Finishing riding a bicycle the 1,088 miles from John O'Groats in Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall was a mixture of satisfaction and profound relief – finally completing the challenge as planned – and in doing so maybe also helping myself scale the somewhat large hurdle of a 60th Birthday!
Hours in the saddle gave many an opportunity to reflect on life, and especially on how many of the disciplines required to embark on such a challenge also relate to horn playing and life in general. Building up the strength and endurance to get through such a marathon is not dissimilar to building stamina and strength to get through difficult pieces in the repertoire – or playing difficult concerts day after day, especially on tour – as an orchestral player.
By repeated performances, the endurance improves, and although individual days will still be challenging, one's overall condition improves through playing. The training days (actually months) of riding are exactly the days we need to put into our daily workout routines on the horn, in working towards our specific goals. The last President's message talked about personal challenges and how important it is to have your own goals and challenges. Having a commitment to a goal, whether specific to a particular technical problem, or development in certain areas of performance and playing, are good starting points in developing a positive and motivating challenge to embark on.
The personal attributes of discipline, determination, commitment, and resolve are a few of the qualities that assist in achieving one's goal, and help focus on the task at hand. Discipline could be the daily requirement to work out on the horn and do your practise! Determination is the will to get better, and to solve certain problems. Commitment is exactly that, the commitment to do the work required, as in all walks of life, in order to improve. Resolve is the drive to work through thick and thin, and not to be put off by setbacks and difficulties on the road. It is sometimes not an easy road, but however one that offers a reward at the end – satisfaction, progress to the next level, self-awareness in learning where one's strengths lie, and a certain amount of pride in that all the work has, in the end, paid off.
Maybe it was through these very disciplines developed through my own experiences as a horn player and teacher that prepared me for my challenge and helped me achieve my goal. It wasn't realised without an enormous amount of hard work, commitment, and determination – exactly what will help you progress and achieve your desired goals, both in life and as a horn player.