Why aren’t you practicing?

“Why aren’t you practicing?” was pretty much my motto when I was in college at New England Conservatory. I’d be talking to some people in the hallway shooting the breeze, or sitting out front on the steps, and inevitably the conversation would turn to someone’s upcoming recital/solo/audition. Then of course I’d say “Why aren’t you practicing?”, and it was a good laugh because everyone had heard it out of my mouth so many times it was nauseating. But then in a few minutes the Creeping Guilt™ would set in, and we’d all cancel whatever dinner/nightclub/movie/entertainment plans we may have had and skulk off into our corners and actually go practice a few more hours.

This all started when my bass teacher Don and I were having a beer at Pizzeria Uno across the street from the conservatory one night. I had just finished playing an exhausting program of Mahler or something or other with one of the Conservatory orchestras, and my undergrad recital was a comfortable month away. Somewhere in mid-beer, fairly close to midnight, Don out of the blue turns to me and in all seriousness says to me “Why aren’t you practicing?” It was funny at the moment, but…

Indeed… Why not? Well that was obvious at the moment – I was dead fucking tired after playing that concert and it was late, and never-mind the fact that I was probably three sheets to the wind by then. But the next morning I was in the practice room as soon as I had enough caffeine pumping through my veins to keep me from falling over, because that was the first thing I heard in my pounding head when I awoke from my alcohol-induced coma… “Why aren’t you practicing”. Damn… now I was infected. Later, I printed out those words into little tear-off strips that would fit on one sheet of paper and clandestinely plastered my artwork all over the conservatory. Some thought it was some great secret student art movement, but the real reason was so I could see that poster wherever I was standing. They should have never given me a key to the kiosk cabinets… I mean, I was already practicing religiously, but now I had a motto. I could infect all of my friends with it, and I think I succeeded with a couple of them.

So now I am practicing again. And now the obsession seems to be back. Maybe I’ll just make a desktop background for my computer this time, instead of the little paper strips everywhere…