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How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? "The Practice Portal" May Help

The Practice Portal team. Left to right: Igor Lichtmann, Jiwon Sun, Lydia Consilvio, Chris Garwood, and Felice Doynov.

Five students at the Yale School of Music have been awarded a start-up grant to develop a global, online platform for musicians to explore effective approaches to practicing.

It's early December, and for college music majors that means juries -- that end of the semester ritual where they must perform a piece or two from their repertoire for a panel of instructors.

The purpose is to assess how much progress they have made during the semester in their private lessons, but juries can be stressful for music students. Besides finishing papers and studying for finals, they have to prepare a short program and perform for a grade.

Felice Doynov, a graduate student in Flute Performance at the Yale School of Music said this formula of little sleep, a lot of stress, and cramming for a semester's worth of music is not always conductive to good practice habits.

"Like anyone, when the stress hits, musicians tend to start running their programs, as opposed to effectively really narrowing down their focus, and practicing effectively," said Doynov.

For musicians -- who can spend upwards of eight hours a day in the practice room -- practicing effectively is key to not only learning and memorizing repertoire faster, but to avoiding repetitive motion injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Doynov said it can take musicians years to find a practice routine that works effectively for them. "This happens a lot of the time because we are told in lessons by people we are learning from what to practice, but we are not necessarily told how to practice," she said.

Doynov and four other Yale School of Music graduate students met in class called "Careers in Music." They brainstormed an idea: an online platform where accomplished musicians from around the world could offer their perspective on effective ways to practice. They call it "The Practice Portal."

The group is in the process of launching the official website that will include articles and other content related to practicing. But live streaming will be key to this revolutionary approach.

"There are many benefits to live streaming. Musicians are able to watch and learn the methods of other people," said Doynov. "Live streamers will be able to interact with other musicians, and receive immediate feedback of their own practicing. Plus, musicians will be motivated to be at their best as a a member of a worldwide music community."

The group took their idea to the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute's Venture Creation Program, who gave them a $1,000 grant to get the website up and running, and enrolled them in a five-week series of lean startup workshops.

Besides the website, the project team has plans to create a "Practice Portal" app in the near future.

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