Another edition of "Coach's Corner" deals with the challenge of balancing your musical path, and avoiding the common "ruts" that we all fall prone to throughout our careers. In this article, I'd like to take a few moments to share with you my feelings about three fundamental essentials for the evolving musician, without which your chances of ever achieving your goals might be "slim and none."

I'm going to describe these three essentials in order of importance, because even though they are all critical issues to be addressed, I have witnessed the success of many players who possessed an abundance of only one or two, and just a little of the other. Let's begin with the one essential ingredient that money can't buy, and if you guessed "talent"" you couldn't be more wrong!

Dedication. Think about that word. Dedication, to me, is very different than "desire." Many people desire possessions or skills in life, but only the most driven are willing to combine that desire with a work ethic to get the job done. This is especially true in the artistic field, where the notion of becoming a professional is, at the very least, a security gamble in the first place. When I visualize desire without perspiration, the first word that comes to my mind is "greed."

To use a sports analogy (sorry, couldn't help it), I recall listening to an interview many years ago with basketball legend Larry Bird. He very casually mentioned the fact that he practiced shooting "a thousand free throws a day!" And yet most fans and observers would believe his ability to stem directly from some innate talent that he was just born with. Sorry, I don't buy that at all.

My father told me many years ago "Son, assume that you have no natural talent, because it'll force you to work twice as hard to reach your goals." It's kind of funny in retrospect because, to this day when someone (who knows about my Dad) hears me play, they'll say "You're lucky to be born into a musical family," or "Oh, that's where you got your ability from." Amusing, eh? Guess those years of studying 7-8 hours a day weren't very important after all. But I digress... Let's move on to the next essential.

Environment. Okay, let's assume that you feel pretty solid about your degree of dedication. Though many dedicated musicians have scaled great heights on the basis of that trait alone, it really helps if you're able to create a "proper" environment in which to evolve. I mean, it's pretty tough to work two jobs, go to school, support a family, and find the time necessary to become a decent musician. You need to be realistic about how your goals relate to your lifestyle, and be willing to create some time and space on a regular basis to study. If not, you're making the task almost an impossibility.

Direction. This is the final essential. So many times, during the course of my teaching career, I've encountered a dedicated player/student who's created an adequate environment for study. Even after establishing these important traits and logging sometimes years of personal practice, they find themselves aimlessly going around in circles. Why? Lack of an "efficient" direction. You must ascertain, as an evolving artist, the shortest distance between where you are and where you wish to be, if only six months from now. That's a good coach's job, supplying the final ingredient for success! Later...

"Coach's Corner" is an ongoing addition to Vision Music. The purpose of these brief articles is to share philosophy, offer practical insights, and to enhance your musical studies.

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