Have you ever experienced the dreaded musician’s block? When your creative juices run low, every note you play sounds off, or you just can’t figure out the next bar no matter how much you try. If you answered yes, you might need a creative routine!

How do our Artist-Faculty members balance their routines?

Our teachers are all professional musicians as well as music educators, so we asked them to share how they balance everything in hopes of uncovering the secrets to a good creative routine!

Secret #1: One size does not fit all!

Some people feel their most creative in the daytime hours and some produce their best work at night! Professional violinist and PMI faculty member Clara Kim prefers practicing violin in the morning, while others, like faculty member Sorah Myung who’s a professional violist and violinist, usually practice in the evenings!

“Everyone is different so experiment to find what works for you. I found that even though I am a night owl by nature, my most focused time is in the morning so I spend the first hours of my day on what is most important to me: refining my creative art,” says Clara.

This secret holds true when you look at some of the most famous composers in the world: Beethoven composed for 8 hours straight in the morning, Tchaikovsky composed for 2 hours twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening, and Mozart composed either twice or thrice a day depending on his concert schedule.

Creative routines are highly personal, as Artistic Director and professional violinist Joseph Stepec states, “Not one routine will work for everyone – you just have to keep on trying different things until you find something that works for you.” Don’t be afraid to try things out and figure out what suits you best! 

Secret #2: Switch Things Up!

The routines of professional musicians will vary depending on their concert and rehearsal schedules so it’s important to be adaptable. For instance, Clara has 3 routines – regular, rehearsal, and concert-day – that she alternates between! 

Ignace “Iggy” Jang, our Solo & String Quartet Program Director, has a packed and changing schedule, so he practices whenever he can! “Practice? Whenever I can squeeze a bit,” he says, “Lately it’s been early evenings; that’s when all the sports around the world are done for the day, so it’s easier to concentrate!”

When a concert is coming up, Maestro Stepec sets aside more time to practice: “[I]f I am preparing for an imminent concert, I will spend a lot of time studying and listening to recordings: I want to hear how other people handle problem areas in the music I am working on.” 

Making changes in your routine every once in a while can also keep your mind sharp, as faculty member and professional oboist Dr. Alex Hayashi advises, “it’s important to avoid going on auto-pilot – we should stay in the moment as much as possible, and continuously create goals for ourselves to work toward.”

Secret #3: Always Make Time to Recharge

No matter what their routines look like, each faculty member we spoke to makes sure to take breaks between work and practice! Sorah meditates daily, Clara unwinds by spending time with her dog, Iggy watches his favorite TV shows, Joseph heads out to catch the sunrise, and Alex stays active with some exercise.

A healthy body equals a healthy mind; resting is just as important as practicing when you’re trying to tap into your creativity. As Sorah says, it’s important to “have downtime, rest, regain energy and be excited to come back to work.” Even Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky found time to relax every day! Beethoven took long walks, Mozart went on dates, and Tchaikovsky enjoyed reading. 

“There are certain aspects of routine that are very important to me – reserving time to practice and have creative space, keeping up with administration, and finding time to unwind and allowing my work to soak in and ‘marinate’.”

— Clara Kim 

Secret #4: Try a Summer Music Camp!

If you’re having trouble following a routine or figuring out what works for you, consider enrolling in one of the summer programs at PMI! Summer music camps can teach you how to build a routine under the guidance of experienced faculty like the ones we’ve featured here. PMI offers large rehearsals, small group coaching, and even private lessons in the Strings Program so you’re sure to find something that suits you! Plus, rest periods are included in the schedule in the form of allocated breaks and lunchtime to ensure you’re refreshed and ready to play at your best!

Being around fellow musicians can be a source of motivation too, “I am motivated by great music and by great performers. I am also really motivated by my students – it really is quite special for me to see my students grow, not just as performers, but as people,” says Maestro Stepec.

The Importance of Finding Your Routine

Creating a routine isn’t just about making a schedule, it’s about learning to manage time and prioritize tasks to reach your creative goals! “When we understand our goals and create a timeline to execute them, we become more and more efficient with understanding the mechanics of achievement for ourselves,” Clara says.

If you’re like Sorah, routines can lead to better habits too: “For me, not having a routine is exhausting. I get tired if I wake up or sleep at different times although this happens from time to time. I do believe routines build great habits, internal sense of motivation and help people succeed.”

Most importantly, routines help ensure you don’t get too stressed so you can continue to enjoy making amazing music! So if you’re looking for a way to optimize your creativity and avoid hitting creative slumps, it may be time to break out those calendars and start scheduling or sign up to be notified of PMI’s Spring 2024 semesterI!

About the featured faculty members (in order of appearance)

Clara Kim is an NYC-based violinist who is best known for being at the forefront of her generation in interpreting contemporary music. Clara has performed globally – her most significant engagements include performances at Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Clara directs Midori’s Orchestra Residencies Program, where she coaches and performs alongside violinist Midori, and is the lead faculty artist at the Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard in Shanghai.

Sorah Myung is a violinist and violist from Southern California who has served as a concertmaster at La Mirada Symphony Orchestra, holds a position as an assistant violist at the Mozart Classical Orchestra, and subs with Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Currently a part-time faculty at Irvine Valley College and Vanguard University, Sorah is highly sought after as a teacher, coach, and lecturer. 

Joseph Stepec is from Cleveland, OH and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestras at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Music Department. As a conductor, he has been featured on numerous programs with the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra. In 2017, he was a conducting Fellow at the Menuhin Gstaad Music Festival where he worked closely with Jaap van Zweden, Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and noted conducting pedagogue, Johannes Schlaefli.  

Ignace “Iggy” Jang serves as concertmaster of the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra. Iggy trained at Flora Elphege and Gerard Poulet at the Paris Conservatory before receiving a Premier Prix in 1985 as the youngest laureate that year. His education continued under Franco Gulli at Indiana University and received his Artist Diploma before being invited to be a visiting scholar there. He was also the Grand Prize winner of the 1989 Rodolfo Lipizer International Violin Competition in Italy. Iggy has performed at venues such as the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris and the Seoul Arts Center and made solo appearances with the Colorado Symphony, the Versailles Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestre Provence Alpes. 

Dr. Alex Hayashi is an oboist currently teaching at the University of Hawaiʻi as the Lecturer of Oboe. Dr. Hayashi has also taught at Western Michigan University as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Oboe. He has conducted masterclasses at universities and music schools throughout the country, including the University of Michigan as Visiting Professor, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory, the University of Southern Mississippi, and Bowling Green State University. During the summers, Dr. Hayashi also conducts lessons and masterclasses in Japan, regularly working with students in the Kyushu region (Southwest Japan).