Since early in her career, violinist Hilary Hahn has always gone out of her way to try to connect with her fans. Her latest such venture is the Instagram project #100DaysOf Practice, with its third iteration beginning in early May. “I just kind of do it,” she said, “and it feels like it is a constant thing, and then I stop when my calendar tells me my 100 days are up.”
Hahn, who appears May 16-18 and 21 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, began the initiative in response to a visual-arts project offering an online, behind-the-scenes look at the creative process. “I wanted to be part of it, but I’m not a visual artist,” she said. “So I dove into the project thinking, ‘If I participate in this unifying project and I create a hashtag that reflects it, what is it that I do for a 100 days in a row that shows the progress?’”
Hahn thought of trying to do some sort of demonstrations, and then she decided it would make more sense to set up a camera and simply give a viewers a glimpse of her real-life practices everyday. And that is what she has done. She tapes her practice and then she chooses one minute from the session that best reflects what she accomplished.
“I really didn’t think that anyone would care about it,” she said. “I just figured everyone practices. Everyone knows this is what happens. No big deal. I want to be part of the visual-artists club.”
What happened is that visual artists paid no attention at all, but musicians, especially students, quickly took notice and started posting their own practice sessions. Now there are more than 200,000 such posts on Instagram and counting. “That was great, because it became a communal thing,” Hahn said.
What she heard from other musicians and read in the comments is that they felt a sense of revelation and relief that their peers experience some of the same frustrations and challenges during practices that they do.
“It occurred to me that, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I’ve really been given access to see someone practice.’ I’ve heard it through the practice walls in conservatory,” she said. “I’ve heard people practice around me. I’ve been in the same room when people are warming up, but you don’t just sit there and watch how someone practices.
“Yet you’re told to practice a certain way, and you’re told that your practice is supposed to accomplish this and this and this. And you’re supposed to do it everyday. Yet it’s so personal. And the results and the effort you put in don’t always match up.”
To see Hahn’s latest #100DaysOf Practice posts, visit: https://www.instagram.com/violincase/
TOP: Hilary Hahn. | Photo: ©Dana van Leeuwen/Decca