they will make a mistake or forget their music. Or perhaps, they will just be too nervous. This is a stretching moment that shouldn’t be taken lightly but should be encouraged. There is so much that will be missed if the moment passes by. Lynda Lybeck Robinson, piano pedagogue, and composer shared with me that when she has a student that doesn’t want to perform in their mandatory recital, she gently explains to them that this is just one minute of their life. One minute. Then they are done. I love putting it into perspective. One minute. All of the sudden it seems a little more possible. To my students who struggle with the idea of performing, I offer to sit by them while they play or play a duet part along with them. Sometimes they take me up on it and sometimes they end up deciding they can do it by themselves. Either way, they are stretching through the experience.
One thing to keep in mind about stretching moments is if you let them pass without any action, nothing is gained. You simply won’t stretch. I try to remember this in my own life when things are uncomfortable. I can stay in my comfort zone which is… well, comfortable. Or I can get out of my comfort zone and become better! Remember- There is no growth in comfort zones.
How about you? What kind of stretching moments have you benefited from in your life or you’ve seen from your students?