Practice Note Created by Alumna Gina Luciani

Young woman standing outdoors and holding a black notebook

Gina Luciani is a 2011 alumna from the Conservatory with a bachelor’s degree in flute performance where she studied with Jim Walker.

Alumna Gina Luciani shares some of her recent projects, including Practice Note: The Practice Notebook For Musicians, a musician tool years in the making that aids musicians in achieving short and long-term goals.

What have you been up to lately?

I’ve been busy with a lot of different projects, though my main focus is recording for film and television soundtracks. Recently I worked on M3GAN as the flute soloist and I played on the anniversary release of Guns N’ Roses’ album Use Your Illusion, where we got to re-record “November Rain” with a real 50-piece orchestra for the first time ever, which was an exciting opportunity. Last year, I also performed at the Academy Awards with both Billy Eilish and Beyonce. Outside of my recording work though, I’ve always taken an interest in business and marketing, which has now culminated with a passion project I’ve been developing for years. Last spring I launched Practice Note: The Practice Notebook For Musicians, which is a high-end practice journal to help musicians stay focused and organized.

Reflecting on your time at Colburn, did your experience shape you or provide direction to the path you’ve taken so far?

Yes, absolutely. Colburn prepares every musician so well in terms of pushing them to play to the best of their abilities. There’s just so much inspiration that I was able to draw upon being surrounded by world-class musicians while I was in school there. It was a great atmosphere to be in within a college setting, and I really wanted to learn as much as possible. The faculty inspired me by example, seeing them living their careers, and showing me the potential for what a future of my own could look like. That is especially true with my teacher Jim Walker, who is an amazing teacher. His entrepreneurial spirit was really inspiring, seeing all of the different career paths he created for himself. I find it interesting because a lot of people know him from one specific aspect of his career, be it the LA Phil, his studio work, or teaching. They don’t necessarily see his collective work as a whole. As a student, that was so eye-opening to me because he’s also publishing his own music, he has all these different albums, and he performs in different settings. Being able to see the breadth of his work taught me that being a musician doesn’t mean you have to stick to only one path. And as the pandemic showed, it can be in your best interest to have multiple streams of income and various facets to your career as a whole.

That’s an important takeaway from your time at Colburn. You mentioned earlier about your business, Practice Note. Was that part of the Community Center for Innovation and Community Impact’s New Venture Competition?

Practice Note wasn’t a part of the New Venture Competition, no, but the skills I learned from participating in past competitions definitely helped me bring it to life. My initial pitch to the New Venture Competition in 2015 led to me getting set up with the equipment required to shoot a series of YouTube tutorials. I’ve switched gears from those initial videos, but it’s something that’s still a big part of my career and it has grown now to over 60,000 subscribers. But all of those early years making various content, kickstarted by the New Venture Competition, is really what got me thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset, and I’m just so grateful for that original opportunity. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do something like Practice Note without the audience that I have established from being on social media.

By participating in the competition were you served in other entrepreneurial ways?

Absolutely! For that initial concept, I really had to hone my pitching skills. During and after the pitch, Dean Zeisler and his team worked with me to fine-tune the proposal and really helped me to start thinking about preparing business plans and executing them. So it wasn’t just the financial support the competition provided that helped, it was also that business-minded mentorship. Although Practice Note was developed on my own, I was able to lean on Dean Zeisler once again for reviewing early proofs I had before going to print.

From your personal experience, how important do you view having entrepreneurship skills shared with musicians?

Having entrepreneurship skills is one of the best things a musician can develop. So much of being in music school is about the playing aspect, which of course is very important. You are not going to be able to have a job without being able to play your instruments well. However, there is much more that you can do beyond just perfecting your musicianship. Unfortunately, a lot of those business and marketing skills aren’t necessarily what we’re focusing on in school. By having the exposure to entrepreneurial skills with the mentorship that Dean Zeisler and his team offer is invaluable. I think every musician should learn to think outside the box and one of the best things you can do for yourself is develop a concept for something you’re passionate about, then make that idea a reality. I’ve heard many musicians share their ideas (sometimes great ones!) but most people don’t know where to start and one roadblock after another causes them to never even give it a shot. I think a program like the New Venture Competition gives people the building blocks and support to make their ideas happen one step at a time, so it feels less daunting.

Let’s talk about your project, Practice Note. Please share what that project is about.

Practice Note: The Practice Notebook for Musicians, or Practice Note for short, is a high-end and full-color physical music practice journal. You know those really nice calendars and journals with hardcovers? It’s like that but for musicians. It’s an idea I came up with five years ago, but it took a while to put my vision into a physical form because I wanted to get it exactly how I always envisioned it. The quality was really important to me, which not only meant getting the designs right but also finding the right printers. I worked with a lot of musicians and teachers to find out how I could create the best tool for both.

While creating Practice Note, I heavily drew from my experiences as a student and from the bits of time I’ve spent as a flute teacher. I started playing flute when I was four years old, so I’ve experienced a number of different teaching styles along the way. When I was taking private flute lessons, I would use weekly practice sheets. Luckily I kept all of them, so I went back and looked for what was missing, what worked, and how I could expand upon them. I didn’t want Practice Note to just be practice pages, so I included sections on practice tips, preventing injuries, structuring lessons, dealing with failure, and other topics I felt were important. The real bulk of the book has the practice pages, but each month you’ll find goal-setting pages that help give you a space to evaluate what is and is not working during your practice sessions. Through assessment, you’re able to make changes and be more efficient with your practice time.

I structured Practice Note to be something that musicians can use in a lot of different capacities, whether they’re learning an instrument on their own, in a school setting, or with a private teacher. I wanted it to be a resource that anyone could use no matter their age, instrument, experience level, or genre of focus. Lastly, and this was really important to me, I wanted to create something that would make musicians excited to practice. Whether that’s through the actual content, or by holding a well-constructed book with modern finishes and a stylish cover, my hope is that opening up Practice Note each day is a fun experience and not a chore.

I’m thrilled with how it came together, and I’ve received a lot of amazing feedback from teachers and students alike. The retailers that carry it continue to grow, and I’m currently in production with a second order that will include many new covers as well as a new version called Practice Note Lite. These new versions will be available this fall.

Congratulations on the success to date! Aligning with the purpose of Practice Note, why do you think it’s important for a musician to set goals?

I think it’s important to have direction and to know what you’re working towards. On a daily level, many musicians go into a practice session with a certain hour mark they are trying to hit instead of having a goal of what they want to accomplish during their practice session. If you’re just practicing just for the sake of practicing and “putting in the time,” then it’s very easy to get lost and to lose sight of whether you’re actually progressing or not, leaving you to wonder what is the point of practicing in the first place.

That’s why I’m such a big believer in setting realistic and achievable goals, something I’ve emphasized in Practice Note. Oftentimes people set crazy goals and get discouraged if they don’t hit those goals that were never attainable in the first place. In Practice Note, there are three levels of goal setting: weekly, monthly, and long-term. By learning how to set achievable goals, this will set great habits for every musician. You are then able to look at a long-term goal and figure out the short-term goals you need to hit to reach your dream destination. Of course, goals change over time and things don’t always go the way you intended. That’s okay! It’s all part of the process. I would have never guessed all the things I’m doing today, but it’s that unique path that I’m both proud of and excited by where else it may lead.

Visit the Practice Note website here:
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One of the most extraordinary aspects of attending the Colburn Conservatory of Music is that it provides the opportunity for our students to explore the arts without financial barriers. Thanks to the vision of Richard D. Colburn, along with generous support from our donor community, we continue to offer full scholarships covering tuition, room and board to all our Colburn Conservatory students.

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