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5 books for a strong creative practice

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

1. A Soprano on her Head

Way ahead of her time, Eloise Ristad writes about music practice as it relates to the human experience. This book was my early exposure to a less "orthodox" musical practice. It helped me to stop obsessing over the "shoulds" of my practice and to find resources outside of the traditional practice model. Ristad also offers tactics for students to apply these concepts in the studio, including discussions on teaching music theory to students whose struggle with sight-singing and reading music has made them want to stop music altogether. This book is a University vocal performance program favorite. A good first step in any creative practice.

2. Big Magic

This book came into my life just when I needed it. Feeling burnt-out from my exhausting undergrad experience, Big Magic sparked my interest in creative practice and practice research, as well as created a dramatic shift in my approach to my music practice. Elizabeth Gilbert is so relatable in the way she describes the daily ins and outs of creative living, the necessity of bravery, and the courage to make art. I cannot tell you how many "aha" moments I had while reading this book.

3. Letters to a Young Artist

Letters to a Young Artist is nothing short of poetry. You'll be surprised that something so useful can sound so beautiful. Anna Deavere Smith is a brilliant actress and playwright, and she has the sort of expertise that can only be gained through deliberate practice. Her tough-love teachings are empowering because they marry the freedom of creative living and the realities of the industry. This is an especially important read for students pursuing a professional practice.

4. Daring Greatly + Braving the Wilderness

Most people are at least vaguely familiar with Brené Brown because her research on shame and vulnerability has been extremely influential. Practice itself has an interesting relationship to vulnerability-- We don't just accept failure as a part of deliberate practice, we embrace and explore failure because we are targeting content that lies at the end of our current abilities, meeting our comfortable edge. Creative living is dependent on failure and vulnerability, and understanding these elements of our lives, having a vocabulary to make sense of them, will dramatically enhance your practice. Brené Brown has created a vocabulary for shame and vulnerability. Her vocabulary is especially accessible to women, whose language has been discredited for seeming less professional and whose voices have been muted throughout history. Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness are specifically useful to practice. Fantastic, easy reads.

5. Anything Patsy Rodenburg has ever written

Some people might think she's old-school, but I honestly think that Patsy Rodenburg is a genius. Speaking Shakespeare was essential for understanding the physical nature of my practice. In addition to being a true expert on the voice (!!!), Rodenburg's writings have helped me to truly identify my "why." I have only recently started to understand why voice studies, creative living, and practice are so important to me. This new context has connected me to my practice in a new way, making the rigor that Rodenburg advocates seem less intimidating and more fun, meaningful, and essential.

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