Honesty Pill : In conversation with Christopher Still

Educator, clinician and coach (and also a trumpet player with the Los Angeles Philharmonic!) Chris Still has a really fascinating project that can benefit ALL musicians. I am extremely grateful for his time to chat about “Honesty Pill”.

Can you give a brief rundown of what Honesty Pill is all about?

Sure. Honesty Pill is an online resource that helps people teach themselves to be better musicians. I like to talk about auditions a lot because they require such complicated and focused effort, and because those same techniques apply to all areas of musical performance and practice.
I chose the name “Honesty Pill” in reaction to a common issue with performers and artists—people are afraid to take a close look at what they’re doing wrong, even if they desperately want to succeed. My goal is to help people to tackle their issues, so they can achieve their goals. I like to call my approach “swallowing the Honesty Pill.”
I offer practical courses, informative articles, and activities to help you ditch your excuses and really improve.

Did you come to a lot of these improvement processes from your own learning or teaching experiences, and if so, how?

In all of the years I’ve been coaching and teaching, I’ve definitely noticed that everyone is making the exact same types of mistakes. All of us. Which is actually really good news, because if we are all making the same mistakes, that means that we can all solve those mistakes. In other words, you are not the first person to have an unfocused sound, or issues with your time or rhythm.

Basically, I get paid to watch people think, and that has informed my coaching and teaching and certainly helped me design the programs that I offer today.

And I should be clear, I have personally made all of those mistakes I’m talking about, and also figured out the solutions to them. So if I can do it, so can you.

What are the most common misconceptions that even the most ‘diligent’ of musicians come to you with?

This is an easy one. Whether we’re talking about audition strategy, improving practice habits or creating an online business, even the most diligent musicians don’t start the process early enough, and they wait until it’s “perfect” until they let anyone else hear what they are doing.

And this is understandable, since we are trained to lock ourselves in a practice room seeking perfection. Newsflash––perfection does not exist. Everything is a work on progress, and the only way to really improve is to fail and learn. But most musicians are afraid to do that.

At the time of writing, we are in a worldwide Covid 19 lockdown – a lot of people are finding that they have time to reflect on a lot of things including perhaps addressing musical, technical, emotional and mental barriers to their success. Are there any basic tips or general advice that you can give to help people analyze and address what needs to be worked on?

Obviously, the pandemic has been devastating on so many levels. But I am remaining optimistic, because I believe the bigger the problem is, the bigger the opportunity that comes with it. And that goes for practicing too. We spend so much of our musical lives running around staying “busy” that we never stop to reflect on what’s actually happening in our lives. It’s like one of those snow globes with a little village scene inside…we shake it up and the snow swirls around covering everything. And just when it starts to settle, we shake it all up again.

The lockdown has forced us all to let everything settle, and then stare right at it for a really long time. I’m not sure I have any advice, but I would say that this is a great opportunity to get used to slowing down, to being more mindful in the practice room as well as in our daily lives.

Can you talk a little about how your coaching process works? And has this changed a lot since we have all now moved online?

My coaching hasn’t actually changed much at all since Covid-19. I started coaching online three years ago when I realized I could reach a much wider audience that way, and help more musicians achieve their goals.

If I had to notice one change, it would be that so many online barriers that existed before the pandemic have been completely torn down. Three years ago most people had never logged into a digital classroom in their lives, and now that has completely shifted. Which I think is one of the silver linings in this situation.

What are the areas that you have addressed yourself by taking the Honesty Pill?

Great question. Full confession here––there is nothing in my teaching or coaching that I don’t do myself, every day. I still record myself. I still have a practice buddy. I still use a practice chart. These tools and skills are for life, not just for while you are in school or trying to get a job.

The idea that we can ever be “done” mastering something is misguided. It’s not like one day there is a knock on the door of your practice room and someone hands you a certificate that shows you are finished working on your rhythm or articulation.

All of this is to say, the fun part of mastery is the journey, and while we’re all on different points along the way, we are all on it together.

How can people get in touch with you?

I’m on all of the usual social media platforms:
Website: www.honestypill.com (join my mailing list to get in the loop on free trainings and resources)
Facebook “Honesty Pill” group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/honestypill/
Instagram @honestypill

Chris’ Online Business Accelerator is still enrolling until 5th July, so please do also check that out: https://honestypill.com/online-business-accelerator/

You may also be interested to check out Chris’ interview talking about all-things trumpet here.

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