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Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect - Vince Lombardi (1913 - 1970)

posted Feb 4, 2016, 8:58 AM by Bowmansville UMC

There’s an often told musicians joke.  It seems that once there was a musician walking in the streets of New York City.  He needs to get to Carnegie Hall for a rehearsal, but is lost.  He sees a woman walking with a violin case and figures of anyone, this person might know.  He asks “Do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” to which the she replies “Practice, practice, practice.”

I have been a band director for 33 years.  Like anyone in any given position for a long time, there are certain things I do and say that are part of what I am in my job.  I would share some of them with you. 

One of the things I say to my students most often is to remind them that they are special and not to get frustrated with a new song or concept.  My line for this situation has been “If doing this was easy, every kid in the school would be in this room playing an instrument.”  This is to remind them that they are a breed apart.  There has to be a dedication, hard work and sacrifice.  Often when friends are playing, hanging out, or going to the movies or mall, my students have to forego these pleasures to put in the required practice time to hone their skills. 

Another point I often stress is “there is a difference between playing your instruments and practicing your instruments”.  Playing and practicing are not interchangeable.  If done properly, practice should really be unpleasant.  It is mentally draining.  It is boring, repetitious, and laborious, but the work has to be done to allow us to “play”. 

As much as playing is more enjoyable than practicing, so too a Concert is the ultimate way to enjoy performing for me.  Concerts are often the best reason for me to practice. Musicians are truly blesed.  We perform and people CLAP for us !   Can you imagine doing that for your accountant a pastor or the waiter at your restaurant?  The guys who collect your trash each week?  Give them a round of applause or a standing ovation.  Yeah, I struggle through endless practice because the playing is THAT much fun. 

Another quote I use often with my students comes from legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, “Practice does not make Perfect, PERFECT Practice makes Perfect”.  This also goes back to my previous point.  Not only is there a difference between playing and practicing, there is a huge difference between poor practice and correct practice.  If  you are truly PRACTICING you should NEVER play a wrong note.  Play slowly and correctly, then repeat over and over again.   I do not tell my students they will achieve perfection; that is not the goal.  But practicing anything with the knowledge that mistakes are present and acceptable, is wrong.  If you are going to put in the time, make it as best as one can.  Practice does NOT make you perfect, but poor practice not only don’t bring improvement, it actually cements the mistakes into being routine.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.

I also remind each of my students that, in my words, “You are part of a group, and have a responsibility to the group.  Our overall success depends on you.”  It’s a way of stressing that we are all in this together.  I rely on them, them on me, and them on each other.  

The same way, I stress a child’s performance isn’t just a matter of them completing the assignment.  The entire group has a share in the overall success and in the end, I know that each individual will feel much more successful knowing they carried their weight, and did their part.  Sure one student could sit on stage and fake everything, and still receive the applause; however, that person will know what they have or haven’t done to prepare.  Anyone can be on winning team, but knowing that you are a direct part of the success is where the pride and happiness comes from.

When Pastor asked me to fill in for him today, I really had no idea what I would speak on.  The more I thought of my bands, my students, and what we do in school, the more I thought of things here at Bowmansville United Methodist.  I thought of each of you.  So, just to review, this what I have stated so far:

1.    I remind my students that they are a breed apart and that if what we did  was easy, everyone would be in our group. 

2.    There is a difference between playing their instruments and practicing their instruments.

3.    Concerts are fun.  The weekly grind is not, but the grind allows the concerts to be possible.

4.    “Practice does not make Perfect, PERFECT Practice makes PERFECT”

5.     My students are part of a group, and have a responsibility to the group.  Our overall success  depends on each single member.

6.      Finally, sure, anyone can be on winning team, but knowing that you are a direct part of the success  is where the pride and happiness comes from.

7.      How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice ! 

The more I thought about these ideas, the more I thought about all of us, as members of this church, as members of the body of Christian fellowship.

Number 1We are a breed apart, we are different, if what we did was easy, then EVERYONE would be doing it.  Being a Christian is NOT always easy.  There are sacrifices to be made.  Look at all the world has to offer.  While others are out doing worldly things many of these are things in which we don’t or shouldn’t participate.  When others are doing wrong even in small matters when they espouse “Hey no one will know”, those are the times that WE know what is right, and what is wrong, and need to perform properly.  Maybe it’s something we shouldn’t say, lie, gossip, cheat, something we shouldn’t watch, whatever, we are part of a special group and sacrifices need to be made.  If it was always easy, everyone would be in here with us.

Number 2 - There is a difference between playing their instruments and practicing their instruments.   As Christians, are we practicing what we preach, TRULY practicing our faith, or are we just playing the role of a person of Faith.  When we make a mistake, do we try to correct it so it won’t happen again, or do we continue to make the same mistakes over and over in our lives, so that the wrong action is actually being cemented into our beings?   

Number 3 - Concerts are fun.  The weekly grind is not.  Every Sunday at Church could be looked upon as a concert with the music, message and fellowship.  But what about when we are not here?  The weekly grind is not always as easy, nor as fun.  However, what we do during the week could prepare us for our “Sunday concerts”.  Think of how much more meaningful Pastor’s messages could be personally to each of us, if we read and had more understanding of the Bible.  How much more would our Sunday’s mean to us if we spent more time during the week in prayer, rather than only on Sunday.  These are again the sacrifices we should be making with preparation and practice.  

Number 4 - “Practice does not make Perfect, PERFECT Practice makes PERFECT”.  When we do prepare, do it right.  Don’t just read the Bible like a story book.  We should prepare our mind, spirit, even the room we are in.  Have a quiet time, with no distractions.  Read thoroughly.  Have a set plan.  Set a time, and stick to it.  We should set our hearts in prayer, and again, not only the repetitive words that we might always say, but heartfelt communication with the Lord.  Don’t just “practice Christianity”, try more to practice “perfect Christianity”.  We will never be perfect, we know that.  Still the goal should be to practice correctly all the time.

Number 5 - We are part of a group, and have a responsibility to the group.  Our overall success depends on each single member.  Whatever talents we have, should be used not only for our own relationship with God, but as a representative of our church and our United Methodist family.  No, we don’t wear a badge that states we are a Christian or a Methodist, but many know us as a church going member.  If and when we do those little offenses we discussed earlier, such as gossip, backstabbing, cheating, lying, whatever the offense, we are all painted with the same brush.  Similarly, when we do even nice little things, a smile, a kind word, extend a hand of friendship, make a call to a neighbor, do an act of kindness; all those similarly are noticed and our familial ties noted.  We are part of a group here.

Number 6 - Anyone can be on winning team, but knowing that you are a direct part of the success is where the pride and happiness comes from.  Does the Bible specifically ask us to be a larger part of the team as a requirement?  Probably not.  God and the Lord know our heart, and they know our Salvation.  When we face the Lord, how much more can we take pride in a life that is one that shows our Faith is a part of our everyday life, and that our actions reflect the Love of the Lord?  We can all challenge our self to be better, truer, kinder, and who knows how far that can take us?

And finally - Number 7 – So how do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice!  How do we live a proper Christian life, how do we learn to treat others as we want to be treated, how do we learn to love?  Practice, practice, practice.  You know how to do it.  If it was easy, everyone would be here.  It’s not easy; in fact, it’s hard, but it is worth it.  Put in the time.  We all, each and every one of us, need to practice, practice, practice!   

Abridged version of the sermon presented on January 17, 2016, by Ken Kowalski