How Are Musicians Like Athletes? (And Why Lebron James is My Musical Hero)

What does Lebron James have to do with music education? Why, you ask, is he my musical hero?

It’s simple. Musicians are like athletes because—just like athletes—they need both body awareness (fine motors skills) AND sharp minds (knowing what to do with those fine motor skills under extreme conditions) to excel at their craft. 

Lebron James—a power forward who can shoot three-point shots like a guard and plow through the lane, scoring at will—is my musical hero because he, better than most, can show us how to do it.


Yes, Musicians & Athletes Are Similar 

Lebron embodies what all great musicians strive for:

  • An extremely well developed body awareness that comes from very refined motor skills
  • An agile mind that can react in real time to any number of given situations under pressure

In short, Lebron has what every mature musician needs:

  • The confidence to make thousands of choices while playing 
  • The facility on the instrument to make executing those choices look effortless

Even more important? At the foundation of Lebron’s skill and ability is an infectious level of passion for both the pursuit (the learning process) and the product (the game itself) of his sport.

Three Categories of Learning

So let’s draw a few comparisons between Lebron James and music… and how exactly this thinking can be applied to music education. I like to break it down into three categories of learning:

1. Music Ear 

2. Music Mind

3.Music Body


Music Body



We’ll start here because it’s the most visible piece of the puzzle and is probably the easiest one for most people to understand at first.

Music Body = Technique 

Technique is everything from the ability to strum a chord progression in multiple keys to the ability to play three different scales during a guitar solo. Here is the key… Knowing how to play that chord progression, while also staying aware of how your body feels, is what ultimately makes it possible to maintain technique for long stretches of time (like the length of an entire show or recital).

Music Mind




This is the theory (or the building blocks) behind those chords and scales that you executed with that technique. The Music Mind is where many many musicians fall way short.

Maybe you can play a fast scale on the guitar, but you have no idea why you are choosing those notes or even why they ‘sound good’ over a certain chord progression.

All great composers and songwriters have strong music minds. They have the know-how and the knowledge to make the educated choices needed to create specific sounds.

And let’s be clear: This is true whether we are talking about Tom Petty or Mozart.

Music Ear




This is pretty self explanatory, even though it’s the most neglected piece of music education. Sometimes called your ‘inner ear,’ this is the skill you need to be able to hear something in your head and then make it happen on your instrument.

It’s also what makes it possible for you to read notes on a page (sheet music, for example) and understand and hear those in your head before playing them on the instrument.

The Music Ear is actually THE most important skill all musicians need, yet it’s often the last one tackled. (Usually music students aren’t challenged to develop their inner ears until high school or college.

No cutting corners….

All three areas of growth are required to have any shot at becoming the Lebron of music.

Skip technique and you will be laughed off the court.

Skip the ear and mind work and you will have no idea what to do with all that technique on the court.

As a basketball player, a masterful three-point shot does you no good if you can’t read the court, run a play, or know exactly when to pull up and shoot.


Fast does NOT equal good…

As a musician, blazing fast scales on the guitar do you no good if you don’t know when to use that scale or how to listen to and communicate with the rest of the band, waiting for the perfect moment to place that guitar lick.


How Can I Help My Child Develop a Musical Mind, Ear and Body? 

So where am I going with this? It’s important to support your child’s musical interests in many ways, not just asking if they playing the “correct” notes! Playing music is about so much more than reading the notes on the page. It’s the full package: passion and creativity, technique, playing on a team with others (or in a band!), and finding your individual voice. (And don’t forget FUN.)

At BMF, our answer to developing a music mind and music ear in a super fun way and early in your music education journey is through playing games.

Instead of waiting until high school or college to start developing the Music Ear with ear training, we dive in with our youngest students, so they can begin to learn music as a language, right from the start.

Each and every one of our games—called BLAM games: Big Lesson About Music—do just that: teach a BIG lesson about music, whether it’s strengthening harmony, rhythm or melody, or flexing your child’s creative Music Mind with songwriting. 

We believe that every kid deserves to dream of becoming the next Lebron James of music. And they should also have a ton of fun while doing it!

Let’s give them all the tools needed to have a shot at their dreams!

Want to try out one of our music games for free? 

Been There – Done That! (Or: Why Kids Need to Experience New Types of Classes)

The Inevitable Cycle

Last year I signed my daughter up for an amazing class for toddlers.  It was really fun, good for her, and she loved every minute of it.  The following year, I signed her up again, and at the very first class she did the exact same activity that she did the year before.

This time it fell flat.

After a few classes we ended up dropping. She wasn’t feeling it anymore and didn’t know why.

I did.

She was a year older and needed a new and interesting challenge. My daughter was no longer psyched by the same goals and activities.

In other words, she had been there, done that.


On Our Own Turf

The reason I recognized what was going on was because I had seen this happen at my very own school. A child signs up for Rock, Write and Record, ages 9-11.  Comes in for year one at age 9 and is so psyched to be playing in a band.   Then, that same child comes in year two at age 10, and finds him or herself bored, doing the same thing he or she did last year.

By age 11, we’ve lost them emotionally.

They have checked out and might drop out of the band.

This is a loss that is bigger than BMF. This loss often translates to a student’s relationship with wanting to learn music all together.  A result that is against everything we aim to do here at the Brooklyn Music Factory which is to create a lifelong love of learning and playing music.


A Clear Solution

That’s why we’ve now created a clear music fluency guideline for each type of band. (read more HERE)

No longer will a student be in a band where they’ve been there done that. We now have a concrete way to measure each individual’s level and where they should go next.   It is with this, that we can be sure that students continue to be excited to learn and are challenged by what they are learning.  They will be given the environment that is best suited for them to most effectively learn and thrive.


Questions? Schedule a call with Jessica today to talk about class options for your family. CLICK HERE.

Let’s not just do this – let’s do it right.


Co-Founder of Brooklyn Music Factory, and Camp Director.

P.S. Update!

As of November 2018, we’ve launched our very own music class for babies and toddlers – Little Songwriters!

In Little Songwriters, kids and their grownups will sing, dance, play lots of drum circle games AND write original songs as a group every week.