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Sept. 25, 2013

Practice makes perfect?

Sept. 25, 2013

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

Everyone who has ever played an instrument or sung in a choir has probably heard that old saying. Replace “Carnegie Hall” with the Superbowl, the World Series, NHL playoffs, high school championships or any other sport and the punch line stays the same. Replace it with good grades or college degrees and while the word practice doesn’t really fit, what is homework and studying, really, if it’s not practice for that big test?

Anyone who has ever had a kid play soccer or baseball knows that there are usually more practices than games. Got a kid in theatre? There are usually a lot more rehearsals than actual performances. And homework definitely outweighs actual tests. It’s what we do. It’s how we get better at just about anything.

I remember when my daughter started playing viola in fifth grade. The teacher knew that the only way to transform the squeaky noise into beautiful symphonies was to make the kids practice. For years, each student had to practice a certain amount of hours each week and turn in a card signed by a parent that proved it. It was actually amazing how quickly the orchestra got better.

World-class performers, like the MSU Spartan Marching Band, know all about practice. They don’t just march onto the field on game day in perfectly straight lines, and make intricate formations while sounding incredible without a lot of hard work and a lot of practice.

Every August, all 300 members of the SMB assemble on campus for what is known as “preseason.” Sure, they do a lot of bonding, but there is also a lot of practice.

Communications and Brand Strategy photographer extraordinaire, Kurt Stepnitz, spent some time with the band documenting the preseason and the first game. If you haven’t seen it already, check out his incredible photo essay feature, The Beat Goes On.

But what if it’s not all about practice? What if practice doesn’t make perfect? MSU researcher, Zach Hambrick, has been studying that very topic and found that copious amount of practice is not enough to explain why people differ in level of skill.

If I look at my own family, Hambrick’s study makes a lot of sense. My husband, who was a voice major for awhile, said that he learned that while practice certainly made him better, it was never going to give him the perfect pitch that comes so naturally to my daughter.

Read the Faculty Voice to learn more about Hambrick’s research and how he got into his field in the first place. 

So maybe practice doesn’t always make perfect. Maybe, collaborating with others can help make up for some of that. Maybe combining the innate skills of different people makes a better project in the end.

That’s the idea behind the College of Arts and Letters Creativity Exploratory housed in Linton Hall. The cool space is designed for students and faculty to share ideas, brainstorm and work together to improve learning and resulting projects. Check out the video in the Student View to learn more about it. 

So while perfection might not always be the end result, I’m pretty sure that MSU offers a whole lot of ways to get pretty dang close to it, whether it’s practice, brilliant faculty or the space and tools to enhance learning. No matter what we do, Spartans always strive for the best.

Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday


Photo of the Spartan Statue by Derrick L. Turner


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