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On this month’s cover, Eric shared a story of his trip hiking Big Sur, and how it mimicked the journey all musicians go through when learning an instrument. We wanted to expand on this further by drawing on one key difference between Eric’s trek and the art of playing music. Unlike a physical journey through the wilderness, a true musician has no destination.

EAGER TRAVELERS

Now, this may sound discouraging to some students at first. Most people want to get somewhere when they set out to accomplish something. Maybe you want to learn an instrument to perform in front of your friends or to master a handful of your favorite songs. These are valid goals to be sure, but the drive to reach that point can lead to overexertion, or worse, cutting corners. Trying to jump to a specific destination without staying on a path is a perfect recipe to get lost, and many young musicians wind up throwing in the towel. It’s better to temper your pace, reminding yourself these goals are just milestones on a far larger journey.

A PATH WITH MANY VISTAS

While there shouldn’t be an “endpoint” to a musician’s learning, you get to stop plenty of places and admire how far you’ve come. Recitals mastered pieces, live shows, TV appearances— playing music can take you so many places, and each can feed into the next. These moments give us something to strive for in the short term and feed into our ultimate goal of improving our art and ourselves.

AN INNER JOURNEY

Most importantly, you don’t have to want to become a world-famous performer to get real mileage from the musician’s journey. Music is an art form that demands a lot from its practitioners: discipline, coordination, dedication, and creativity being chief among them. The road to mastering an instrument flexes these skills, building them up to be applied to whatever challenges or opportunities life brings.