Growth Mindset

Lauren Conger '19

In my middle and high school years, I assumed people had natural talents in certain areas and these determined each person's successes and failures. Through my course work and experience in college I was introduced to the notion of a growth mindset, which spurred my understanding of the significance of practice.

My choral experience before college consisted of one year of high school choir and Sunday Mass singing. I knew how music worked but had not had much practice. In my first few semesters at Cornell, I sang in the Anabel Taylor Chapel Choir. I learned more about music and sight-reading, to keep going through mistakes, to always watch the conductor, and to sing music that will expand your capabilities as a singer. My semester in the Cornell University Chorale gave me the chance to fine-tune skills such as holding notes out to their full length, breathing and tuning during warm-ups, and staying focused during Friday afternoon rehearsals.

Meanwhile, in my physics education class, I was learning about viewing the brain as a muscle. We were taught to focus on the process of learning rather than the immediate correct results for each practice problem. We supposedly need ten thousand hours of physics to master it, so the best way to encourage understanding in students is to emphasize the necessity of practice.  As I look at the improvement in both my physics and choral skills, I am quite surprised at how far I have come since the beginning of freshman year at Cornell. When I auditioned for Chorus this fall, I was able to see how my singing had changed. I no longer saw singing as a purely natural skill. I understood how practice changes skill sets, and how our abilities are not innate.

In the two and a half months I've been singing with the Chorus, I've already noticed improvements. I now have "bigger ears" for tuning, improved sight-reading skills, more focus on breath support, and more confidence in my singing. I appreciate the "growth mindset" of the Chorus; each member recognizes their weaknesses and seeks to improve their musical abilities. As a group, the Chorus works to improve in not only singing, but in building on and giving to the community as well. Robert, our conductor, gives us new ideas to interpret our music, and I think we sound different every rehearsal. I'm confident that the Chorus will continue to support me in my improvements in singing and will forward the growth mindset in everything that we do.