Trial and Error,
Trial and Repetition,
But Never Make the Error of Omission
When I was in college, I had the great fortune of spending several years under the mentorship of Vince Penzarella, from the NY Philharmonic. He was known as a master pedagogue who could fix many of the technical problems that young trumpeters like me often encountered.
Hanging on the wall in his small studio was the above quote, and it became very apparent from the first lesson that whatever magic bullet I was looking for him to provide didn’t exist. His philosophy was simple. Try and try again. Learn from your mistakes. But never give up. Keep working!
In my lifelong study of artistic and human achievement, a deep commitment to practice is always at the core of excellence. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he speaks of the 10,000-hour rule of accomplishing greatness. Despite our fascination with the innate talent that athletes like Michael Jordan or LeBron James possess, it is their commitment to their crafts and their willingness to practice that brought them towards greatness.
I once remember being at a concert in New York where NMS alum Wayne Escoffery was performing, when a young student came up and in all earnestness asked Wayne, “How did you get this gig at Lincoln Center?” Wayne simply responded, “I practiced for eight hours a day for fifteen years.” When the kid’s face looked shocked, Wayne quickly said, “But you gotta start by just picking up your instrument each day.”
Practicing is the backbone of achievement. Embrace the work, love the work, and the rest will follow.
In the words of Khalil Gibran: “All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.”
Zaliyah Clyburn-Wilson loves to create. And to practice.
She has taken nearly every dance class available at NMS, including ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, and Triple Threat (now Musical Theater Workshop). Her teachers have included Tracey Albert, Martha Fiellin, Hanan Hameen, Danielle Rathey, Stacey Richetelli, Suzanne Sepe, and Vicky Streeto.
Zaliyah’s creativity, dedication, and commitment to continuously improving her already strong dance technique helped her earn a spot in the Premier Dance Company at NMS for two years, including a year as captain.
“When Zaliyah first started, like the other dancers, she was nervous, challenged, and pushed beyond her comfort zone,” said Hanan Hameen, coach of the Premier Dance Company. “What made her stand out to become captain was her determination, self-discipline, leadership skills, and ability to deconstruct movement, which made her a quick study. Anything I presented to her that she was having difficulty with, she practiced until she achieved it.”
Zaliyah especially appreciates the dance philosophy at NMS, the Collaborative Choreography Initiative, which has given her the opportunity to both master new skills and create new choreography with her fellow dancers.
“What I like the most about Neighborhood is the fact that it isn’t just teachers giving steps to learn,” Zaliyah noted. “Us students actually get the opportunity to work together to create something. It brings people together and creates bonds we wouldn’t get if we were just learning steps.”
Zaliyah is the first to note how many skills she has gained at NMS that go far beyond dance.
“I’ve loved all of my time at Neighborhood,” reflected Zaliyah. “It’s really taught me many life lessons like leadership. Without Neighborhood, I don’t know how I’d be doing right now.”
“Zaliyah is clear on her life goals and understands what she must do to achieve them,” said Hanan. “I’m proud of Zaliyah as not only a dance mentee but as a respectful, productive young person who will grow to do amazing things in the world.”
Piano faculty member Zach Polson has been studying — and practicing — piano since age four.
In this video, Zach introduces himself and his teaching philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of simple practice steps that can be applied to any piece of music:
We asked Zach to show us one of the practice techniques he teaches. Here, Zach demonstrates “over the bar” practice, a practice technique that is helpful for all musicians (and dancers!):