Dr. Anthony Taylor
Associate Professor, School of Music, Theatre and Dance
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are
by Brene Brown
Overachievement and self-loathing often seem to go hand in hand, at least in my experience as a music professional. Music performance is a field that pushes its aspirants toward perfection, and in my opinion, the established musical performance training system in American universities and conservatories does not sufficiently guide students to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy striving. Brene Brown's book offers some direction in a path that emphasizes personal authenticity and embraces vulnerability and its virtues, and suggests that greater happiness and productivity will be the result. While she never mentions the field of music performance, the results of her research have resonated strongly with many musical professionals and students I have worked with at UNCG and elsewhere. This book has served as the catalyst for a reframing of my goals of teaching, from focus on the specific skills required for my particular musical instrument, the clarinet, to a more encompassing approach that encourages students to use musical training also as a medium for growing as a human being. Brown's book is an easy read that illustrates that healthy striving is possible (take note, all you overachievers out there, you know who you are) and outlines the habits of people from her research who seem to have found a way to work hard without using self-loathing as the driving force.