Insights from the Kaleidoscope Challenge

© Zdenek Precechtel –

Recently, a group of dedicated harpists and I finished the “Kaleidoscope Challenge.” “Kaleidoscope Challenge.” This online challenge was 4 weeks of practice techniques and FaceBook camaraderie designed to make our daily practice more efficient, focused and effective. The techniques were part of the “practice repertoire” I have developed over the years and found to be invaluable at keeping the momentum through the difficult practice times.

It’s often called the “messy middle,” that point in music practice when you have the notes mostly learned but they are far from comfortable. The correct tempo seems a long way off, and the continual repetitions that are required are becoming mind-numbing and not producing results.

And so over the course of those four weeks, we tried 20 different practice techniques to keep ourselves interested and motivated. I expected good results; after all, I use these with my students all the time. And my expectations were realized, but I also came away with a few interesting insights.

1. I thought everyone knew these things. I really didn’t think these techniques were going to be unfamiliar to many of the challengers. I expected that their impact would be in the ways we were using them. To my surprise, much of this was new for the challengers.

My takeaway: There will be another challenge…

2. The progress was surprisingly fast. We had reports from some challengers of great lessons with their teachers, and from others of music prepared very quickly, in one case just one week. I believe this points to the power of system and focus.

My takeaway: I will help all my students use their practice time and effort efficiently. I need to remember to provide them with clear direction and action steps toward their goals.

3. The challengers and I share a common goal; to play the harp well. Our personal aims may be different; most of the challengers aren’t focused on public performance. But we all want to play well, even if it’s in our own living rooms for just ourselves. And the most empowering aspect of the challenge for some was the discovery that their frustration was remediable, and that there was a path to playing the harp for pleasure.

My takeaway: I want to work with my students to help them define and select their goals and then give them the tools they need to achieve them.

4. One of the most powerful parts of the challenge was that the participants were able to work side by side (virtually, that is) with other harpists. They were at different levels of study and in different parts of the world, but they shared this part of their harp journey together. The support of the group was incredible.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had that always?

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