Let's start with a short story recounted by Lisa Muci, the Assistant Concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony:
"I was talking on the phone to my Mother recently, and I told her that I should get off the phone because I needed to practice. She replied, "You've been practicing all your life. Don't you know those notes yet???!!!"" Well, in a way, she is right. In Western music, we have only 12 notes within our scale system. When you consider the quarter tones and smaller divisions of pitches in Eastern music and other World music, we do have it easy. That said, though, how many different ways can we arrange those 12 notes, combined with rhythms and dynamics, nuances, etc? Clearly we are dealing with infinity. How awesome! That's what keeps me practicing!
Musical interpretation is another aspect of practicing that isn't often developed until a person is "mature." Certainly maturity comes at different points in every individual's life, and then, one's interpretation is constantly changing. This keeps me practicing! Most successful musicians are perfectionists. Have you ever seen a perfect rose? Then, a week later, you'll see another rose that is different from the other rose, but it is also perfect! If we are not constantly striving for the perfection in music, we are finished growing and learning. Searching for beauty keeps me practicing! I happen to love puzzles. For me, putting a page full of musical notations together into music is a great puzzle and a wonderful challenge (musically and technically), not only to find my own voice in the music, but to first find what the composer was saying in his/her compositions. A good challenge keeps me practicing! Finally, I love music. There are so many great musicians to listen to and learn from and so much great music to play. So, I was, and still am, always listening and studying music in order to learn more. There are people who are not musicians who, regardless, want to hear the music and enjoy what the music has to say. So, we must practice to keep the art alive. Now, I cannot resist saying that peer pressure can keep one practicing....and one's boss (the conductor) can also keep you practicing! But, let's hope that this isn't the sole source of motivation.
Thank you friends and family for making me a better musician because I got to play with you! (And boy, did you motivate me to practice!)