Every month teachers, students, and parents gather at Monarch Suzuki Academy to watch students perform on stage in what we call the Kaleidoscope Concert series. MSA brings in a skilled collaborative pianist, passes out programs, and devotes attention to each and every student performer. Because these concerts happen every month they serve to make students more comfortable with the experience of performing and bring diverse families together.
I had several students participate, including young Jettie. My students’ performances, though significant in and of themselves were just the result of a multi-month process. In order for Jettie to perform Flower Song below I had to first envision, months ago, where and how I wanted her to perform next. I picked this month, Flower Song (a comfortable review piece for her), and exactly what I wanted her posture to look like as she performed. I developed for changing her postural skills, introducing performance etiquette, preparing her to play the piano, and eventually running through the performance as a dress rehearsal. With a vision and a plan, all that was left to do was execute.
The process I used to take Jettie from where she was to where I wanted her to go is called backwards building. We defined exactly what we wanted, deconstructed the steps to get there, made a timeline, and executed that timeline.
Backwards building is exactly the same process I’m using to prepare myself for graduate school.
- I worked throughout my Junior year to envision exactly what I wanted from graduate school – an opportunity to develop my teaching and performing skills while growing my network.
- Sandy (my teacher) and I discussed extensively potential schools that would suit my needs (strong performance and pedagogy programs). I researched the audition and application requirements of the brainstormed eight schools, and then narrowed down the list to just five
- With five audition requirements I was now sure about we then picked out repertoire that would best suit the strengths of my planing
- I drafted a timeline, one that would take me from spring of my Junior year clear through auditions in the spring of my Senior year. It included when I should begin work on which piece, when and where I should perform my repertoire, when I should record my repertoire, when I should take my resume and cover letter in to be checked, when I should ask for letters of recommendation, and by what time I should have turned in all of my application materials.
- And finally, perhaps most importantly, I got to work following my timeline
This plan is adaptable. It has already needed to be adjusted, but at least for now I know what is expected of me and when and how I plan to address those expectations. I feel prepared.
You can and should apply backwards building to any pursuit, not just graduate school auditions.
Do you want to hold a concert? Ask yourself what you have in mind for the concert. Who will sit in the performance and why? Who should you bring in to perform for that audience? How will they find out about your concert? What do you want them to leave saying? Once you have your vision determine how to take action on realizing you dream. When are those things going to happen? What are your deadlines? When do your performers need to have the music? When should the venue be booked? When should you start selling tickets? Now go do it!
One of the best techniques used to backwards build is recommended by Sean McCabe. He advises people to develop a web landing page or write a front page news article that details the success of the target you are aiming for. Not only does this clarify the vision of what you are working toward, but also requires you to name a timeline, potential pitfalls, and begin putting naming your ambitious goal – which often leads to accountability. This is exactly what I’ve done in the process of launching my own private studio. I’ve developed a web page that reflects what I know KBDrake Suzuki Violin School will be, but not necessarily what it is yet.
I’m using the power of backwards building to prepare for my graduate school auditions and applications, but please use that power to fuel the accomplishment of any one of your own goals.