6 Ways to Nurture Your Own Music-Making in 2020

When we’re busy teaching (or indeed, performing) it can be hard sometimes to nurture and enjoy our own music-making as individuals. I know from experience that the demands of teaching can often take precedence over my own playing, and sometimes, after a busy week, I have little energy left to play for my own pleasure.

At the start of this new year, and indeed, a new decade, I wanted to share some things which I hope we can all embrace in 2020, as a means to nurture our own enjoyment of music.

To help with your reflections, there is a PDF to download at the bottom of this page with some prompts and questions for each of the six suggestions below.

1. Look after your own health, mental health and well-being

I know I rattle on about this a lot, but I think it’s so important, and it’s so often overlooked. Despite all the progress we’ve made, it’s still not something we talk about enough, yet it underpins everything else we do and are able to do.

If you’re looking to nurture your own music-making and creativity in 2020, then you first need to check-in with yourself. How are you feeling? Being able to enjoy making music and being creative requires the right space, more often than not, the right headspace.

I’ve curated a health, mental-health and well-being Pinterest board with lots of ideas on to get you started thinking about this. Ultimately, without taking care of yourself, it’s very hard to enjoy doing anything else.

2. Go to live concerts, gigs and performances

I’ll be honest, I find it an effort to turn out for concerts. Again, after a busy week’s teaching, the incentive, especially at this time of year, to walk to the station in the cold and sit on a train full of revellers for 40 minutes each way, diminishes.

Over and over again though, when I do make the effort, my creativity and enjoyment of music is always rewarded. Although it may not always seem like it, it is worth the effort, and I still think there is something magical about live music which isn’t found elsewhere.

If you’re anything like me, if it’s not in the diary and I haven’t bought a ticket, I won’t go. Maybe challenge yourself this coming term to buy a ticket for at least one concert or live performance. Don’t think of it as ‘treating’ yourself, but rather as a means to nurture your own enjoyment of music.

3. Set boundaries

I’ve talked about this previously, but we all need to set aside time for us. Time for us to enjoy music, to play for our own pleasure, and to be creative. If we’re to do that, we have to set boundaries. It’s easy to want to be everything to everyone and to be available for people 24/7, especially when you’re self-employed, but ultimately, this aids no one, least of all yourself.

I wrote about setting boundaries in this previous blog post and I’d encourage you to think about what matters most to you this coming year, and how you might lay down some boundaries in order to facilitate that.

4. Find things you enjoy playing or singing

Particularly as a teacher, it’s easy to feel that we should be playing certain things. Maybe you feel that you should be practising pieces by the ‘great composers’ so many of us were brought up to revere.

Well, maybe in 2020, it’s time to break away from that and to ask yourself what you’d really like to be able to play for your own pleasure. At the moment, I’ve got Alexis Ffrench’s The Secret Piano on the music stand. I’ve got Armstrong Gibbs’s Lakeland Sketches behind it. This is the kind of music I enjoy playing. Others may turn their noses up at it and sneer that it’s not ‘proper’ music, but be honest, I’ve moved beyond the stage of feeling I ‘ought’ to play certain things. Playing music which you really enjoy will ultimately be the thing which most nurtures and feeds your enjoyment and creativity.

Ask yourself at the beginning of a new year, which piece will bring you the most pleasure? Which piece can you enjoy playing in a way which nurtures your creativity? Is that the piece out on your music stand?

5. Be creative (more generally)

I talk here primarily about music, but we are all creative people. I know some fabulous painters, poets, writers and bakers to name but a few.

Think about the creative things you enjoy doing beyond music. Are you making enough space for them? Being creative in other areas can only enhance your enjoyment of music.

6. Go back to basics

At the beginning of a new year and a new decade, ask yourself some questions. How about:

  • What was my first musical experience?
  • Why did I start learning an instrument?
  • What kinds of music did I most enjoy growing up?
  • Which areas of music-making have given me the most pleasure over the years?

You may be surprised by the answers. Sometimes, when we teach, it’s easy to lose sight of where it all begun. It began with our own enjoyment of music. Maybe we need to revisit that? How much of that initial sense of enjoyment and wonder do you feel now?

This came to my attention just after I’d completed this blog post, but if you’re looking for a bit of structure to make the most out of your music in 2020, Courtney Ruckman has created a downloadable goal planner for musicians available here.

To help with these reflections, I encourage you to download the PDF below which has some prompts and questions for each of the six suggestions above. If you’d like to share your thoughts and maybe even seek some accountability, why not share your reflections on social media. You can find me over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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6 Ways to Nurture Your Own Music-Making in 2020. Pinterest graphic.