Tuesday, July 27, 2010



When my oldest grandson was 5 we took him to miniature golf. After a hole-in-one there was praise, shouting and jumping. When the next 10 holes failed to produce another ace he fell on the ground exclaiming he couldn’t do it and would never do it again. There are many great lessons we learn from golf and music. We learn that with dogged determination we make incremental progress. We learn that as Dr. Bob Rotella’s said in his book title “Golf is not a game of perfect”.

One of my worst rounds of the Summer was so bad that when I realized my score would go well over 100 I started picking up my ball on bad holes. I new guy had joined our group. He too was a senior golfer. He striped the ball 300+ yards down the middle time after time. I knew enough not to compete in that arena. His swing was very, very quick. Mine is quite slow and relaxed. By comparison I was sure I was not being influenced. I was. It took 17 holes for me to realize that although I was swinging slower than the new guy, I was still not in my tempo. Finally I parred #18. Having ‘figured it out’ and it being early in the day, I asked the group if anyone wanted to play another 9 holes. Two agreed, partly out of pity for my plight that day. I shot par on the extra nine. My best round of the Summer. Whether in golf or music, we must stay true to ourselves. We must play our own game.

Mistakes happen. In music and golf, there is no such thing as a perfect performance. In both it is how we react to those mistakes, how we keep our focus on the goal, that determines our success. Adolf Herseth, principal trumpet in Chicago was giving a master class and wanted a student to come up on stage to perform. There were no volunteers. “I know you are all afraid to make the first mistake. I’ll do it.” Herseth picked up his trumpet and made on awful sound. He went on to explain that everyone is going to make a mistake. Lesson number one for the day.
A friend from the music industry was a pretty good golfer. His goal was to retire from music to Florida and become a golf instructor. A torn rotator cuff caused him to give up golf. It wasn’t that he couldn’t play; it was that he wasn’t as good as he used to be. I suggested he lower his expectations and just enjoy golf. He couldn’t do it. I understand. After developing Focal Dystonia friends suggested I play in community bands and the like. I can’t do it. I’d rather remember how good I was than demonstrate how bad I am. It sounds strange to say that I am fortunate I was never a really good golfer. But I can just enjoy the game at my level. I know musicians who feel the same about music. I do, however, aspire to be as good as possible. I had an adult tuba student once who played an excerpt with bad rhythm. When I pointed it out he told me it didn’t matter because he played for his own amusement. I asked him if it amused him to play it wrong. Golf and music; such similar pursuits.

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