Dangerous Thinking: A response to “Practice Does Not Make Perfect”

Joey Tartell

Joey Tartell

By Joey Tartell, Associate Professor of Music in the Jacobs School of Music

In last week’s article published on Slate.com entitled “Practice Does Not Make Perfect,” the authors investigate two very different kinds of studies in an effort to find out why people succeed in, among other things, music. Their conclusions are as wrong as they are dangerous.

The first study used was on musicians from an elite Berlin music academy.

This was the result: “The major finding of the study was that the most accomplished musicians has accumulated the most hours of deliberate practice.”

Next, the authors examined 88 other studies that they found relevant. The results: “With very few exceptions, deliberate practice correlated positively with skill.”

The second study examined involved measuring twins. They had twins estimate the time they practiced music, then had them take a test on basic music abilities. What they found was: “…although the music abilities were influenced by genes- to the tune of about 38 percent, on average- there was no evidence they were influenced by practice.”

From that, the authors make the leap that, although practice and other factors are important: “…it does imply there are limits on the transformative power of practice.”

No.  It does no such thing.

It implies that we all start from a different place. As a teacher, this is not surprising. Having taught beginning musicians to professionals, letting me know that not everyone starts from the same place seems obvious. Some kids have a beautiful sound from the moment they start playing. Others have the coordination that gives them better technique from day 1.

There is no correlation proven in this article between where people start and where they end.  The authors do concede that there are many factors that lead to success.  

But when they write: “There is now compelling evidence that genes matter for success, too.”, they have made a conclusion that can’t be backed up by their studies.  

All they have proven is that, as humans, we’re all different, and that includes what we’ve learned about music up until the time of the tests given.  

Let’s go back to the first studies, done on students studying at an elite academy, and the other 88 studies referenced by the authors. They consistently found that deliberate practice leads to higher skill. But in none of those studies were the students given tests before they started playing. Are we to assume that all of the studies show that students with “bad genes” are being weeded out?

And let’s also look at the second studies. After testing these twins, has there been a follow up on those that have gone on to study music, and their success measured against the level of deliberate practice they put in?

Here’s why this kind of wrongheaded misuse of science is dangerous. First, it could encourage students to use the greatest of all excuses: ”they can’t possibly succeed; they don’t have the genes necessary!”  

Second, it could encourage teachers to dismiss students who don’t make progress fast enough: “Clearly those students just don’t have the right genes!”  

These are just variations on things that have been said for a long time: that person was “born with it,” or that person “just doesn’t have it.” Both are dismissive and wrongheaded. Saying one is “born with it” doesn’t recognize all the work that person has done to succeed. Telling a student they “just don’t have it” can destroy that person’s opportunity to succeed.  

These studies have taught me two things:

  1. Each student is an individual with individual
    strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Deliberate practice leads to higher skill.

Given these studies, I’ll continue doing what I’ve done my whole career as a teacher: work with each student as best as I can to help them become the best they can.  

Joey Tartell
Associate Professor of Music (Trumpet)
Jacobs School of Music
Indiana University

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Minute to Win It!

More Info soon!

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Ching-Yi Lin is September Entrepreneur of the Month

portrait-212Ching-Yi Lin spent her formative musical life as a talented performer focused on a concert career. While studying at IU, her entrepreneurial spirit was ignited while working with Mimi Zweig and Brenda Brenner, co-directors the Jacobs School’s String Academy. Today, she runs the Western Kentucky University Pre-College Strings Program, the first of its kind for the university.

She recently received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service in Washington, D.C., in recognition for her work in bringing music into the lives of young people throughout her community.

“I get to engage in almost every aspect of music,” says Dr. Lin of her work with the program. “With all of these different roles, my most important guiding principle is to stay flexible.” Project Jumpstart recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Lin about the choices and opportunities that led to her current career, as well as her thoughts on mixing performance, education, entrepreneurship, and outreach in a music career.

Read the full interview here >

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Grant Opportunity for arts activity in Bloomington!

Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association and BEAD accepting applications for Zone Arts Grant Program

Bloomington, Ind. – The Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association (BUEA) and the Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District (BEAD) are now accepting applications for the Zone Arts Grant Program.

The Zone Arts Grant Program is designed to help support arts activities within the boundaries of the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Zone. Individual artists, teams of artists, local businesses, and non-profit organizations (including neighborhood groups) are eligible to apply for project support that will do one or more of the following for residents and businesses within the Urban Enterprise Zone: facilitate involvement in arts and cultural activities; provide an opportunity to participate in the creative process; advance the quality and availability of the arts in the Zone; or celebrate or enhance the identity of the Zone.  Exhibits, concerts, performances, festivals, art markets, art space development and public art (including murals) are all examples of the types of projects eligible for funding through the BUEA and BEAD Zone Arts Grant program.

Guidelines and application for the program are available on the City of Bloomington website at www.bloomington.in.gov/buea.  The application deadline is 5:00 p.m. October 17, 2014.

For more information on the grant program, contact Miah Michaelsen, Assistant Economic Development Director for the Arts, at michaelm@bloomington.in.gov  or (812) 349-3534.


The Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association provides the means to improve the economic, physical, and social environment for Zone residents and businesses and contributes to economic development efforts in Bloomington’s urban core. The Enterprise Zone operates in accordance with Indiana State Code and has created or retained hundreds of jobs and spurred millions of dollar in increased investment. For more information on the BUEA, visit http://bloomington.in.gov/buea.


BEAD seeks to bring the business and creative sectors together to advance commerce and culture, build community and spur economic development.  BEAD is a geographically defined, mixed-use cultural district in downtown Bloomington which capitalizes on local and regional assets that are specific to the cultural, economic and social issues of Bloomington. BEAD emphasizes the high concentration of creative assets and related activities to strengthen and enhance the overall economic development of the community and provides a connective link to a variety of incentives, programs and grants to benefit its major stakeholder groups and users: the community, visitors, the creative, cultural and entertainment sectors and small business.

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Four Sessions on Audio, Video, Photography, and Websites


Refine your skills in multimedia through a series of
interactive workshops that give you hands-on experience
with techniques that help create great results.

Note: All sessions are available to Jacobs School students
and will be repeated over a three week period.

{Free cookies, and juice at all sessions!}

Monday, Sep. 29, Oct. 6
7pm-9pm in Jumpstart Central MU011
Led by Jon Stante and Robbie Rittman
Bring your cameras computers with you!
SIGN UP HERE: 09/29 | 10/06

Tuesday, Sep. 30, Oct. 7
7pm-9pm in Jumpstart Central MU011
Led by Rafael Porto and Veronica Simonetti
Bring your computers with you!
SIGN UP HERE: 09/30 | 10/07

Wednesday, Oct. 1, 8
7pm-9pm in Jumpstart Central MU011
Led by Scott Scheetz and Rachel Rodgers
Bring your cameras and computers with you!
SIGN UP: 10/01 | 10/08

Thursday, Sep. 25 (postponed to next week), Oct. 2, 9
6pm-8pm in Jumpstart Central MU011
Led by Rachel Rodgers and Alain Barker
Bring your computers with you!
SIGN UP: 10/02 | 10/09

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Introducing the Jacobs School of Music Career Portal

The Jacobs School of Music’s new Career Portal breaks new ground by providing a comprehensive web-based career planning tool for students, faculty, alumni, career counselors, and employers.

Coordinated by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development, the Career Portal build is part of a larger IU Bloomington initiative to more actively and effectively support students as they prepare for their professional lives.

The system enables coordination for counseling and information sessions, workshops, interviews, networking, and other events.

Once the system is fully functional, Jacobs School Students will be able to build a dynamic resume, apply for jobs, sign up for interviews, connect with alumni mentors, schedule a counseling appointment, and more. Employers will be able to post job announcements and arrange for on-campus interviews and auditions, manage interview schedules, and peruse resumes.

Users of the Career Portal will have access to career support and information from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and other entities that have joined what is called the “IUB Multi School Environment.”

The Career Portal provides complete database integration to manage student, faculty, alumni, and employer contacts.

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Announcing the 2014-15 Project Jumpstart Team



Announcing the 2014-15 Jumpstart Team

The Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development (OECD) is pleased to introduce the 2014-2015 Project Jumpstart Team.

Led by composition graduate Curtis Smith, who participated in last year’s program, new members of the team are graduate student Rafael Porto and undergraduate students Rachel Rodgers and Patricia Wallinga. The team is mentored by OECD director Alain Barker, with additional help from the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kelley School of Business.

Offerings to look forward to this year include panel discussions by prominent artists, scholars, and entrepreneurs; interactive workshops, mind & body sessions, networking opportunities, {well-advised} lunches and meet & greets with leading professionals. In addition Project Jumpstart will coordinate the annual Jacobs School of Music entrepreneurship competition.


Curtis Smith, Team Lead

Curtis SmithComposer, artist, instructor, and mentor Curtis N. Smith is a second-year DM composition candidate with a variety of interests and professional pursuits. His undergraduate and master’s studies in guitar and composition included side projects such as Balinese gamelan, church choir directing, curriculum development in residence life, community outreach, librarianship, and management. His research interests have resulted in successful grants, updated score holdings, and new curricula for Brigham Young University. He is a contributing writer for the Society of Composers Inc. (SCI) and an album critic for the progressive rock think tank progulator.com. Curtis’s compositional activities explore an equally broad spectrum of styles ranging from solo to ethnic ensembles to large orchestral works, always infused with elements of folk, rock, popular, and classical music and driven by an intense desire to create. He is currently collaborating with IU MM violist Bryan Lew on a new solo work commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. Curtis and his wife Charlotte are native Californians, BYU alumni, and—as of this summer—proud parents of twin boys Ellis and Julian.

Rafael Porto

Rafael PortoBrazilian bass-baritone Rafael Porto recently performed the role of Dulcamara in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. He is a second-year master’s student studying voice with Tim Noble and is currently the Wilfred C. Bain Fellow. Combining his undergraduate work at Butler University, Indianapolis Opera, IU Opera Theater, and music festival productions, he has sung sixteen different roles in the past five years. Outside the realm of music, Porto runs his business, Rafael Porto Media Services, which provides design, photography, and recording services. He has worked for various clients and organizations throughout Indiana including the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, American Guild of Organists, major landscaping companies, Butler University, and has also worked alongside photographers from ESPN and USA Today.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel RodgersRachel Rodgers is a jazz & classical flutist from the New York metropolitan area. She is currently in her sophomore year, majoring in Flute Performance under Professor Thomas Robertello, with a minor in jazz studies. Rachel has performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, The Gibson Guitar Stage in Nashville, Eisenhower Hall at West Point, NPR’s “From the Top,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and at a variety of jazz and classical venues across the United States. In addition to flute, she is a pianist and composer, recently entering the commercial scoring world by composing and performing the music for a Domino’s International TV campaign. In 2011, Rachel created Visiting Young Musicians, an ongoing program recognizing the healing powers of music that recruits young local musicians of all genres to perform at children’s hospitals and senior centers. The project earned her the Gold Award by the Girl Scouts of America. In the media, she has been profiled in Westchester Magazine, in many newspapers, and online at jazzwax.com. Outside of music, Rachel is a photographer, especially interested in multimedia. She was the Media Manager at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute during summer 2014, is a production management assistant at MacGuffin Films in NYC, a student photographer for IU Media, and runs her own photography business. Her work can be seen at flickr.com.

Patricia Wallinga

Patricia WallingaPatricia Wallinga is a composer, double bassist, vocalist, and new music advocate in her second year of undergraduate studies at the Jacobs School who specializes in vocal composition and new music performance. As a member of the NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, she has premiered and recorded works by Zachary Wadsworth, Aaron Travers, and Dominick DiOrio and toured with the ensemble to Carnegie Hall in New York City and the American Choral Directors Association Regional Conference in Cleveland. As the winner of the 2013 NOTUS Student Composition, she received the premiere of her work Portraits of Wartime. In addition, she has had numerous instrumental solo, chamber, and large ensemble works performed and recorded by members of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and students at the Jacobs School of Music, the DePaul School of Music, the Northern Illinois University School of Music, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign School of Music. She is a member of ASCAP and the American Composers Forum. Originally from Naperville, IL.


Alain Barker

Alain BarkerAlain Barker has an entrepreneurial career that includes arts organization development, arts policy research, communications and marketing, teaching and performance. From 2004-2014, he directed Jacobs School’s marketing and publicity operations. Initiatives during this time included a rebranding of the school, development of numerous communications platforms, integration of social media into school life, publicity and media relations for more than 1,100 events annually, and marketing campaigns for IU Opera & Ballet Theater, the Summer Music series, and school departments. Barker was Executive Director of the Bloomington Early Music Festival from 1994-2004, a time during which the festival gained national significance. He was co-principal flute in the Oviedo Orchestra, Spain, and principal flute in the Marion Philharmonic, and has performed in recitals and music festivals around the U.S. and toured across the U.S., as well as to Mexico, Colombia, and Israel. He taught for four years as a visiting lecturer in flute at the Jacobs School’s summer semester and is currently a member of the City of Bloomington’s Arts Commission.

JCEIProject Partner: The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Kelley School of Business offers one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculums in the world, with nationally-ranked academic programs that a wide range of real-world entrepreneurial experiences through cross-campus initiatives with university departments and involvement with the business community.



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The city of Bloomington will present a series of free lectures by author, artist, and CPA Elaine Luttrull, Saturday and Sunday, August 16-17.

Topics will include:

• Goal Setting
• The Art of Budgeting
• Managing Cash Flow
• Common Tax Situations
• Healthcare Questions

Click here for more information and to register.

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Project Jumpstart is Planning to Hire a Few Great Music Students!

Are you looking for something exciting and beneficial to your career?

Project Jumpstart, the student-led entrepreneurship programming arm of the Jacobs School of Music’s newly founded Office of Entrepreneurship & Career Development, is planning to appoint three motivated Jacobs School students with great communication and organizational skills to its team for the academic year.

Members of Team Jumpstart will work closely with OECD director Alain Barker and Jumpstart Team Leader Curtis Smith to plan and produce workshop events, run a vibrant blog & website, survey student and faculty, and research within the music industry to provide career resources to JSoM students. Students will be expected to work approximately 10 hours per week from September 2014 to May 2015.

Applications are welcome from graduate degree and diploma students and from undergraduate students with junior standing or higher. Pay is $12/hour. Students with web, multimedia, and marketing experience are encouraged to apply.

Activities include

• Weekly Monday morning Team Jumpstart planning meeting.
• Producing workshop events and scheduling faculty and guest speakers
• Attending Project Jumpstart events and providing staff support
• Developing and managing campus awareness and promoting events
• Creating and promoting online resources for the program (Facebook, Website, etc.)
• Surveying fellow students for ideas and suggestions for the program


• Great interpersonal skills—we’re looking for student leaders who are great team players
• Excellent communication skills (written and oral presentations)
• Excellent computer skills
• Graphic design and/or web design experience (such as designing posters or managing web content)
• Administrative/office experience
• Interest in the field of career advancement and entrepreneurship

To apply

Submit the following materials via email at jumpstar@indiana.edu. Applications are due 5:00 pm, Friday, August 1. Interviews (via Skype if necessary) will begin early the following week.

1. Cover letter and résumé (a version that details your relevant work experience—not simply your performance résumé please!)
2. A two-page writing sample (from your work in a music history or liberal arts course, for instance)
3. Two references (those who can speak to your work experience; include phone number and email address)
4. Your class/work schedule for fall semester

Also (if you have these):

5. Example of your online skills—if you’ve created a website, fan page, etc., provide links.
6. Example of your graphic design skills (submit sample of a poster of an invitation you created)

Visit the Project Jumpstart website for info on the program! >

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CLIFF NOTES: 5 Workshops with Cliff Colnot this Summer

cliffnotes15-Jacobs School students have a terrific opportunity this summer to attend five workshops with Cliff Colnot, the Chicago-based conductor and composer. Called CLIFF NOTES, the sessions cover a range of subjects that are key to career development in the 21st Century.

All sessions are open to Jacobs School students and take place on Thursday, from 12-1:30pm. Free Jimmy John’s sandwiches will be provided!

Students: Please click here to sign up for the sessions you’d like to attend. 


Thursday JUNE 19     WHAT’S THE SCORE?
Effectively studying music in preparation for performaChicagonces
12-1:30pm                          JS 111
> Sign Up Here

Understanding the audition process for orchestras, summer festivals, and other projects
12-1:30pm                           JS 415
> Sign Up Here

Making the most of your valuable time
12-1:30pm                           JS 415
> Sign Up Here

The secrets and surprises of great ensemble intonation
12-1:30pm                           MA 452
> Sign Up Here

Taking advantage of opportunity in a fast-changing cultural landscape
12-1:30pm                           JS 415
> Sign Up Here



Colnot-squareIn the past decade Cliff Colnot has emerged as a distinguished conductor and a musician of uncommon range.

One of few musicians to have studied orchestral repertoire with Daniel Barenboim, Colnot has served as assistant conductor for Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Workshops for young musicians from Israel, Egypt, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries. Colnot has also worked extensively with Pierre Boulez and has served as assistant conductor to Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy. He regularly conducts the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), with whom he recorded Richard Wernick’s The Name of the Game for Bridge Records, and he collaborates regularly with the internationally acclaimed contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird and the Pacifica String Quartet. Colnot has been principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary MusicNOW ensemble since its inception and is principal conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, an orchestra he has conducted since 1994. Colnot also conducts Contempo at the University of Chicago and orchestras at Indiana University. He has appeared as a guest conductor with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Utah Symphony.

Colnot is also a master arranger. His orchestration of Shulamit Ran’s Three Fantasy Pieces for Cello and Piano was recorded by the English Chamber Orchestra. For the chamber orchestra of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Colnot has arranged the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande (both published by Universal) and Manuel De Falla’s Three Cornered Hat. For ICE and Julia Bentley, Colnot arranged Olivier Messiaen’s Chants de Terre et de Ciel for chamber orchestra and mezzo-soprano, also published by Universal. For members of the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Colnot arranged Shulamit Ran’s Soliloquy for Violin, Cello, and Piano, to be published by Theodore Presser. Colnot recently re-orchestrated the Bottesini Concerto No. 2 in B Minor for Double Bass, correcting many errors in existing editions and providing a more viable performance version. He has also been commissioned to write works for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Percussion Scholarship Group. His orchestration of Duke Ellington’s New World Coming was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim as piano soloist in 2000, and Colnot also arranged, conducted, and co-produced the CD Tribute to Ellington featuring Barenboim at the piano. He wrote music for the MGM/UA motion picture Hoodlum and has written for rock-and-roll, pop, and jazz artists Richard Marx, Phil Ramone, Hugh Jackman, Leann Rimes, SheDaisy, Patricia Barber, Emerson Drive, and Brian Culbertson.

Colnot graduated with honors from Florida State University and in 1995 received the Ernst von Dohnányi Certificate of Excellence. He has also received the prestigious Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University, where he earned his doctorate. In 2001 the Chicago Tribune named Cliff Colnot a “Chicagoan of the Year” in music, and in 2005 he received the William Hall Sherwood Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts. He has studied with master jazz teacher David Bloom, has taught jazz arranging at DePaul University, film scoring at Columbia College and currently teaches advanced orchestration at the University of Chicago. As a bassoonist, he was a member of the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, and the Contemporary Chamber Players.

“Cliff Colnot conducted the excellent International Contemporary Ensemble in an alluring performance.”              —  Anthony  Tommasini, New York Times

“To every score, conductor Cliff Colnot brought a dedication, virtuosity, and intensity of feeling new music needs but doesn’t often receive.”                                                              —  John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

“Everywhere [in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1] were signs of meticulous preparation and keen stylistic acuity.”  —  Michael Cameron, Chicago Tribune

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