My Alexander Technique teacher Kristen Davis told me about the quote from Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki that “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Music is a discipline where the more you learn, the more you realize that you don’t know. For instance, I may take a music lesson and learn a new concept that I could spend years practicing exclusively. Then each time I practice, I could think of two or three ways to apply the concept. So for each new thing I practice, I discover three other things that I need to work on. The more music I know, the more I realize that I’m just a beginner.
There are so many things to learn in music that it would be impossible to do it all in one lifetime. What does that mean for us mere mortals? In the words of bassist/teacher John Brown, “Give what you can give with confidence.” Whatever you have practiced and feel good about, perform it with confidence.
On the other hand, I try to be excited about studying music. It is so unlimited in its scope- it’s like discovering something new every day. I remember riding my bike to Brendle’s in Chapel Hill when I was a kid, and I saw strange and wonderful things, like boom boxes that had two cassette decks! Every time I went back, there was some new thing that blew my mind, I think it was even the first time I ever saw a CD player. Practicing music is a lot like riding my bike to Brendle’s.