Fueling the Motivation that Lies Within: Using the Growth Mindset to Empower and Grow Your Art

by Dr. Levana Cohen

Date Posted: December 12, 2022

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Written by Dr. Levana Cohen

“I’ll never be as good at the clarinet as they are…”, “I just don’t have a good sense of rhythm…”, “This is too hard I’ll never get it…”, “When people give me feedback, it feels like criticism…”, “I’m not talented enough…”, “It's embarrassing when I make a mistake…”

If you are a musician, chances are these thoughts have creeped into your head at one time or another. Musicians are constantly being evaluated and are often denied opportunities more than they are offered them. “Successful” musicians have the right mindset to withstand the constant barrage of judgment.

Which Mindset Do You Have?

Fixed Mindset

Less successful musicians go through life using the fixed mindset believing intelligence, talent, and other qualities are innate and unchangeable. If you’re not good at something, you typically think you will never be good at it.

Growth Mindset

Most successful musicians go through life using the growth mindset believing intelligence and talent can be developed with practice and effort.

Not surprisingly, your mindset plays a major role in your motivation, resilience, and achievement. This is neuroplasticity at work!


Neuroplasticity is the science behind the growth mindset. Neuroplasticity explains that the neural pathways in the brain are constantly changing in response to our experiences. The brain is like a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger the brain becomes, and the more automatic the process.

Take the quiz below to find out if you maintain a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Then use the following tips to replace a fixed mindset belief with a healthier growth mindset belief.

Do you Strongly Disagree (0 points), Disagree (1 points), Agree (2 points) or Strongly Agree (3 points) with the following statements:

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Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset Quiz Scores

32-45=Growth Mindset

25-31=Growth Mindset with some fixed ideas

16-24=Fixed Mindset with some growth ideas

0-15=Fixed Mindset

"Most successful musicians go through life using the growth mindset believing intelligence and talent can be developed with practice and effort." - Dr. Levana Cohen

Tips to Replace a Fixed Mindset Belief with a Healthier Growth Mindset Belief

Practice identifying fixed mindset thoughts and then take a look at the relationship between hard work and success. Restating your thoughts to involve enthusiastic effort/work will help you improve and achieve your goals.

Fixed Mindset: I feel bad about myself when I make a mistake and my confidence suffers.

Growth Mindset: I learn from my mistakes and my failures help me become a more developed and skilled musician.

Fixed Mindset: I just don’t have a good sense of rhythm.

Growth Mindset: Every time I subdivide in my head while I play my rhythm improves.

Fixed Mindset: I’m afraid of performing because I feel like everyone is judging me. And I’m afraid to make a mistake. My performance has to be perfect!

Growth Mindset: When I perform I feel like everyone is cheering me on. The people in the audience are my allies. I cannot control the future, but I can control what I do right now. If I keep practicing, I will be more skilled, and my musical performance will be more thoughtful. The goal of my performance/art is not perfection (perfection is unattainable), it is to convey a message to my audience by giving a thoughtful performance.

Fixed Mindset: I am making so many mistakes in this performance! I will never win this audition!!

Growth Mindset: Mistakes are a part of what makes art beautiful and spontaneous in a live performance. I will focus on my recovery in the moment if I make a mistake, not on my past mistakes. I will stay in the moment when I am performing!

Fixed Mindset: This is too hard, and I’ll never be able to accomplish my goals as a musician.

Growth Mindset: Look how far I’ve come! I have practiced every day for the past 2 weeks and now I can play all the right rhythms in my piece. If I continue to practice and focus on my achievements, I can accomplish my goals. I’m excited to see how far I can improve this week!

Cohen Circle

About Dr. Levana Cohen

Seattle born clarinetist, Levana Cohen is an avid performer and music educator. Her performances have taken her to some of the most prestigious concert halls including, Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose hall, the Koussevitzky Music Shed and Ozawa hall of Tanglewood, Benaroya Hall, Symphony Space, The DiMenna Center, Flushing Town Hall and the 92ndY sharing the stage and performing with such artists as Frank Morelli, William Purvis, Steven Taylor, Shlomo Mintz and the Emerson String Quartet to name a few. Levana's life as a NY based freelance musician has made her into an extremely versatile musician performing and teaching in a multitude of different genres. In performance, these genres include the ballet, pit orchestra, opera, chamber music (both in the concert hall and for house parties), studio musician (recording for TV and radio), and the occasional concerto. Currently, Levana perform as the Principal Clarinetist for the Astoria Symphony Orchestra and appears at universities nation-wide leading masterclasses, clinics and performing recitals and concertos.

As a committed and devoted music educator, Dr. Cohen enjoys teaching students of all ages. She is the clarinet professor and teaches the Woodwind Method class at Long Island University, C.W. Post campus. She also serves as the Clarinet Instructor at Suffolk County Community College, and operates her own private teaching studio in Port Washington NY. Apart from helping her students find their true, unique voice on their instrument, one of her highest priorities at the college level is to prepare her students for successful careers in music. Dr. Cohen is a Vandoren Artist-Clinician and through this program gives free clinics to music programs across Long Island. Additionally, Levana is a Woodwind Specialist and coach with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestras of New York, a chamber music coach for Stony Brook University, and is the director of the Port Washington Clarinet Choir.

Levana holds both a Master of Music degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University under the tutelage of Daniel Gilbert. She performs on Buffet Tosca clarinets and uses Vandoren mouthpiece, ligature and reed products.

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