Left Hand LIBERATION for HARP PLAYERS – A Free Live Webinar Oct. 23rd with Deborah Henson-Conant

left-hand-liberation-webinar2-fbeventboostDo you play the harp?

Do you long to liberate yourself from the notes on the page and truly express yourSELF with your instrument?

Well, it all starts down in the bass!  When you can liberate your left hand, you have the foundation to creatively support any melody, singer, instrumentalist – or your own improvisation – and I will show you how!

Join me on Sunday, Oct. 23rd at 2pm EDT for a LIVE FREE WEBINAR where I show you my #1 Go-To Left Hand Pattern and some of the amazing things you can do once you have it in your hands!

>> Register right now for Free<<

Registration includes a REPLAY link in case you can’t make it live


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10 Reasons ‘Hip Harp Academy’ Fall Programs ROCK!!!

Two of my most popular online programs for HARP PLAYERS start on MONDAY at “Hip Harp Academy” 


“Arrange Yourself” is a 6-week course that teaches you to create your own on-the-spot arrangements from any simple tune – and “Hip Harp Toolkit” adds bonus modules to that curriculum to help you DO all kinds of fun things WITH those arrangements – like create video-greeting-cards, mini-repertoires or even your own concerts.   

Get 20% Off if you use the code EARLY (all caps) at Checkout
Deadline: Midnight Oct. 24th

On Oct. 24th I’ll be personally guiding the very first “HIP HARP ACADEMY” students through these programs and – if you play the harp – JOIN ME NOW! Register for my brand new “Hip Harp ACADEMY” – the yearlong membership program that combines ALL my online harp courses and you’ll get these two programs PLUS a year of additional courses, creative challenges and personal training from me!

The Academy gives you a full YEAR of immersion in the “DHC Method”  – the  method that teaches you to break free from the notes on the page and express yourSELF with your instrument at technical ability you have right now, this very minute. ‘FULL LEVEL’ membership gives you a full year of access to all my online courses plus sharing challenges and lots of live chats and interaction (see them all at HipHarpAcademy.com).   VIP LEVEL adds on personalized video feedback as well.

10-reasons-hha-arms-wideIT ALL STARTS WITH “Hip Harp Toolkit” and “Arrange Yourself” on Mon. Oct. 24th!

Now here are just 10 reasons why these programs ROCK!!!

number-yellow-red-1YOU GET MY SECRET FORMULA! It’s the formula at the HEART of most of the music we hear from jazz to classical sonatas! You’ve heard it thousands of times – but it’s secret because it gets so altered that you don’t hear as a basic structure.

So I’ve distilled it (Mwaaaa-haha!!) it into a BASIC 5-Part Formula that YOU can use over and over and over – to turn any simple melody into a improvised arrangement of any length and any complexity!

number-yellow-red-2YOU LEARN to play the GAME inside the MUSIC! Most musicians are stuck playing what’s written on the printed page, because they don’t know how music works as a game.  But once you learn my formula, each time you play a tune, it can be completely different!  Music becomes a game!  An the joy come when you pay WITH music instead of having to play the music you’re handed!

number-yellow-red-3IT’S LIKE AN ANTI-NERVOUS PILL!! Face it, the scariest part of playing for other people is the first few seconds!  So imagine what it would be like to have a wonderful, simple, INTRODUCTION that makes your audience “oooo and ah” and gives you time to get your musical bearings?  It’s like taking an anti-nervous pill!

number-yellow-red-4 IT SOOOOO MUCH FUN! Did I mention It’s really, really FUN — because you get to just let go of worrying about the notes you’re playing and truly just play WITH the music!


number-yellow-red-5YOU PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS! Because we use a formula, it can be applied to any simple tune, at any level (have I said that enough?).  That means that instead of YOU trying to fit yourself into a written arrangement, you can build an improvised arrangement to take advantage of YOUR strengths – whatever they are.

number-yellow-red-6IF YOU SIGN UP FOR THE ACADEMY AT THE VIP LEVEL, YOU GET PERSONALIZED – and highly POSITIVE – FEEDBACK FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many students say that watching the feedback is one of the most valuable parts of the course and the most confidence-building.  And that’s not just mindless cheerleader. The kind of feedback I give you is the same kind I use with my professional-level colleagues to develop new material. We learned that ‘critiques’ are counterproductive – so my feedback always starts with what IS working because that’s the hardest thing for people to see in their own work!

number-yellow-red-7YOU CAN ASK ME ANYTHING! You have three different ways to get my personal coaching:  The live chats, the Facebook Group and the “Ask a Question” Form.  And, yes — you can ask me ANYTHING.  Now … will I answer absolutely anything?  Well, so far I haven’t gotten many questions I didn’t answer!

number-yellow-red-8YOUR ARRANGEMENTS GROW WITH YOU!  Imagine playing a tune you love, getting it in your fingers, hearing people hum along … and then hearing it DEVELOP, as you develop over the years!  Imagine hearing it change and grow as your skills grow.    Imagine that it gets easier when you’re tired, so you don’t have to work so hard!  Imagine it gets flashier when you want to impress people.  THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS when you learn to create spontaneous arrangements because they change as YOU change!

number-yellow-red-9YOU GET TO PLAY LIKE YOU!! Forget “Beginner,” “Intermediate” and “Advanced” – the truth is that each person plays at their own personal level, with their own strengths and their own challenges.  So I help you tailor the material to YOUR technical level whether you’re a professional who wants to create a flashy set of musical variations, OR a fledgling who wants to be able to sit down and have FUN!

number-yellow-red-10YOU GET TO PLAY WITH A SKELETON! OK, maybe that sounds scary, but skeletons are our foundation – they’re what hold us up and give us a strong internal structure! That’s what my 5-part formula becomes once you internalize it: a strong skeleton for every arrangement you play!  And once you have that skeleton, you can start adding anything to it that you want – from musical embellishments to stories, spoken word, dancing … to your favorite food! (Um … well, I’m not totally sure about the food part)


number-yellow-red-11WE GET TO DO THIS TOGETHER! Sure, you could take all the videos, handouts and audio files from this course and work on them on your own and you’d be getting soooooo much that way – BUT if you sign up for Hip Harp Academy NOW you’ll be able to take this course interactively – with me personally leading you through it! I’ll be WITH you each week, answering your questions through the Facebook Group, the “Ask a Question” form and the weekly chats, sharing new tips and hints – and LOVING having this adventure with you!!

So what are you waiting for??

Use the code “EARLY” (All caps) to get 20% OFF ’til Midnight Oct. 24th!




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Dream Journeys – Kathy King – Mentorship Project

Kathy King is a member of my Harness Your Muse Mentorship 2016.

kathy-king-dream-posterI first met Kathy King in one of my online courses for harpists at Hip Harp Academy She described herself as a beginning harp player, but I started noticing something unusual about her final projects: she was dressing up in costume. kathyking-bfbp-finalproject-imageShe didn’t stop there.  In her 2nd or 3rd online course with me, she turned in a final project called “Fairytale Blues” about a princess who wanted to be baa-a-d – which she performed in costume and character.   Using a lot of singing and some simple harp techniques she created something that was really fun both to perform and to watch.

king-kathy-princess-enlargedI realized that, while she was a beginner harpist she was far from a beginning performer.

she was a beginning harp player - but far from a beginning performer Click To Tweet

I love working with people who are already expert at one thing and helping them find a way to connect that expertise to the harp, so they can share what they’re already great at in a new way by adding harp to it – so it’s been a real joy to work with Kathy this year in “Harness Your Muse” to develop her first-ever show with harp and voice.

The theme of Kathy’s show is a return to the land of second-chances where people’s forgotten dreams have a chance to come true.  And Kathy is LIVING this story.

a return to the land of 2nd chances where forgotten dreams get to come true Click To Tweet

This is a theme that’s resonant throughout my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship, particularly for the members who’ve had full lives in one field and are either returning to the harp, or like Kathy, are daring to start the harp after developing a whole other career.

One of the things I love about the vast range of ages and technical abilities in the members in my “Harness Your Muse” mentoriship is that it’s highlights the fact that artistic challenges are universal, and that finding our own creative voice takes a deep commitment regardless of our skills, abilities, age or experience.

What’s especially moving to me is that each artist in the group brings their unique revelations of that commitment and their own journey to their work.

Kathy’s show “Dream Journeys” is a perfect example of that – and if you’re anywhere near Hartford Connecticut on Oct. 22, I encourage you to go.  Watch the show, enjoy the journey, and ask questions – because your own dream journey may just be waiting for the touch of a string – and a little direction to start.

Here are the Basics of Kathy’s Upcoming Show

WHAT: Kathy King’s “Dream Journeys” – from Broadway to childhood favorites, to the Blues – a fun and uplifting concert with harp and voice
WHEN:  Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 ~ 7:30PM
WHERE:  Trinity Lutheran Church, 20 Meadowlark Road, Vernon, CT
TIX: $12 in advance, $15 cash only at the door
INFO & TIXhttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/dream-journeys-tickets-27609068467

ABOUT KATHY KING:  Kathy grew up with a deep love of musical theatre and singing. A physical therapist for over 30 years, she is now also both a Certified Music Practitioner and Reiki Master. Over the past 30 years, in addition to her healing work, she’s sung in choral groups, toured New England coffeehouses as a Christian solo artist, engaged in community theatre productions, and continues to direct her church choir.

Kathy is passionate about combining music with healing in as many ways as possible – and though she’s been both a musician and healer for most of her life, the harp is a new passion – one she’s fallen completely in love with. Just as the harp has opened Kathy to a new world of musical expression, she’s using it to bring her audience on her own musical journey to the land of second chances.

And finally … this is me half-way home from NYC last weekend, when I stopped at Rein’s Deli and stumbled on Kathy’s Poster up on the wall.


Do you have a creative project that’s longing to bloom in your life?  Apply for “Harness Your Muse” – even just going through the application process can bring you huge clarity – click on the “Apply Now” image at HarnessYourMuse.com.

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Garbage Man | Birthday | SousChef | Red Sweater Facebook Live

Having fun with Facebook Live! Today I jumped on and suddenly there were LOTS of people asking me to play all kinds of things like my “Garbageman” or “Blues” or “Happy Birthday.”  Fun!

So I played the version of “Happy Birthday” that’s in my new FREE “HaRpy Birthday” Training – because this is EXACTLY what it’s for!!!  That moment when someone says “It’s my Birthday!” and you’re like, well hey, I have a harp, let me play “Happy Birthday” so everyone can sing! (If you play the harp, register to get that FREE HaRpy Birthday mini-training here: https://pr205.isrefer.com/go/HBF/DHC/).

(Also check out yesterday’s Facebook Live –  It’s gotten over 2,000 hits since yesterday and it was really fun – I was playing “Rhythm Changes” on a lever harp with a backing track from YouTube)

This is all part of my BRAND NEW Hip Harp Academy (http://www.HipHarpAcademy.com).  Registration opens next week – but if you play the harp you can get on the First-to-Know list by clicking this image below and signing up for the free “HaRpy Birthday” training.

Are you a harpist?  Then read this:

Are you ready to play with freedom and creativity? If you play the harp, I’ve developed a fun way for you to use the skills you already have to create a fun arrangement of Happy Birthday in a completely new way – to wow your friends and family (and impress yourself!) at the next birthday celebration!

Sign up to get The “HaRpy Birthday” mini-training here (it’s totally free) PLUS you’ll get on my “First-to-Know” list for the “Hip Harp Academy” AND get a sneak peek into the Academy online campus

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Rhythm Changes Experiment on Facebook Live

Today I was working with an advanced student in my mentorship program, showing different ideas for playing “Rhythm Changes” with harp, playing along with a backing track – and it was so much fun I wanted to show you what I was doing.

“Rhythm Changes” is the name for a whole category of jazz tunes that are based on the underlying harmonic ‘changes’ in the tune “I Got Rhythm.”  Not every jazz player knows every jazz tune, so playing “Rhythm Changes” is one way that jazz players can be nearly 100% certain that everyone will know the tune they’re playing.

Here’s the Facebook live video.  I think you can get to the comments somehow below the video, but if not, leave me comments here at the blog.

This is all part of my BRAND NEW Hip Harp Academy (http://www.HipHarpAcademy.com). So if you play the harp, make sure to get on the First to Know list at that link – and download a FREE training (don’t worry, the FREE training is for all levels from Adv. Beginners to Intermediate — the video above is pretty advanced).

By the way, the student I was working with is a pedal-harpist but I’m doing this on the lever harp in part because it’s fun, in part because my studio is in the attic (and my pedal harps are 2 floors down) – and in part because it’s easier for students to SEE when I’m bending or shifting note on the lever harp. ENJOY!!!


Are you a harpist?  Then read this:

Are you ready to play with freedom and creativity? If you play the harp, I’ve developed a fun way for you to use the skills you already have to create a fun arrangement of Happy Birthday in a completely new way – to wow your friends and family (and impress yourself!) at the next birthday celebration!

Sign up to get The “HaRpy Birthday” mini-training here (it’s totally free) PLUS you’ll get on my “First-to-Know” list for the “Hip Harp Academy” AND get a sneak peek into the Academy online campus

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My First Facebook Live!

My first Facebook Live! I had so much fun playing harp, answering questions AND I got to share my fun new FREEBIE just for HARP (“HaRpy Birthday Mini-Training) players https://pr205.isrefer.com/go/HBF/DHC/ – and I got to talk about my brand new Hip Harp Academy (http://www.HipHarpAcademy.com)


Are you ready to play with freedom and creativity?   If you play the harp, I’ve developed a fun way for you to use the skills you already have to create a fun arrangement of Happy Birthday in a completely new way – to wow your friends and family (and impress yourself!) at the next birthday celebration!

Sign up to get The “HaRpy Birthday” mini-training here (it’s totally free) PLUS you’ll get on my “First-to-Know” list for the “Hip Harp Academy” AND get a sneak peek into the Academy online campus


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Protected: Webinar Replay – Incrowd Only! Oct. 2, 2016

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An Endless Song ~ Ted Jones ~ A Labyrinth Story

My Harness Your Muse Mentorship program is all about creating new works of art that bring people’s stories and passions together with their music.

Ted Jones is one of the newest members of the group.  When Ted joined last summer, he told me there was ‘something’ he needed to express with his harp, but he wasn’t clear exactly what that was.

He’s a wonderful singer, a seasoned actor and has a strong, relaxed harp-playing style, so I assumed that he’d create a kind of one-man show over the year.

But Ted’s creative life changed on June 12, 2016 when he learned about the events at the Pulse nightclub.  Within hours he’d emailed me telling me how important it was that his work acknowledge that event and provide support and healing for people.

He started talking about labyrinths and healing and journeys — and then it all started to take shape.jones-teddy-labyrinth-journeypathcloth

Within weeks he’d painted a beautiful cloth labyrinth (see the design above) – a kind of portable pilgrimage,  When he came to the “Harness Your Muse” summer retreat, he brought the cloth in a huge duffel bag,  unfurled it and led the whole group through kind ceremony-performance, with himself as the Labyrinth Keeper, singing and speaking from the harp.  Then he led us through his Labyrinth, playing us through our journey.

Within two months he’d created “An Endless Song,” a completely new program, a way to use his harp to create a pilgrimage of healing and of new beginnings.  I got to experience it first-hand — the sense of group meditation and support, and the beauty of walking through one man’s painted garden.  (Here he is about to lead us all through the experience)

ted-labyrinthBelow he’s ‘clearing’ the labyrinth with beautiful silk flags

jones-teddy-labyrinth-flags-bostonBelow you can see people walking through the labyrinth, each in their own world, on a tiny pilgrimage – yet all together.

jones-teddy-labyrinth-walk-playing-bostonWe all want to reach out, to create something, to do something.  For Ted, what happened at Pulse led to a way of reaching both in to his music and out to help other people.

This Thursday Ted is being interviewed as part of the “Healing with Music” summit. Learn more and connect to the event at AnEndlessSong.com/AngelWalk/ – Ted’s new website – he’ll have more information there on the day of the interview.

Do you have a project that’s filling your soul, and you need support and direction to bring it into the world?  Applications for 2017 “Harness Your Muse” are available now at HarnessYourMuse.com.


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Confessions of a Late-Night Harpist (Sally Walstrum)

You may think a librarian’s job is boring – but librarians share their world with the greatest stories of all time.

One of my favorite kinds of stories is the story of a lost passion that’s rediscovered — and finally lived to its fullest.

#Librarians share their world with the greatest stories of all time Click To Tweet

sally-librarianLibrarian and harpist Sally Walstrum has a story like that. It’s her personal story of a rekindled life passion — and she puts it to music with her 32 string electric harp,  looper pedal  … and just a smidgeon of the Dewey Decimal system in her new show “Confessions of a LateNight Harpist” which is being debuted … where else but at the Library.

Sally Walstrum is a member of my Harness Your Muse Mentorship program and her yearlong project has been to develop this show, which shares the music and  stories of a woman who left her first passion to pursue a safer life — and then returned for the passion she left behind.  Now Sally is integrating these two parts of her life in a way she never thought possible.

This theme speaks to anyone who’s left a passion behind in order to create a safer life.

Is there anyone who hasn’t done that in some way or another?  I’ve never met that person.  For me it was composing musical theater – something I’m reconnecting to deeply now.  How about you?  What did you leave behind?  What did you always want to create, but just never got around to it? (I’d love to know!  Please talk about it in the comments.)

It speaks to anyone who's left a passion behind in order to create a safer life Click To Tweet

That’s what my Harness Your Muse Mentorship program is all about.  So if rekindling a passion speaks to you check out the info page and fill out the application – many people say that simply filling out the application gives them a huge amount of clarity about their own passions and where they want to take them (and don’t worry – there’s a box on the application you can check to tell me that you’re just filling it out for the experience)

Confessions of a LateNight Harpist
Show Info

WHAT:  Sally Walstrum’s “Confessions of a Late Night Harpist”
WHEN:  Saturday, October 15, 2016 at Noon
WHERE:  Hawaii State Library – Front Lobby, 478 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813
MORE INFO:  (808) 586-3500

ABOUT THE SHOW:  One woman’s story of a passion rekindled – a story told from the harp. This 60 minute program for all ages features music styles from Blues to Flamenco on a 32-string electric harp with looper pedal, stories, and a smidge of the Dewey Decimal System.

ABOUT SALLY WALSTRUM:  Sally came of age as a conservatory-trained harpist, steeped in the classics and the intense world of competition as a professional musician.  She left that world to become a librarian, and her harp fell silent … until, nearly 3 decades later, she sat down at her neglected harp and her passion opened like a beloved book. Sally is currently working with creative mentor Deborah Henson-Conant in the “Harness Your Muse”  program and has since developed – and performed –  her first solo harp concert in 35 years! She’s now working on a series of shows for concert and family audiences featuring her 32-string electric harp, looper … and stories of passion rekindled.

Blog: https://sallywalstrum.wordpress.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5EPp8Cz2eKx5CdNtd1CC3Q

Go to the Facebook Event Page to wish Sally luck, and if you have friends in Honolulu, SHARE the event with them!


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Baroque Flamenco Harp Ensemble – Now Available for Sale

Yaaaay! I’ve just published 2013 Arrangement of “Baroque Flamenco” for Harp Ensemble, commissioned by the American Youth Harp Ensemble – and now YOUR Harp Ensemble can play it!

bfharpensayhe-productmini-gumroad-squareThe Download Package includes 5 multi-page PDFs:

  1. The Full Score: So you can see how all the parts fit together (see examples below)
  2. Harp 1 – Pedal Harp (Int. to Adv. Level)
  3. Harp 2 – Pedal Harp (Int. to Adv. Level)
  4. Harp 3 – Lever Harp (Int.)
  5. Appendix – my personal description of how to play all the special effects in the piece

It should be possible to adapt much of Harp 1 and Harp 2 for lever harp – and if you’ve worked with me before, you know that I do encourage you to adapt my compositions to play on lever harp, if I haven’t already done it. So even if your ensemble is of a different level, or different configuration, you should be able to use this arrangement to play the piece as an ensemble.

Many thanks to Sunita Stanislaw for pushing me to publish this version of the piece and to the American Youth Harp Ensemble for commissioning and performing it in 2013.

Buy Baroque Flamenco Harp Ensemble Pack Now

If you play it, make sure to let me know, post a video on YouTube and send me the link so I can try to share it on this page.


To get a sense of the level of each part, here are some sample pages from the full score where you can see all three levels playing together and how the parts differ from each other.

bfhrpens-example-p2 bfhrpens-example-p3 bfhrpens-example-p6 bfhrpens-example-p8


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The Golden Cage: Project Update

The last month has been an intense one working on my musical “The Golden Cage.”  After a NYC reading earlier this year, I started rewriting the beginning and ending of the show.

After NYC reading, I started rewriting the beginning & ending of the show. #GoldenCage Click To Tweet

Tomorrow I’m presenting the rewrites for the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative.

Yesterday I rehearsed with with singers Erica Spyres and Matt Spano, and pianist/musical director Tim Maurice, who has become a huge part of my creation process. Here’s a selfie of the whole crew:

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-41-18-am“Rehearsal” is probably a misnomer because I’m  still developing the piece – so that means I’m asking all three to re-work the piece with me as we go.

That means cutting measures, shifting notes, changing words all on the fly.  Tim and I work together weekly, and he knows the piece so well now that I can say “use the new accompaniment here” or “play like whacked out Chopin” he can shift without dropping a beat.

It’s exciting to see it come together.  It also wakes me up in the middle of the night when I write down things like “the cage is LIFE!” – things I ponder over in the morning when they’re legible enough to read.

Later this fall I’ll start sharing the show in a series of ‘Pizza Readings’ – so stay tuned for more on that.

Here are some rehearsal pictures:

gc-rehearsal-01-160915-ericamatttimgc-rehearsal-02-160915-ericamatttimgc-rehearsal-03-160915-ericamatttim-03gc-rehearsal-04-160915-matttimLater this fall I'll be sharing #GoldenCage in a series of Pizza Readings! Stay tuned! Click To Tweet

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Challenge: Finding Your Technical Voice … or not

Life is extremely rich for me right now – in both challenges and revelations.  Frankly I love hearing about other people’s challenges so here’s a snapshot of mine and you can see the revelations here.  But, just to give you a graphic –  is what I look like most mornings these days.


Many of my current CHALLENGES fall into the category of “Technical Issues.”  They’re all about that booby-trapped badlands between an idea and the ability to express the idea fluently to others.

... that booby-trapped badlands between an idea and the ability to express it fluently Click To Tweet

Right now my biggest tech challenges are about building the back-end structure for my new “Hip Harp Academy – a year-long membership program that includes all my online harp courses into a curriculum that lets harpists work with me for a whole year instead of class-to-class.  I’m so excited about this new way of working with my creative tribe – but building the back-end is definitely a creative challenge despite a great team of creatives and tech helpers.

I know exactly what I want. If it were a song, I could just down and sing it.  But it’s not. It requires a completely different kind of voice – one that is not natural to me … yet.  In fact, right now that voice sounds pretty cracked and raw.

If it were a song, I could just down and sing it. But it's not. Click To Tweet

And as weird as it seems, the fact that I struggle with things like this is part of what helps me totally ‘get’ the struggles that harpists have with their instruments.  As uncomfortable as the transition between not-being-able-to-do and being-able-to-do is for me it’s that very discomfort that helps me find ways to get around similar disconnects for the people I mentor and teach – people who can feel what they want to express, but struggle – like I do – with becoming fluent in a new voice with new technical issues.

Knowing I can help them do what they think is impossible helps me realize that I, too, will be able to do this thing that, right now, sometimes feels impossible.

Being able to help them make the shift from “I can’t do this” to “Ohhhhhh, I get it!” helps me realize that that shift will happen for me as well.

So … if you play the harp, sign up to be on the “First To Know” list for the school now – folks on that list get first dibs at the VIP slots in the school and a discount on signup … er …  as soon as we get it open.  If you think you’re already on the list, feel free to sign up again – it won’t put you on the list twice unless you use a separate email address.

And if you like reading about my challenges, let me know … I’ll be happy to share more of them!


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Revelation: You CAN Have an Effect on Yourself

Along with the challenges of creating a new technical model for what I do (see Challenge: Finding Your Technical Voice) come revelations.  Here’s my most recent one:

Become a Victim of Your Own Work

My teacher Tony used to say you must “become a victim of your own work.”  I never liked that word ‘victim’ but I understand now that he meant that you need to believe so deeply in your own work that you let it affect YOU, so that your own work changes you.

One of the biggest revelations on that score for me lately comes out my piece “Strings of Passion” – which you can see for FREE on Friday Sept. 16 only at the Virtual Harp Summit  – (or purchase the all-access pass and get to watch it at your leisure forever).

See 'Strings of Passion' at the Virtual Harp Summit Fri. Sept. 16 goo.gl/3dlsNw Click To Tweet


strings-of-passion-logo-simple-600pI’ve been working on the piece for years – as a performance piece, a book and a workshop – and lays out my own creative process – in stories, ideas and music – into the 7 steps I take to get from any creative impulse to the moment of lift-off.  The 7 are:  Impulse, Structure, Character, Roles, Practice, Deconstruction and Lift-off.

“Lift-off” is the moment the original impulse has been transformed into a form of expression that can be express or shared.  Sharing or expressing is the moment the baton is passed, when it can be experienced first-hand by someone else and becomes part of their life experience, their story.

Strings of Passion: the steps I take to get from creative impulse to the moment of lift-off Click To Tweet

This is a screenshot from the “Virtual Harp Summit” Strings of Passion masterclass. At this moment I’m showing Diana Rowan an exercise to play with the roles of Leadership and Followship:

rowan-vhs-leadership-hands-dhc1When you’re playing  jazz, the space between impulse and expression is basically instantaneous.  When I create an orchestra score for a concerto-like piece to perform with symphony, the space between impulse and expression can be weeks, months or years.  And when it’s a musical theater piece, like “The Golden Cage” which I’ll be presenting privately this weekend, the work can take decades.

Keeping your connection to that original impulse throughout the process is the challenge. It’s also one reason jazz and improvisational performance is so liberating – which is why I always build in some improvisational element to every performance, even with symphony.

The Big Revelation: Letting Your Own Work Impact You

is there a creative way I can do this right now, exactly as I am, without having to ‘get better?’ Click To Tweet

The big REVELATION for me recently about “Strings of Passion”, is that this 7-step process is at work not just in my ‘creative’ life, but in every part of my life. So I’ve been using the principles in a very conscious way to look at my challenges — including very practical tech challenges.

And at the same time, I’m constantly asking myself the same thing I ask the musicians I teach and mentor – “is there a creative way I can do this RIGHT NOW, exactly as I am, without having to ‘get better?’

So I’m basically actually LISTENING to my own teaching (duh…) and delighted to experience, as my great friend Cherie Magnello once said to me “it’s amazing to discover that you actually can have an effect on yourself.”

it’s amazing to discover that you actually can have an effect on yourself. Click To Tweet

Wanna know more about “Strings of Passion?”



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StartHarp.com – Shelley Fairplay brings the art of Starting Harp to the Internet

It’s something I’m just not good at: teaching beginners how to play an instrument. My coaching is all for advanced beginners to professionals.  But I know someone who’s REALLY good at teaching beginners …


Her name is Shelley Fairplay, and she’s one of the original members of myHarness Your Muse” mentorship program.   Breaking things down for beginners is so natural for Shelley that I was thrilled when she decided to take her years of teaching beginners one-on-one and use the “Harness Your Muse” program to create an online course that aspiring harpists can take anywhere in the world.

It even teaches people how to FIND a harp to play! #StartHarp Click To Tweet

I’ve watched Shelley build StartHarp from scratch and it’s a spectacular program: gentle, thorough, encouraging – and includes learning to play written music (something I never learned as a kid!) plus improvisation, theory and the option to do homework and get personalized feedback from Shelley. It even includes info on how to find and buy (or borrow or rent!) your first harp – and it’s all online so people can take the course in their own living rooms!

If you’ve ever fantasized about playing the harp, go sign up now!

She’s created it in three levels so absolute beginners can start with StartHarp 1, people with a little training can jump into StartHarp 2 and after that, there’s StartHarp 3.

I've watched @HarpWales build HarpStart & it's spectacular: gentle, thorough, encouraging! Click To Tweet


  • WHAT IS IT:  StartHarp is an online course for people anywhere in the world who want to play the harp – people who’ve never touched a harp, or beginners who want an affordable, accountable system for learning.
  • WHEN:  The next 12 Week Session begins on September 16, 2016
  • WHERE:  YOUR livingroom – via your computer.   In other words – everywhere!
  • INFO & REGISTRATIONhttp://www.shelleyfairplay.co.uk/home/startharp/



Shelley is a performer and teacher with over 15 years experience teaching harp, harp ensembles and workshops for all ages.  She’s also the founder of “Harpist for a Day”, a program that gives non-harpists the opportunity to go from first note to concert performer in a single day.

Her successful concert series “The Three Strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy” was premiered in the UK in 2014, and her CD of the same name was released in 2015. Her 2016 concert series “HarpOSphere,” like all her concerts, features her own original works along with her arrangements of popular, classic and traditional tunes.  She has performed throughout the UK, and appeared in Europe and the U.S. as a soloist and alongside internationally renowned harpists including electric jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.

Wanna help grow more harp players in the world? 

Here are some fun things you can do to help promote this great program.  And YES, you get extra points at the Heavenly Gates if you play the harp … OR help create more harp players in the world!

And if you don’t play the harp yet … Shelley can show you how!


Posted in Coaching, Teaching, Students & Learning, Harping & Harpists, [HYMM] Harness Your Muse | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protected: Golden Cage Files for NOMTI Sept. 17, 2016

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It’s how I’ve been writing music since I was a kid. I act it out.  I play all the parts, and completely indulge myself in the emotions and physicalization.

And now that I’m working on (hopefully final) revisions of “The Golden Cage,” pianist & music-director Tim Maurice and I are meeting weekly to go through the music, with me acting and singing both the characters.

It’s how I’ve been writing music since I was a kid. I act it out - play all the parts, indulge… Click To Tweet

Boris sings “I swore I’d be the one to prove the myth was true!”

Yup, I’m passionate birdman Boris Oridnikov Slepnic O’Hara (above) — I’m also his grumpy nemesis, Alphea J. Simpson-Hughes (below).

Alphea sings “Nothing ever changes today from being today.”

Alphea sings “Nothing ever changes today from being today.”

… and Tim is the entire orchestra.

I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember – telling stories with music and acting them out.  The difference is that now I have a team I work with.

It was awkward at first, indulging my creative imagination in front of someone else – acting out while Tim calmly plays the piano.  But now we’re used to it and I’ve learned to feel safe acting things out with Tim in the room.

The one thing I try not to do is burst into tears in front of him, or sing exceedingly loud right in his ear.

It was awkward at first, indulging my creative imagination in front of someone else Click To Tweet

Boris sings: “We single-handed climbed the northern pole!”

The big change recently is my new grand piano [read about HERE] which makes a huge difference for both Tim and me.

Boris sings “Out in the dunes we saw King Tut with his sarcophagus unzipped -- and, believe me, that was quite a thrill…”

PLAYACTING5Above, Alphea tries to catch the feather – and yes, I have to act it all out in order to know how the music feels with the actions. Also any dancing – whether being one person or two – is essential.  But that’s more just for fun.

I have to act it ALL out, in order to know how the music FEELS with the actions. Click To Tweet

PLAYACTING6The way we do it, Tim and I meet every week for a rehearsal.  When we first started, the show was a mess of different pages and manuscripts, and some weeks I was so involved in other work I hadn’t done any editing.  But we’d meet anyway, and go through what I had, even if it was exactly the same material as the week before – because it’s in these session that I write and rewrite the shape of the show.

PLAYACTING7Because of that, we’ve gotten used to re-creating on the fly as a team. I often ask Tim to shift around the notes, try putting different parts of the music in a different order – or sometimes I sit down and try to show him what I mean, often just with physical gestures and singing – and then he translates it into actual notes on the piano, based on the themes he knows from the show.  We both add notes about what we did to the music, which I then add to the electronic copies of the manuscript before the next rehearsal.

And then we do it all over again.  It’s a kind of honing process.

Sometimes it get’s a little intense.  Yes, I’m strangling a feather here. And Tim is being elegantly tolerant.

PLAYACTING8Here’s what I look like when I don’t like something I’ve written and I’m trying not to start yelling at myself.  I just have to write it in my notes and work on it later.

PLAYACTING9When rehearsal’s over I take photos of each of Tim’s pages so I can use any notes he’s written, along with my own notes to update the music, or write new sections.  His notes are generally way more legible than mine.

PLAYACTING10In between each rehearsal I have a grid I follow.

I update the score with the notes we’ve written, and compose anything we’re missing, using a grid my friend Larry Grogin helped me create.

PLAYACTING11The work we’re doing now is to prepare for two upcoming readings.  I’ll be sharing the new opening and endings of the show at the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in mid-September and then heading down to NYC in early October for a private reading of the whole show with the core creative team, me, Paul Gordon and Nell Balaban.

All the work I’m doing now is based on a reading we did in NYC last April, along with script coaching sessions with Eric Webb (the “Deadpan Dramaturg”).

The work we’re doing now is to prepare for two upcoming readings IN NYC Click To Tweet

Then back to Boston for re-writes and a series of “pizza readings” in the fall – casual readings for very small audiences that simply let me experience the flow of the show in front of other people.

Oh, and for the pizza readings – I won’t be playing both parts.  Hopefully I’ll be sitting in the tiny audience watching my imagination unfold.

To sponsor a reading of “The Golden Cage” or come to a sponsored reading in the Boston area – let me know! Send me an email  and use “I want to come to a reading!” in the subject line.

If I don’t get back to you right away, please be patient — sometimes I fall down rabbit-holes – but I never mind if you email a second time to remind me.

For the pizza readings I'll be in the audience watching my imagination unfold. Click To Tweet


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Spiritual Farting in Public

I belong to a secret facebook group with two friends from a former success mastermind.

We 3 failed out of it.

fat-uncle-kitchen-dog_v1This secret group is the only place I can come and vent and bitch and whine and not feel the shame of spiritually farting in public.  In this secret place we each go on tirades of self-pity, frustration, anger – and nobody ever, ever says “You should be more positive.”

Instead we say, “I hear you, I get it, lay it on me” or we laugh out loud at ourselves and each other for these very real, very scared, very not-ready-for-primetime truths that would get the deepest scowl of disapproval in any other group or relationship, where we’d be forced to wear a scarlet “N” for “negative” on our chests.

I walk around the spiritual universe – the world of friends, colleagues, clients, dating – afraid I’ll sully or destroy relationships if I admit that there IS this scared part of me that acts out at myself with irrational self-doubt, fear, jealousy, resentment, physical tension and a million self-defeating thoughts and actions.

Yes, yes, YES I’m working to discover my base of confidence, to fully support myself, to flow with the changes and rhythm in the jazz of my life.  All the great stuff I remind my mentorees to do.

Should I really be holding in the spiritual gas of self-doubt?? Click To Tweet

And the fact is … I’m farting like a fat uncle all along the way whenever I try to hold in the spiritual gas of self-doubt.  Is this really good for me???

What if I stop trying to quiet that voice of doubt in my head and instead say,

“Let’s hear the whole thing baby! Lay it on me and lay it on thick! Get graphic, get maudlin, get out the tissues! Get down on the floor, put your butt in the air and just let ‘er rip!”

Do I really need to be AFRAID that if I fart out some fear in the spiritual public space the Law-of-Attraction police will pepperspray me with virtual Febreeze????  That I’ll be shut out of love and locked away from Abundance and Flow forever?

The TRUTH is, self-doubt is part of me right now – on every level of physical and spiritual existence.  I’m tuckered out from trying to pretend it’s not so. And is that really so bad??

An old boyfriend of mine, Alan, had a farty old dog who sat in the road or at the foot of the bed and disrupted everything from traffic to love-making. And, my god, that man loved that dog. The neighbors loved the dog.  The folks who had to drive around him in the street loved that dog.  And the only thing that dog ever did was fart.


I need to know I can be somewhere with people who, if I let a spiritual fart loose – still adore me. Where the fact that I reveal my spiritually farty self is treasured.

Because when I do allow myself to let-er-rip all the way, through a self-defeating, negative, melodramatic, profoundly unattractive tirade …  something wonderful happens. 

I laugh.

At myself.

Not with myself, at myself.

In a way that only actually hearing this tirade out loud in all its drama and slime can make me laugh. And that laughter is incredibly liberating.

What’s funny about Abundance and Flow? Click To Tweet

Tell me:  What’s funny about Abundance and Flow? What’s funny about the law of attraction?


What’s funny about wallowing in self-doubt, cataclysmic failure, the melodrama of believing you’ve wasted your whole life, it’s too late now and you’re a harp-playing has-been who’s ended up in the gutter with a five-day stubble and an empty bottle of cheap gin?

Everything’s funny about that.   Absolutely everything.  It’s delicious self-delusional tragi-comedy at its highest. But it’s only funny when you take it over the top.

When you really go all the way and let those flaws and negative stories glory forth in all the power of their human frailty, they’re heartbreakingly human, funny in a way no mere joke can be funny … and at the seat of love.

When someone has the courage to share that with me, someone who’ll stand with me right inside the paradox of knowing that the epic failure of their life is both deeply true and deeply untrue – and who lets me see the last thing you should ever let someone see: the deepest flaws of humanity in you – and takes it so far that it’s funny – there is nothing that can keep me from loving that person.

how will you ever know the profound and healing humor of your own spiritual farts? Click To Tweet

If you never let out the gas of your deepest self-doubt, if you never really let it rip in front of someone you love and trust – how will you ever know the profound and healing humor of your own spiritual farts?

And here’s the thing – nobody likes a silent-but-deadly fart.  But when you just let out a big one you can’t possibly hide from … THAT is funny.  And it clears the air.  On the inside.

And on the outside … well, that’s what the inside smells like. It’s not always rosy, but it’s deeply human.


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What is DONE? Completing “The Golden Cage”

Sometimes you have to crash and burn before you learn to fly
You gotta burn your fear in that fire

Sometimes you have to lose your way before you find you heart
Then you go higher and higher and higher …
Then you fly …

Little by little I’m moving forward to COMPLETE my musical “The Golden Cage” after a reading last April where I got feedback from director Nell Balaban, composer/lyricist Paul Gordon (of Broadway’s “Jane Eyre” – also my childhood musical-writing pal) and Les Mis director John Caird.  In the meantime, I worked with script coach Eric Webb and the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in Boston to develop the script.

All that helped develop the piece – but the big shift towards COMPLETING happened when I connected with my friend Larry Grogin, who offered to run accountability for me so I’d work on the show a minimum of 30 minutes a day (normally I would be pulling all-nighters before each reading or session).

That included menacing emails from Larry about impending doom if I didn’t send him the evidence each day and, more recently, a relentless “We’re making a SCHEDULE … right here, right NOW” session where I think I may have started crying.  Several time.  But now I have a schedule – and I’m ready for today’s rehersal.

golden-cage-completionMoving towards completion also includes getting back on a weekly rehearsal schedule with pianist Tim Maurice to work through material in preparation for a reading September 17 for the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in Boston, and in October for the small team (Paul, Nell & me) probably in NYC.

Here’s Tim and me last week,  on a hot summer day, for the first time rehearsing at my new piano.  There’s no air conditioning in that room, thus rehearsing in my sportsbra.

tim-dhc-goldencage-summer-rehearsalSo what does it mean to “complete” something?

Here’s the thing … this show has already been produced.  It’s BEEN DONE … but it’s not DONE.  To be DONE with it, it needs to be ‘done enough’ that if I died tomorrow, the play could be produced and performed without me.

As a performing composer this is one of the biggest challenges of my life.  When I’m performing my own work on stage, I’m constantly reinventing it in the moment of performance – and I write both my solo and  orchestral shows to leave them open for that reinvention in-the-moment.

For my solo shows “complete” means that I can get on stage and know the material well enough to connect with the audience and feel totally present – so the magic of real-time connection, real-time invention happens through the music – so my audience knows they’re getting something that is truly alive and new in the moment.

This is what I’m most comfortable with – and what I’ve done all my life, building solo semi-improvised performances.  It’s what I coach the people in my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program on because it’s what I could do in my sleep. I can’t NOT do it.

But there are other levels of  Completion

As more people are involved in a creative work, there are more levels of completion.

For my shows with symphony or chamber ensemble “complete” means that the scores and parts are ready in every way to be played.  They’ve been proofed, they’re legible, they follow basic conventions of orchestral presentation so they’re easy for players to read –  and I’ve sent them to the ensemble early enough that they – the conductor and performers – have time to do their preparation.

For example, here’s what the full score and parts for my concerto “Baroque Flamenco” look like:

baroque-flamenco-scores-and-parts-barflam‘READY’ means that I personally have a soloist’s cheat-sheet for each piece that lets me be present and focused in the rehearsals instead of searching through the scores for my cues if the conductor jumps around to rehearse different parts.

But what if I won’t be there at all?

What if I’ll simply be sitting in the audience – or across the world from the performance? Then “DONE” means something completely different.

It means that if I died tomorrow, everything that needs to bring my vision across is in that manuscript and the support materials I provide – the audio files, video, composer or playwrite notes.

It’s not so much that I have to be DONE with it as it needs to be DONE with me.   I have to project myself out of the life of the piece and give it over to its own life.

And that’s my big challenge right now with this work – to write myself out of the work completely – a piece I’ve been working on my whole creative life.

Did I mention that this is a deeply emotional experience?  Funny I should save that ’til last.  Being DONE means letting go of all the creative possibilities for the piece that I don’t choose.  And that means a lot of crying.  It means feeling like I’m losing things I love.

It’s the absolute opposite of my experience as a performing-composer – in which both myself and the works I play continue to develop together – sometimes in very dramatic ways over decades and decades, as if we were married and dancing together forever.

But now … with this piece … my challenge is to be able walk away and leave the piece on the dance floor ready to meet its new partners.

Yeah, that’s hard for me.  Really hard. But that’s what I’m committed to.  And if this is the kind of difficult challenge I’m asking the people I mentor to do, I have to be willing to do it myself.

How about you? What’s the heartache inside the triumph you seek?   What’s the part it breaks your heart to leave behind?

And by the way … those lyrics at the beginning of this post?  They’re not from the show.  They’re from the show to ME.



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First-Ever Virtual Harp Summit!

It’s the first-ever Virtual Harp Summit …
and I’m part of it!


No, this isn’t me … this is Diana Rowan who’s hosting the first-ever Virtual Harp Summit!

Harp Festivals are a big thing for harp players around the world and as more and more people play the harp – especially as adult beginners, it’s about time for a VIRTUAL Harp Festival!  And that’s what the Virtual Harp Summit is!

Spearheaded by my online-harp buddy Diana Rowan, it’s a free event focused specifically on developing more creativity in your harp playing ~ and it runs over 7 days for absolutely FREE with 25+ harp luminaries from around the world.

Sign up here for free and you’ll get to:

• Learn directly from 25+ master harpists •
• Listen to gorgeous harp performances •
• Meet other harpists worldwide •
… and do it all in your pyjamas in your own livingroom!


And just to prove that yes Diana does always look like a fairy princess, here’s a photo of me, Diana Rowan and harpist magnifico Lisa Lynn last summer live at the International Harp Festival in California.


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