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Talk to any fulfilled artists, including musicians, and the universal theme is they are always challenging themselves, practicing, studying, and learning. In other words, they never stop being students. While it’s easy to fall into a rut, even at the highest levels of performance, it’s important to embrace music with the open mind and yearning of a student. The creativity of music may have parameters (e.g. 88 keys on a piano) but no limits. Why stay with what you already know? Here are some suggestions to remain a student of music.

Think outside the genre

Perhaps you’re a classical musician for example. Don’t limit yourself to all things classical. Listen to jazz, pop, rock n roll … the list goes on. Notice the similarities? How are they different? New genres can be fun, inspiring, and emotional. Your curiosity and exploration may also infuse your current genre with new ideas and expressions.

Experiment

The words “rote” and “rut” are close cousins. Are you practicing the same repertoire over and over AND OVER. Have fun, break the rules, and try something different. Need some inspiration? Check out this video L’Rollin Clarinet Band – Thunderstuck. Combining genres is a great way to expand your creative horizons. Another option is the interpretive route. For example: Take a favorite story of yours and instead of reciting the words, play the progressive mood and feeling of the story. Think Peter and the Wolf.

Along those lines, participate in workshops, take lessons, or set up sessions with other musicians. Collaboration can ignite a blaze of creative fire.

Enjoy

Students attend lectures … student musicians attend performances. Experience first-hand what other musicians are doing. Pay attention to how other musicians interpret and perform music. If you can’t attend live performances, there are countless videos online you can check out. Start with your favorite performers and see who they follow, listen to, and are inspired by.

Back to school

Music has depth, which sometimes requires devoted study to explore. Read articles, dive into music theory, history, and technique. Not only will you find the information absorbing, but you may also pick up practical material that you can readily apply to your craft.

Another aspect is to seek feedback. When we’re students, we never get everything right. Teachers give us feedback, which is vital to us learning and improving. Music teachers, other musicians, friends, and family members can be great resources for feedback. Make sure though that these people are comfortable giving you honest feedback. While we all enjoy praise, real growth often comes from criticism. Having said that, remember your goal is not to please everyone. Some feedback may not apply to your style or progress—but often there’s at least some nugget that can benefit you if you’re open to it. Take all the feedback you can get and then objectively apply that which helps you improve. In your heart, you’ll know which is which. If not, try it out and see how it plays … literally.

When it comes to the creative realm of music, there is no finish line. There’s never a saturation point of knowing it all. Once you embrace the excitement of that trust, being a student of music for life can be as fulfilling and rewarding as being a musician in and of itself.