ANAM 2020 Keynote

Words by
Nick Deutsch
ANAM Artistic Director

ANAM 2020 Opening Concert: Awakening on Saturday 7 March includes Australian Premiere of Lachenmann's Marche fatale for orchestra. For anyone looking for meaning in this work, Lachenmann responds: “My ‘Marche’ says ‘the situation is hopeless, but not serious.’”

As ANAM Artistic Director Nick Deutsch reminds our musicians, "at ANAM, you will never fail. You will either progress or learn to do things differently." Here are Nick's twelve tips on how to make most of the given opportunities and never fail, taken from his keynote speech on Monday 2 March. 


No. 1 Punctuality 

It takes zero talent to be punctual. The first step to a healthy work ethic, and respect for those around you, is to be punctual.

If you arrive half an early, you’re on time, if you arrive on time, you are late, and if you are late, no matter how well you play, you are letting all of your colleagues know that being here is not high on your list of priorities, and that your time, is more valuable than theirs.

Better an hour early than a minute late.

No. 2 It’s not a competition

The only musician you need to be better than, is the one you were yesterday.

It’s not a race. Every artist needs to do things in their own time.

Observe your peers, your teachers, and all those who inspire you, but rather than compare yourself to them, see their strengths as a form of inspiration; a new goal, and make sure you take a step towards that goal every day.

No. 3 Don’t be scared to be different 

Know the difference between conformity, morality and individualism.

There is a joke about a man who gets a call from his wife on his way home:

“Honey be careful ….I’m watching the news right now and a car is driving the wrong way on the freeway”

The man replies: “Honey you won’t believe it, it’s crazy, it’s not just one car, its hundreds!”

If you’re driving against the traffic, it might be time to pause and reflect and think about why.

On the other hand – “when the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind” (CS Lewis).

Conformity is doing what everyone else is doing regardless of what is right.Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what everyone is doing.Make sure your decisions are informed, with integrity and they will be the right decisions.

No. 4 Be sponges

During your time here at ANAM you are going to be exposed to an inconceivable amount of wisdom, knowledge and inspiration. Ultimately what you get out of it, will depend on what you are able to absorb. Be sponges. Be open to new ideas. Anyone who has a differing opinion, is only going to help broaden your perspectives and understanding.

No. 5 Give people your attention

In today’s world of smart phones and distractions, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone, is your undivided attention.

No. 6 Practice Humility 

It really is something that needs practice.

Try and remember that so many people have a hand in your success. From the teachers and mentors who inspire you, to the tram driver who drove you here today, to the kitchen hand who washed your empty cup of coffee this morning, to the cleaners who keep your practice room clean. Try and value everyone’s contribution and treat them with respect.

Or if I may again borrow the words of CS Lewis: “True humility Is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

No. 7 Modesty

Itʼs hard to resist showing off when you can do something really well, and we all know how good that feeling of impressing people can be, but ultimately,if you’re only playing only for the applause, the applause is all you’re going to get. 

No. 8 Practice 

The greatest gift a teacher can give you, is to show you how to practice efficiently.

Standing in a garage all day, won’t make you a car and spending the whole day in a practice room doesn’t mean you’re practicing properly.

Practice wisely. Dedicate time to working on your fundamentals. Practice slowly and in control, write a schedule to help you organise your time, set yourself realistic goals, give yourself an environment where you can concentrate. 10 minutes of focused practice will get you far further than an hour of absent time spent in a practice room.
But also remember it’s not only about practice. The practice room is not where you are going to learn how to play a phrase. Master your craft yes, but don’t forget to feed your art.

“Never practice more than 3-4 hours a day. No one can concentrate longer than that, and you must spend the rest of your time learning about life and love and art and all the other wonderful things in the world. If a young person sits in the practice room all day, what can they possibly have to express in their music?” (Arthur Rubinstein)

No. 9 Choosing opportunities

As Australia and NZ’s brightest talents, you’re likely to face a somewhat luxurious problem as you climb the ladder of success: you will get too many attractive opportunities.

The Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti said “my career was built...not from the opportunities I took on...but those I turned down.”

Remember that winning a job is not the peak of the mountain... it’s the license to start the climb. Over the next few years, during your time at ANAM and beyond, you are equipping yourself with the tools necessary to climb that mountain. The more skills you accumulate. The more you’re going to enjoy that climb and when you’ve conquered that first mountain, you’ll be ready for a higher one.

No. 10 Don’t take yourself too seriously 

If you ask a child to draw or to dance… they just do it.

If you ask an adult the same thing, instead of jumping into action, we connect with our logical brain. We are scared of being ridiculed. Shame kills our drive and often stops us from doing what we want, having fun or even learning.

That’s the problem with taking ourselves too seriously. We choose to ‘look good’ over learning new things and then we run the risk of becoming repetitive and boring.

Artists are often striving for perfection, and perfectionism can be the enemy of change. We are too often black and white with no shades of grey. When we take ourselves too seriously, we take others seriously too – that’s why their opinions can hurt us. Labels don’t define you unless you allow them to. Don’t let your self worth depend on the audience’s applause. 

The best way to take your work seriously, is by not taking yourself too seriously.

No. 11 Attitude

My Grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. She lost her parents, her family, her home and her homeland, but growing up as a child I only ever remember her happy and positive. In my teens I asked her how she managed to let go, and stay so positive and she said “they took everything they could take; I’m not going to let them take my happiness.”

Many things will happen throughout your career, that you have no control over, but you will always have the ability to control your attitude. A positive attitude starts with positive thoughts.

Think positive.

“Watch your thoughts; for they become your words
Watch your words; for they become your actions
Watch your actions; for they become your habits
Watch your habits; for they become your character
Watch your character, for it will become your destiny”

Powerful words that I borrowed from the Talmud. Oscar Wilde, put a slightly more humorous spin on it, by saying “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

No. 12 Live today

One of easiest ways of staying positive is living today.

If you are feeling depressed – you are living too much in the past.

If you are feeling anxious, you are living too much in the future.

Deal with the tasks at hand, do what you can (you can’t do more than that).

Live today and you’ll find your peace.

Saturday 7 March 7.30PM
ANAM, South Melbourne Town Hall

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