I belong to a secret facebook group with two friends from a former success mastermind.
We 3 failed out of it.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 COMPLETINGhappened 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.
Moving 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.
So 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:
‘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.
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.
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.
Often people want to know the same kinds of things: How did I get started? What drew me to the harp? And when I answer I like to do it via video to create a library of answers people can draw from.
Occasionally the questions get more specific, like when someone has a particular research project. In this case, Selina Her from Stanford University, sent me a list of questions that seemed to focus on the physical, the functional, the relationship between builders, harpists and the people who take care of harpists (like physical therapists and doctors)
Question Set #1
Describe your identity as a harpist
How do harpists fit in your social circle?
Do harpists I know share my views about the harp?
Question Set #2
Describe your ideal harp.
Do you think that how a harp looks influences how it’s heard by audiences?
Is there any part of the harp you would change?
Question Set #3
How often do you think about the physical strain of playing the harp?
Have you ever had sustained injuries from the harp?
Do harpmakes, harpists or doctors help prevent injuries?
Question Set #4
What do you think about technology like carbon fibre, midi & electric harps.
Question Set #5
Which is more important to you: aesthetics or ergonomics ~ how it looks or how it feels?
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the creative laboratory of an artist’s mind? The Pluck Harp Cabaret is a series of mini-showcases live on stage and remote via video in which the performers in my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship share their yearlong creative odysseys and show a small segment of what they are working on.
It’s an incredible chance to see what a varied group of creative minds, of various technical levels, life experiences and passions can express using a harp.
The Pluck Cabaret laboratory concerts are being held live in the Regent Underground Theater in Arlington, MA and shared via livestream at ConcertWindow.com. You can see images from the past 2 performances in the slideshow at this blog, you can BUY TIX HERE in advance or at the door for the live show or purchase tix for the livestream HERE.
Here is a group shot:
Earlier this week we went through my “Big Picture” exercises in the theater.
And starting on Wednesday night, we let people into our laboratory where …
I explain to the audience what they’re seeing: musicians in the midst of their exploration process – something you rarely get to see.
Kathy King talks about dreams:
Sally Walstrum: Librarian by day, harpist with stories by night…
Alexandra tells us what it’s like to explore her inner composerBetsy Scott-Chapman brings us into her fantasy world for a serial concert experience
Here’s Stephanie Evans exploring physical sound:
The European members tell the stories of their projects via video:
Jana Kozlowski exploring the bridge between worlds (via video)
Nicole Mueller redefining Christmas (via video)
Katherine Harrison via video tells about her journey to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (via video)
Shelley Fairplay talks about her new show, “HarpoSphere” via video
Back to the live presentations ….
Pumehana Wadsworth gets a lesson in the school of rock harp.
Teddy Jones creates a journey to seed new beginnings on a garden he can bring with him anywhere.
Here’s Teddy‘s Labyrinth, or journey cloth
Robbin Gordon Cartier shows us how life can change at any moment…
Deborah Henson-Conant says “Thank you for coming to PLUCK Harp Cabaret!”
In audience feedback…
This is what we look like when someone in the audience asks a great question.
We had a wonderful time!
Join us tonight 7:30PM and tomorrow at 10:30AM (Aug. 12 &13) for 2 more chances to see the PLUCK Harp Cabaret! You can come to the show LIVE at the Regent Underground (BUY TIX) … OR … you can watch ONLINE from anywhere in the world HERE!
This was a little experiment I did playing around with a new song I’m working on and some funky video I happened to capture when I was recording it. The video was definitely ‘not ready for primetime’ so I started playing around with it, seeing what I could do with it.
In the first test, I used a “Cartoon Effect” (if you don’t see anything below this – it just means the video is loading)
In the second test, I combined a video I took last summer of a sunset with the funky studio video, then put some saturation and “glass” effects on the studio video. I like the basic idea, though I think of this song as a MORNING song, not an evening song, but I love it when the little droplets of sound from the harp seem to synchronize with droplets in the lake.
Here’s an earlier version I did that’s almost exactly the same as the one above except the image isn’t as clear. I made the image clearer in the one above because I think it’s more fun to be able to actually see the fingers playing on the strings, even though I like how evocative the Test below is, and how the player-image melts into the background more.
I’d love to know which you prefer and why – let me know in the comments below. And if you want to take the audio away with you to listen on your own:
There are secret things I only share with myself or people close to me. Or I sneak them in somewhere and don’t acknowledge that I’m sharing them.
I have secret songs no one has heard, secret drawings, secret poems and thoughts. And what would happen if I shared them? Would it demean them? Would I lose my personal connection to them?
This is my martini-glass guy. He flowed out of my pencil Jan. 17, 2009. In the glass is exactly what I need at any moment. When I drink it I am filled with the power of my own desire.
One thing I do is share with myself my fears and hopes about things I do or am scared to do, so here are my fears and hopes about sharing Martini-Guy.
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I will lose my deep personal exclusive relationship him if I share him with others
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that someone will steal him – though I have no idea how that might happen
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that sharing him will open my mind to thoughts about whether my drawings are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or what I should ‘do’ with them – when my drawings are a secret joy for me and that joy is deeply important to me
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I won’t know what blog category to list him under and I’ll categorize him wrong
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that someone will write and say “Hey, you already shared martini-glass guy five years ago on Facebook! What’s with this ‘secret’ thing? Don’t you remember what you do????”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes about martini-glass guy is people will say “Why did you add all those fears and hopes? You ruined the power of the post.”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes about martini-glass guy is that people will say, “Wow, you sure have a lot more fears than you have hopes. No wonder you’re screwed up.”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes is that someone will comment that I shouldn’t be afraid, which implies there’s something wrong about having fears – and the fact is I do have them
A hope I have about sharing my fears and hopes is that someone will comment that they have these fears and hopes, too, and they loved seeing them written out
A fear I have about sharing the martini-guy is that people may think I love martinis and expect me to want to drink them in social situations
A fear I have about sharing the martini-guy is that people may think I love martini-glasses and give me beautiful, delicate martini glasses as presents when I’m on tour and I will have to figure out how to get them home and they will break
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that my relationship with him will grow in ways I can’t imagine
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that he will serve to others exactly what they need in that glass – and maybe they’ll tell me what it was they were able to drink from that glass and what it gave them the power to share
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I’ll get more comfortable sharing
A hope I have about sharing my hopes and fears is that I will see the fears I have as simply fears I have – not truths – and I will know they’re just as important to acknowledge as the hope. I think they might be the olive.
The PLUCK Harp Cabaret is part of my year-long “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program. It features the emerging artists who are developing their original shows and projects through this yearlong program with me.
The Cabaret features a series of miniature showcase performances – both live and in video – by these emerging artists – all of whom happen to play …. you guessed it … THE HARP … but each plays it in such a different way! And I’ll be the Kabaret-Mistress performing on my own body-harp.
There are 3 evening performance and one Saturday-morning Family performance.
BETSY’S PROJECT: The Bard’s Apprentice (One-Woman Show / Album) Follow the adventures of Arion in words and music as she leaves her home to discover her true passion and find the sister she lost as a young girl.
WHO IS BETSY? After a long career in high-tech, Betsy returned to her original passion for music and theater. She is a Certified Clinical Musician, playing harp in hospital and hospice settings, as well as an actor on stage and screen. As a Voice Over Artist she lends her voice to many commercials, and she combines her love of Chinese Martial Arts with music and acting as often as possible.
3 THINGS ABOUT BETSY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Betsy is a HUGE Tolkien enthusiast, taking Gandalf’s words as her guide: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Betsy lived and worked in Switzerland and France BEFORE the days when the Internet existed to connect us globally. That was an adventure!
Betsy is an early riser, and still misses her morning radio show, “The Morning Buzz”. She is at her best before noon (it’s all downhill after that).
The Disharmony of the Harp Alexandra uses an unusual method for composing Name Pieces. Notes are charted to the letters of the names, resulting in unique and personal compositions. Alexandra will perform “Henry and Jani”, composed for a wedding. This composition has a stand-out melody, catchy rhythms, and an interlude of passion and yearning.
WHO IS ALEXANDRA? Alexandra grew up in a musical family playing the piano. After attending law school, she raised a family and took a hiatus from musical study. About 25 years ago she purchased a small lever harp. Family and a full-time job interfered with her need to become a harpist. Ten years ago, she took her harp to a harp ensemble and started playing with some irish sessions. The harp has now become an integral part of her life. Alexandra plays, teaches, performs, composes, and arranges music for the harp.
3 THINGS ABOUT ALEXANDRA MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Alexandra never owned a cell-phone
Alexandra left high school in 9th grade and got a GED
“Sometimes life just needs a little Splash of Color”
A Splash of Color Stephanie uses the soundscape of her harp to bring alive her observations and stories from life.
WHO IS STEPHANIE? (coming soon)
3 THINGS ABOUT STEPHANIE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
YOU CAN CONNECT MORE WITH STEPHANIE HERE:
Website: (coming soon)
Blog: (coming soon)
“A concert inspired by planets, cycles and spheres.”
SHELLEY’S PROJECT: HarpOsphere Pythagoras proposed the intriguing idea that the Stars, Moon and Planets emit their own unique musical tones, he called it the Music of the Spheres. What if you could hear the shape of a sphere, the sound of our planets, the number Pi as a melody, the circle of life in music? Shelley explores these fascinating notions in her performance on the Concert Pedal Harp and Electric Lever Harp.
WHO IS SHELLEY? Shelley Fairplay is a performer and teacher with over 15 years experience teaching harp, harp ensembles and workshops for all ages. She is 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,” 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.
Her Dynamic Harps Ensemble, features both an adult and children’s group, filled with harpists who enjoy learning and performing music from films, pop, shows, classical, Jazz and celtic genres. 2016 has seen the launch of her brand new online harp course for beginner harpists, START HARP.
3 THINGS ABOUT SHELLEY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Shelley was a very keen scuba diver for many years until weekend gigs and diving became too conflicting and one passion had to go!
Shelley is currently a sphere.
Before choosing a life in music Shelley made university applications to be an optometrist.
WHO IS ROBBIN? Robbin Gordon-Cartier is a teacher in the East Orange School District where she directs the harp program that she originally created for the Elizabeth School District. She has joined the faculty of Kean University in Union, NJ as Concert Artist/Adjunct Harp Faculty. She started the North Jersey Chapter of the American Harp Society, served as president for four years and then moved to the national level as 2nd Vice-President and Director at Large. Mrs. Gordon-Cartier maintains a private studio where she teaches students of all ages and regularly freelances in the New York metropolitan area. Performance credits include appearances at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
“A quest, a journey, an adventure, a mission to find some answers. With a harp in tow.”
In Search of Scathach Katherine says: “Scathach” was an ancient warrior queen and teacher, whose Scottish island fortress was almost impenetrable. My own journey with the harp has been a long and difficult one. When I got my new harp 18 months ago, I named it Scathach in the hope of taking on some of those shadowy mystical qualities.
WHO IS KATHERINE? Katherine had a new piano teacher when she was ten years old, and at her first lesson, Katherine couldn’t help but notice the beautiful carved golden harp in her music room. Some of her friends were learning too, so she begged for harp lessons until her parents gave in. She took a long break from the harp in her twenties, but a chance conversation with a friend led to Katherine offering to play at her friend’s wedding. A local teacher rented her a harp, unpicked the reasons she had for giving up all those years ago, and she set off on a most unexpected musical journey of her life.
3 THINGS ABOUT KATHERINE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Katherine is possibly the only harpist on the planet to have ever raced motorcycles competitively. She sold her race bike to buy another harp.
Given the choice, Katherine’s last meal on this earth would consist of pepperoni pizza washed down with red wine.
As a small child, Katherine once tried to sell her brother to the staff at her nursery/kindergarten.
TEDDY’S PROJECT: A Joyful Noise
A one-man show that uses musical metaphors to introduce a new way of walking labyrinths for both experienced and novice walkers.
WHO IS TEDDY? With his Celtic harp, Teddy Jones has given workshops, presentations, and performances at international conferences including: Performing the World III, Healing Through Story, and The International Conference for Human Caring. His recordings include four CDs for meditation, yoga, and hospice. His current focus is using the harp for meditation and healing.
“Broadway tunes meet childhood favorites in one woman’s musical voyage to the Land of Second Chances.”
KATHY’S PROJECT: Dream Journeys Kathy uses harp and voice in her new One-Woman show that takes her audience on a journey to the world of dreams and second-chances.
WHO IS KATHY? 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.
“CD Release and a series of Jazz-inspired Christmas-concerts”
NICOLE’S PROJECT: In a Different Light In this colorful, classically-jazzy Christmas-program, Nicole Müller shows her instrument from a new perspective. On both the concert and the electric harp, she’s playing her own arrangements of Christmas-songs. inspired by striking rhythms and melancholy jazz-harmonies. Combined with stories from Nicole’s life and some of the world’s most famous harp Classics she’ll release “In a Different Light” through a series of public and private concerts for both family and concert-going audiences.
WHO IS NICOLE? Nicole is a passionate harp virtuoso. She graduated from the Academy of Music in Würzburg. In her solo concerts she fuses classical music, jazz and flamenco rhythms. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed throughout Germany and has been a guest at Germany’s major opera houses and symphony orchestras. She is also a passionate educator with many years of experience working with children and adult students. Nicole’s goal as a musician is to share her love for her instrument with the people and to explore the harp and find new sounds.
3 THINGS ABOUT NICOLE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Nicole loves the color pink
Nicole loves to eat cheese without bread
Nicole loves to spend time with people who don’t know she plays the harp
PUMEHANA’S PROJECT: Out of the Background: Meet the Harp in the Land of Rock. Performing for weddings is my vocation. The purpose of my project is to go beyond background music, train my concert muscle and bring one of my greatest loves – Classic Rock – alive on the harp.
WHO IS PUMEHANA? While learning how to stand, Pumehana would crawl up the base of the harp and pluck bass strings, while her sister, Momi, was practicing. At eight years old, with her mother’s encouragement, she started private harp lessons. Soon she was performing for private events and hotels in Hawaii. Over time, Pumehana was able to expand her repertoire to include many different genres; Classical, Hawaiian, Love Ballads, Movie Themes, Jazz, Standards, Broadway, Classic Rock.
3 THINGS ABOUT PUMEHANA MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Pumhana is allergic to chocolate
Pumehana is a former smoker, since 2006.
When Pumehana was a baby, her late mom and god mother said she was born with halo of white hair.
“What happens when you rediscover your life’s passion, stuck between two dusty books on a forgotten shelf in the library?”
SALLY’S PROJECT: Confessions of a Harp Playing Librarian You may think a librarian’s job is boring – but librarians share their world with the greatest stories of all time. One of the greatest stories is the story of a lost passion that’s rediscovered and finally lived to its fullest. Librarian and harpists Sally Walstrum brings her own personal story of rekindled life passion to music with her 32 string electric harp, looper pedal … and just a smidgeon of the Dewey Decimal system.
WHO IS SALLY? 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.
3 THINGS ABOUT SALLY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Sally loves old movies.
Sally’s parents were heavily involved in the theater so she grew up exposed to live theater and dance.
One of Sally’s shining moments as a musician was when Mstislav Rostropovich gave her a solo bow (and later kissed her) when he came to guest conduct at Hartt School of Music.
Deborah Henson-Conant is a Grammy-Nominated composer/performer and creative coach. She coaches and mentors impassioned harp players through her online Hip Harp Academy and her yearlong mentorship Harness Your Muse. This post shares the “Final Beginning Projects” from students in her “Baroque Flamenco Beyond the Page” online course in spring 2016.
If you learned something from the creative journeys these performers shared, please share your takeaways in the comments below, and congratulate them for their willingness to share.
My online course for harpists “Baroque Flamenco, Beyond the Page” recently ended. In this course I show my students my own secrets of how to play this fiery harp showpiece at their skill level on their own harp! In the Spring 2016 session, 10 students in the course created videos to complete the course.
Those videos are each embedded in this page along with the answers to five questions I asked each to answer about their creative process. I hope these insights will help readers to experiment and embrace the bravery of sharing something new and imperfect yourself.
This course is about learning the foundation of my composition “Baroque Flamenco” and then learning a way to ‘get the piece across’ to an audience, regardless of your skill level along with my help, coaching and feedback. The course also gives my tips on practice techniques for Baroque Flamenco and ideas for developing your own unique performances of the piece.
For a composer, this is a unique approach to teaching an original composition but it’s my goal that every harp player can create their own interpretation of the piece, and one that can be powerful at their own level of ability since it’s my deep belief that anyone can perform with power and authenticity if they find a way to use their own strengths with the underlying concepts of a piece of music.
While that won’t work for any piece of music, I composed “Baroque Flamenco” with that in mind: a piece that can grow and develop as the skills of the performer develop, and can be effective at every point along their creative journey.
In the video links below you’ll see these 10 harpists’ interpretations of the piece.
I call these Final BEGINNING Projects because I tell the students to focus on imperfect completion as a way to end one phase of learning and BEGIN the next, rather than sliding into an endless pattern of trying to perfect something.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.Practice! And it still needs more; so bothersome. It just occurs to me that if I had not pushed my limits, if I had taken it a bit slower, I might be happier with it.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I had a certain “insouciance” because I had taken the course before; I went through the beginning modules up to 8, but then focused on practice, as didn’t have time for the last modules. And my practice relied on what I remembered from the first BF; I needed to give the skeleton, bones, and distilled parts more attention. I found the cadenza soundbox tapping easier in the beginning; it needed regular, consistent slow practice; but once I had it, I did not revisit the slow set it in your hands practice, and it got sloppy.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? Hard to decide which parts to ax, as I like the entire piece. However, cutting it down was a good exercise, and then to keep all the sections handy, I can tailor the playing to the audience or my own feelings.
What were your personal “Ahas”? I recall from BF 1 and now again in BF 2 learning a physical freedom from watching DHC do it; this was major; as I was trained to be a quiet, non-showy musician. It really has made a difference since I first took BF.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? It is so hard to get a good take. Something always goes wrong, and then I think well just one more time, and I’ll get it. And then to listen to all the “almost there” recordings, and try to decide which is best is time consuming.
(Barbara answered the 1st four questions at once) Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? What were your personal “Ahas”?
As my answer to the first four questions, I think the biggest challenges for me were believing that DHC actually means what she says about playing at our own actual level instead of where we think we should be, and, letting go of the idea of what I thought I “should” be doing and focusing instead on what I could play somewhat fluently. Also, focusing on a part of the framework of the piece, so I could get a version of the piece I could actually play. Not perfectly but at least reasonably consistently….
An unexpected challenge in doing the video was that I had a hard time seeing the strings against the first backdrop my husband set up for me. I put a different drape (cream instead of mottled grey) over it that gave a bit more contrast, but he had to set up some different lights to help out. We didn’t have much time to experiment – and then it took YouTube forever to do the processing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? My version has a different a story line – we have a group of musicians sitting around and their leader comes running in, telling them that they just got a gig at the palace that evening. One of the players says he knows just the piece they should start with, the minuet tune. “No, no,” says one of the others, “we want a different feel, to separate us from other groups,” and plays her tune. The first player won’t have that, and insists that the minuet is a better choice. Other players come in with a second different tune, but the first player still insists on his tune – as he’s playing it yet again, the leader comes running back in, yelling, “What are you doing? We’ll be late!’ and they grab their instruments and run out, slamming the door behind them.
NOTE FROM DHC! Yay! I love that you created your own storyline – and this one is really fun!
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I decided to just have fun with it. I need to memorize it to be able to give it more expression. so it still is a work in progress.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I had to learn to just go with it. Mistakes and all. To try to get the feel of the piece was more important than the accuracy.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? The challenge was to go with it even if not as memorized as I’d like.
What were your personal “Ahas”? My Aha moment was that the baseline really needs to come out in the flamenco variations. And to just enjoy it now and know it will keep growing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? This was a tremendous learning experience. I learned how to adapt a piece to my level and have fun with it. I learned how to video and upload. A big thanks to my husband and daughter for helping out. My Daughter was the videographer and it took both of them to get us to upload to YouTube. I learned that saving the video to the computer to upload is harder than it looks. Most of all I learned to just have fun with it even if it’s not perfect. Thanks to DHC and all the other classmates. this was a fabulous experience.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally. This is actually the longest of my original attempts at the half-baked video, which would account for the mistakes and page turns you will hear and see. It was my original interpretation before I had to start cutting things out to make it shorter, which is why I am submitting it instead of a newly recorded one. I’ve never been videoed playing my harp before so watching and listening to the playbacks was difficult for me.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? Whatever the instrument, I’ve always been taught to play what is on the page. Not having to do that here was very freeing. I can play it whenever and however I want to – I love this. It is just the beginning for me, and I am excited to see where it takes me from here.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? There is so much more I wanted to do but was not able to yet – I was thinking of something involving a rose between my teeth maybe, which is totally out of character for me… I hope to record it again for you in the future.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Prior to taking the class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now to me Baroque Flamenco isn’t notes on a page but an individual expression of the artist performing it. It isn’t static, but vibrant and ever-changing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? If anyone has been riding the fence about taking the class, go for it! This has been a journey for me – a very rewarding one.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I have felt hampered by insufficient practice time, and a not-serious but annoying thumb injury. Worked as hard as I could on this, but it’s not where I hoped it would be. It was an “off” day for me when it was time to record. Emotionally, I just had to admit that this is TRULY my BEGINNING final project. The imperfections are what they are.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? The big block for me is consistently wanting to do a more involved project than my fingers are up to. So I really had to be strict with myself that Variation 1 was NOT working, and just left it out. That is huge for me. The freedom is that the piece is so dynamic and fun; and given enough practice time, I can work out something that I can truly handle with flair.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? The challenge for myself was trying to get past playing the “correct” notes, and just “play” with the piece.
What were your personal “Ahas”? I can really see that I will be able to keep on perfecting this music; and as I improve technically, I think the drama of the piece will come through more clearly. It was great fun to throw on a couple of costume pieces and try to channel my inner flamenco dancer.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I very nearly abandoned the final project, because I was so frustrated with it. BUT, I made myself do it anyway, and I’m glad I did. The process is still completely worthwhile, and I wound up having a lot of fun.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.This song, Seasons of the Night (NOT Baroque Flamenco, but an extra that DHC taught during the course) is such a beautiful song I decided to veer away from Baroque Flamenco and dedicate my entire week to learning Seasons. And yes, it took me about 15 hours to memorize!!!!
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? It was so hard to memorize this song that I actually started surfing the web trying to find out if “the older you get, the harder memorizing becomes”!! I couldn’t find any “proof” so I just went back to the grindstone and kept working at it. Some practice sessions I cursed it, some practice sessions I loved and cherished it.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? I tried every which way to memorize. I made an mp3 of DHC’s class whittled down to just the music, I swam laps in the pool while listening, I walked for miles while listening, I put it on while pulling weeds in the garden. I was SURE I could play it if it “just got inside my body”!
What were your personal “Ahas”? That I have always memorized predictable music in the past. If the melody lands on a C, then there’s a C chord to play. This piece was so totally different I needed to come up with a different way to memorize altogether.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I am sooo glad I did this. Adding a piece like this to my very limited memorized repertoire to play for hospice is a true gift.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.When I signed up for this course I knew my time would be limited, but I wanted to learn BF so I plunged right in! To keep me from stressing out over the other music I need to be working on, I chose to submit a video I recorded the same day I recorded the half baked version. I am eager to get back to finish the piece after the AHS conference! I am playing with the adult harp ensemble, so am immersed in that music right now. That’s the logistical situation – for the emotional connection to the piece – I loved visualizing the different characters represented by the different musical sections and trying to bring them out in my playing.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I found playing with the sound files to be very freeing! Using them, if my playing didn’t line up quite right, it was easier to correct than if I was just relying on fitting the notes in with my metronome.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? It is so wonderful that BF is open to so much creative freedom, and I am eager to focus on the more percussive sections later this summer. I am more comfortable playing arpeggios than some of the other sections, so that’s what I chose to showcase with my BF version.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Using the warmups and the sound files helped keep me stay connected to the piece even when I was devoting more of my practice time to what I was performing in a particular week. Thinking about how DHC used an existing melody then expanded it has given me ideas for some creative projects of my own using sections of familiar pieces, then extending them in new ways.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I love that each performance of BF is as unique and beautiful as the individual creative spirits who perform it! Ole!
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.My goal was to transfer the piece from my concert harp to to my “DHC 32”. The lack of a soundboard proved a huge challenge, but DHC posted some videos about doing the cadenza without one that were extremely helpful. I had videography issues. I couldn’t find a background in my house that I liked and I had all kinds of lighting issues. I ended up with the lesser of all the evils in that this was where I was the least in silhouette. Also my microphone is in my phone so my voice doesn’t project well. Emotionally I just had to let go, be free and have fun.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? DHC challenged me to speak the story as part of the piece in one of the online chats. This was a huge block for me. I’m neither a creative writer nor a storyteller. But I was determined to take on the challenge, plus this is something I could do at the library as part of a story hour. I discovered I could have some fun with it, storytelling aspect and all, once I got over my inhibitions.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? I was overly concerned about the time constraint so kept cutting it down. That made it hard for me to piece together a story that made sense. The levers also were a challenge. I kept forgetting to change the B levers.
What were your personal “Ahas”? One aha was that I needed to bring the bass out in the Flamenco variations as it drives the music. I don’t think I emphasize that enough. Another was the need to differentiate between the Baroque and Flamenco characters. And it’s taking time after decades as a classical harpist, but I am getting better about letting go of the notion of perfection and just going for the completion.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I really enjoyed going through this class with all of you. This is a wonderful, supportive group and I’m amazed by all the creativity.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I wanted to present as complete a version of BF as I could manage. Logistically, I combined pieces of the intermediate and advanced versions along with some portions I created myself for the cadenza based on the two. Emotionally I was challenged by the technical requirements of the variation and the cadenza. The first two recordings I tried completely fell apart on the cadenza. This was the only complete one.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? Because of the technical challenges I had to tell myself to relax several times and that helped ease things. Practice helped me slow down and articulate the rhythmic passages better. More technique stayed intact for this version.
What were your personal “Ahas”? This piece is never “finished.” And I got it to 3 1/2 minutes!
A NOTE FROM DHC: I LOVE that Peggy totally invested herself in this project and shared her notes about iteven though she didn’t end up with a video to share. I take a lot of inspiration from this, since there are so many times when I ‘go for’ something and feel like I didn’t make it. It’s easy to just want to hide that – and what I love about what Peggy did was that she focused on SHARING her experience, on fully sharing what she DID have, what she learned and her process. I know that will be very familiar to others and many people will feel a deep well of appreciation for her willingness to share. Thank you, Peggy!! (DHC)
Peggy’s notes: I am just answering the questions. Although I did go through the process of it, I didn’t end up with a result I want to post; I’m actually happier with my Half-Baked video as a whole than most of what I did today.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.The logistics of this project are that I had to be my own camera person so this was my first experience of that. I had finally found a process where I could video with my phone and then found a program on my computer Windows Movie Maker where I could actually cut the video at the beginning and end so I wouldn’t need a timer as I couldn’t find an app for editing or timing for the phone that worked in a way I could understand. I practiced that yesterday and thought I would be good to go tonight. So tonight I worked on it, set up my backdrop and played and video recorded for 3 hours but realized it is not happening today in any format I’d want to use. Emotions: mixed – glad I tried and figured out sort of how to do it myself; disappointed I couldn’t come up with the final project I fully intended to.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I wanted to do the video like my Half-Baked only slower. What I found was I need further practice on my counting and I need to be able to see my music and my setup so the camera could see me made it hard to see my music and I just wasn’t comfortable with the location where my harp felt unstable too. So I struggled with variation 1 which I had wanted to do so much better; I’d found that there was 1 note I have been giving the wrong value to and frankly I need a lot more time doing this out loud before it sinks in to be automatic. So I got very frustrated with myself reverting to doing it wrong. Over and over then the harp started getting out of tune since I had to be by the a/c vent for the camera to see me. And I got frustrated with that and finally decided it was just not happening today. Freedoms: when I got frustrated, giving myself a few minutes to improvise, having ideas for when I am more skilled.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Trying to go slower helped with the intro strums to make them more deliberate sounding — getting better raising arms more gracefully with glisses — but need to watch out for the dresser hidden behind my backdrop, ouch!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I’d like to congratulate everyone who managed to get this done, especially those that are newer to video-recording! It’s a lot to manage along with the notes and you deserve a lot of credit. I can’t wait to see your videos!
CLICK HERE to find out more about
Deborah Henson-Conant’s online classes for harpists! CLICK HERE to get on the First-to-know list for pre-registration announcements & specials!
I often get questions from students – and this is a series of video answers to questions from harpist Pia Salvia, a student at Berklee College of Music, and a wonderful harpist with her own unique creative voice.
I’ll be updating the page as I finish the videos, so please refresh your screen each time to come to this page to make sure you see the most recent videos.
I’d love to have your comments below on what’s most interesting to you in these answers and what else you’d like to know.
Why did you choose the harp / Why did you start playing the harp?
Was the harp your first instrument? What was your first instrument?
What was the “little extra” that led to your success?
Full question: “What do you think was the “little extra” that made the difference between you and other harpists who might have been following the same “direction” as you (exploring harp outside of the classical world) but did not have your success?”
What would you recommend to a new artist starting in the music industry?
What advice do you have about the steps to success?
How do you feel today about your career?
What have been the most frustrating times in your career?
[more questions … and answers … to come …]
Thanks for the great questions, Pia! You can learn more about Pia and her musical journey at her website PiaSalvia.com
On July 4th I presented an online event called “Fireworks for the Creative Spirit: An Intro to the Strings of Passion.”
It’s an hour-long exploration in story, music, humor and ideas based on the seven ‘Strings of Passion’ I base my own creative life on, followed by an impromptu Q& A session.
The event was an experiment – a hybrid of music, philosophy and learning – live in a virtual environment. I was nervous about it – it’s very close to the bone for me – but the feedback I got from the people who came was so positive that I was encouraged to share it more publicly, so I’ve created a replay.
Sign up for the replay with the button below – and please leave comments about what you hear-learn-see in the comments below.
The party starts at 2:30 pm EDT and goes until 5pm EDT
We learn & play a new musical jam every half-hour
Come as soon as you want, stay as long as you like and bring your favorite snacks (you won’t have to share them with anyone else)!!!
Drop in for half-an hour or stay for the whole session.
I’m recording these sessions as warmups and reviews for the students in “Summer Harp Jam” – so if you register for the JAM PARTY you’ll get to sneak a peek at what they’re learning in the 6-Week “Summer Harp Jam” program (and a chance to join them for the full 6 Weeks)
“Summer Harp Jam” starts THIS week!
A 6-Week virtual summer camp for harp players – lever or pedal, from fledgling to professional – that gives you a treasure chest of jams, vamps and play-alongs that strengthen your improvisation and rhythm skills while you’re having FUN!
You Got Questions? I got Answers! About Summer Harp Jam 2016
I get a lot of questions from people about my online programs, especially if they haven’t taken a course with me before. So in this post I’m sharing some of the recent questions I’ve gotten about “Summer Harp Jam” – as well as standard questions – and my answers.
Q: HOW DO I JOIN? What are the discounts & bonuses right now?
BONUSES: Check at the registration page to see what bonuses are available now and remember: once you join you get ever ADDITIONAL bonus that gets added so the sooner you register the more bonuses you can get
DISCOUNT CODE: The early-bird discount ends Midnight Jul. 7. Use the code SHJ-EARLY-30 and remember: the code sometimes works for up to 24 hours after the deadline (depending on where you are in the world) so give it a try and if it works you get it – and if not, just think of how great it is that you’re in the program how much GREAT FUN we’re going to have this summer (actually, think of that regardless!)
Q: CAN I GET A TASTE-TEST?? I’VE NEVER BEEN IN AN ONLINE COURSE – I don’t know how it works and I’m not sure my internet is good enough. Is there a way to just see how it works?
YES! I created a special little course that you can take for free. It’s called “Creating Conducive Conditions” and it’s all about how to set up your life and work to situation so it helps you focus instead of distracting you.
It’ll give you a taste of what it’s like to take one of my programs. Use my “Ask a Question” form to let me know if you’d like a free invitation to that course!
Q: What time is the class? When do I have to be there? I’m worried I’ll have to get up in the middle of the night?
A: No worries – you can take the whole Summer Harp Jam, at your own pace. Everything is recorded and many people prefer to never come to the live parts. They only watch them afterwards via replay or download the MP3s and just listen and play along.
The ‘jams’ are recorded usually on Sundays at 2pm EDT if you want to come live, and I try to get them online within 24 hours. There’s also a lot of additional warm-up material that’s opened each week on Thursday.
Here’s what the “Summer Harp Jam” Schedule looks like each week:
THURSDAY: A new “Jam Sequence” is opened and students can go thru the warm-up materials if they want to – but they don’t have to
SUNDAY (usually at 2pm EDT): I record the new Play-Along jams LIVE – and usually about 25%-30% of the students enjoy being at those live. The others prefer to watch via replay. Students can ask questions during the 2nd part of this live session, and if they can’t be there live, they can send questions in advance
MONDAY: The recording of the jam is posted so students can watch it at their own pace, download PDF “Playsheet” and the MP3 to keep on their computer or MP3 device
ANY TIME: Students can connect via the private Facebook Group and ask me questions via the Facebook Group and/or my “Ask a Question” form
I built “Summer Harp Jam” course so it can work for people who want to just have a low-pressure summer play-along AND for people who really want to dig in, invest a lot of time and learn all the rhythms and riffs. The program works fine either way – it’s just your choice. You can just enjoy the jams, or you can spend as much time as you want with the rest of the learning materials.
Q: Will I learn to improvise in “Summer Harp Jam”?
Yes! Summer Harp Jam is all about learning to JAM. To make that easy and fun, the whole program is based on small chord sequences that you’ll find in lots and lots of music. You’ll learn to improvise on solo harp, to play with others and how to use these sequences for intros, interludes, endings and improvisations — using rhythmic styles or rubato so you can use them for contemplative or therapeutic improvisation.
Q: Do I need a Looper Pedal to take the program?
A: No! All the jams are recorded so you can play-along with them BUT if you’re interested in looper pedals you’re in luck because one of the BONUSES you get with the program is my “Looper Lesson” video that gives you the basics of what to look for in a looper and how to start using it.
Q: Will I have to do homework?
A: TaDa! No homework in this program! This program is all about PLAYING ALONG so I’ll encourage you to play with the course audio … or with your friends … as much as you can. And there will be jams that you can do with friends who aren’t even musicians — like a jam to play with someone playing Pots-and-Pans in the kitchen!
Q: How much time will I spend on the program?
A: That’s pretty much up to you. You could just spend an hour a week if you just want to watch the play-along video and play along with it.
People who want to ‘get the most bang for their buck’ can spend as much as an hour or more a day, watching the videos, downloading the materials and then putting it all into practice and playing with others.
Most people fall between those two extremes – and it’s totally fine how YOU want to use the program and how it fits into YOUR life right now. That’s also why you get access to the website for at least 3 months after the program ends – so you can go back and review.
Q: What if I can’t keep up?
A: That concept doesn’t really exist for this program. Each week you’ll be learning different jams, so if you miss a week or more, you can just jump back in – and you get two BONUS REVIEW WEEKS at the end so we can go back over everything and you can ask questions.
Q: Will the style you’re teaching be too ‘jazzy’ for the type of music I’m playing? (I play mainly hymns and folksy type of music/songs)
A: WHAT A GREAT QUESTION! Summer Harp Jam explores a lot of different styles, and one of them is always ‘rubato’ or ‘straight’ – as opposed to rhythmic. In fact, we always start that way, and then add different rhythms later. We take one basic progression each week and learn all the things you can do with it: how to use it for intros, endings, interludes, improvs, meditation, bedside playing, how to break it apart to play with others.
And yes – you can ABSOLUTELY jam with Hymns and folk songs – and you’d learn a lot about how to do that in Summer Harp Jam. It would be fairly easy to expand what you learn to Hymns or the progressions in folk songs – and what’s SO GREAT about taking this program LIVE is that, if you have a special kind of music you want to explore – like Hymms or Folk songs – you can ask me how to do that in the Jam-Chats.
What I’ve done in Summer Harp Jam is to choose progressions that are so short that people can literally learn them in 30 seconds, so that everyone can focus on how to have FUN with them instead of worrying about how to read or remember them. And I’ve chosen some of the most useful progressions I know, chord sequences that show up over and over again in lots of pieces.
So you won’t be learning ‘songs’ per se in Harp Jam – you’ll learn progressions you can use with songs.
Q: Is the material in Summer Harp Jam unique to this course? If I’ve taken your other courses is this NEW material?
This course is very cool and unlike any of my other courses. I tried to make it more like a summer camp – with activities, LOTS of play, and no homework for one thing.
If you’ve been in my courses you’ve probably experienced at least a little bit of “call and response” where I set up a background accompaniment on my looper and then I play little melodies and you play them back to me.
Every time I do that people LOVE it and ask for more – so Summer Harp Jam is based entirely on “Call and Response” — on JAMMING together — because it’s such a fun and effective and freeing way to learn to improvise and to simply have FUN playing your instrument.
Each week you learn a new sequence – which takes about 30 seconds. Then you learn a whole bunch of things you can do with it – from creating intros, endings and interludes with it – to creating full improvs. You learn a bunch of different bass patterns you can use with it, scales you can use with it, and various ways of creating rhythms with it like Waltz and Latin rhythms – as well as how to use it in responsive and contemplative settings like hospice or meditation.
It’s not sequential. If you miss a week, you can just jump into the next week and it’s not a big deal. That’s because the activities are all based on a set of chord sequences – a different progression each week.
And you can learn as little or as much of that as you want – because the JAM part of the program is the real heart of it: each week we have an online JAM where I set up the progression with my looper, and then we play! I play a riff and you play it back to me, I play a riff and you play it back. It’s basically the way I learned to play as a kid: call & response. It’s incredibly fun and you don’t need to play exactly what I play because nobody can hear each other and it’s not about ‘getting better at copying’ – it’s about getting comfortable improvising and learning the kinds of musical gestures and scales work for you and are most fun.
I love it because 95% of it is “learning by playing” – and because everyone can keep what they’re doing as simple as they want – or make as complex as they want based on their own level and how much time they want to spend in the class (er … I mean camp!)
Q: Do you provide the music for this course, or do I have to provide my own?
A: You’ll get all the music you need from within the course. Each week you’ll download the jam sequences – and that’s all you need! (You don’t even need that, because I’ll also show you the jam sequence on a video)
Q: How does it work with different playing levels all in one course?
A: All my online programs are multi-level and for both lever and pedal harp and it works because I always start by teaching the underlying concept of what we’re doing.
For each thing I show you, I’ll always include a distilled/fundamental/simple version of it and ways to embellish and expand it. And if it’s either not simple enough … or not complex enough for you, then you can ask for a simpification or an embellishment — and that’s part of what I’ll do in the live Q&A sessions and part of what creates such a vibrant sense of involvement and ‘live-ness’ in the classes.
Q: What software do I need for the course?
A: You don’t need any special software or hardware. You can take the course on your computer or ipad. You’ll watch the course videos on line, and you can download the MP3 playalong files and PDFs.
Even people who consider themselves completely non-tech-savvy are able to access and enjoy the course. Some people even say that one of the big benefits of the course is getting more comfortable with online tech formats!
Each week the course information is provided in three formats and there’s always a “low-tech version” so you’ll able to access the basic course materials without interactive software (like a live-stream webinar) because I’ll be videotaping each lesson and providing PDF outlines for you to follow.
Q: My internet isn’t great. How much summer camp is video and how much is live streaming? Is the chat session a video chat or an email chat?
A: That’s an excellent question about the video and how the course works with less robust internet connections. Let me know if this answers that question:
The “static” part of the program – the part that’s already there when you get into the classroom – is embedded videos (plus PDF handouts, text and downloadable audio). The video content includes both “warmup” or “prep” videos PLUS last-year’s live-stream jams chunked into segments that are based on content.
What that means is that I took last year’s jams, and edited them ‘bite-sized’ chunks. I also created extra videos last year when people had specific questions. All of that is available as soon as I open each module. Most of those are 5-10 minutes long. The longest seems to be about 15 minutes.
For every video on the page, there’s also a downloadable mp3 at the bottom of the page. That means you can get the mp3 right onto your computer and then avoiding worrying about internet at all. I try to be careful when I ‘show’ things on the video to also name the notes, since even when people can see the video, it’s not always close or clear enough to be useful.
Also, the focus of this particular program is on “call-and-response” where I play something and you play it (or something like it) back, so most people find it most useful to just put the audio on, and play along based on the prompts I give. This program is unique in that way (although I’m starting to use that technique more in other courses because people love it so much – and it’s fun for me as well).
The live weekly jams are all livestreamed. Usually only about 25-30% of the people actually come live. The rest prefer to wait until we post the replay, and either watch that online or just download the MP3 and play with that. I’m not sure if they do that because of their internet connection or just because they prefer to be able to stop and start the jam at their own pace.
Q: What if my Internet is out?
A: We can’t always count on internet, as great as it is. That’s why I record everything we do in the program and then add it to the classroom so people can watch at their own pace, or download the MP3s and the PDF Playsheets to have on their own computer or MP3 device.
Q: Do you have a payment plan?
A: YES! There’s a payment plan that lets you split the payment into 2 or 3 payments depending on when you sign up (different programs have different payment plans – but you’ll see the one for this program outlined right in the payment box).
Still have a question? CLICK HERE for my ‘ask a question’ form.
But in my in-person residencies, I also work with dancers, singers, actors, entrepreneurs and other passionate people who simply want to expand their ability to be more expressive in their lives. Until now I’ve focused all my online training to harpists – but in the spirit of freedom – last Monday, July 4th, I presented my first online creative ‘training’ event for EVERYONE … no harp needed.
In this one hour of music and spoken-word, I share the seven “Strings of Passion” principles I use in my own creative work.
Sign up for the REPLAY here. You’ll get instant access to the video, a PDF overview and an MP3 version you can download and listen to on your MP3 player.
I would LOVE to know what your takeaways are and if you’d like more of this kind of online sharing from me. Please let me know in the comments below.
I have. It’s what my July 4th online event (register for the replay below) was all about and it’s what I think about a lot.
I’ve been thinking about what it takes to ‘be free’ and how hard that can be as an artist – and as a human. How, when someone says ‘just sit down and play what you feel’, you can become completely blocked.
I’ve been thinking about how learning to be free as an artist is very much like learning to be comfortable in social situations. That’s a big one for me because it’s waaaaay easier for me to feel free on stage than to feel free in a social situation.
‘Letting go,’ ‘saying what you feel’ – or even telling a simple truth in the moment – it’s not always so easy.
And I think about how to do it A LOT. When I’m writing lyrics – for songs or musicals, I’m not thinking about the rhymes – I’m thinking about how to tell the truth, with both words and music. When I get stuck I stop and think, “OK, exactly what is happening? What is this character’s truth at this moment?” and then put that into words and music, getting as close to the truth as I can.
I believe that “the truth will set you free” — and that truth and freedom are two sides of the same experience – almost as if truth is the expression and freedom the experience.
I think about how to tell the truth as a human in everyday life: how to honestly tell a coach I work with exactly what they’ve helped me with, how to thank people honestly, reflecting as honestly as I can what I’ve experienced.
I practice my instrument so I can be fluent, responsive and completely present in the moment on stage, so I’m not fussing with technical issues in that incredibly precious moment we’re together as artist and audience – but can be completely present with the audience – because that’s one way I speak with truth and freedom on stage.
I think about how to bring that freedom to the artists I mentor in my “Harness Your Muse,” yearlong mentorship program by telling them exactly what’s moved me in their work, where I’ve seen their truth, and how they might make it even clearer or truer to them, so I would see even more of their truth.
Why?? Because I feel PERSONALLY LIBERATED when I hear students say things like “Wow! Maybe I CAN improvise after all!” or “I never thought I’d be able to do this” – and because the way they truthfully express what they’re experiencing and what they’re learning liberates me.
Because we’re all searching for human truth and freedom — and whether you’re ‘teaching’ or ‘learning,’ the truth you bring to the conversation gives everyone in that conversation greater freedom.
Well … if I don’t know how to find my way to a door, then even if nobody’s stopping me from going out it – it might as well be locked to me.
I can theoretically have all the freedom in the world – but if I can’t find it, if I don’t know how to use it, then I can’t embrace that freedom. I can’t embody it.
That’s where following someone else can help me.
I used to watch my ex-boyfriend’s kids at the computer – the oldest one would control the mouse and keyboard, and the others would watch her. I couldn’t figure out WHY they’d want to WATCH instead of doing.
And then I started watching my ex-boyfriend on his computer and I began to understand that as we watch other people do things, we pick up things about flow that we simply can’t get by following directions, or figuring it out ourselves. I learned a lot just by ‘doing what he did’ (including that even really adept people are constantly running into snags) – AND THEN I remembered that I learned a lot of music the same way as a kid: by singing back what I’d just heard my mother sing.
It’s like that phenomenon in music, that when you play with a stellar musician your own musicianship spontaneously rises to meet them.
Those are the principles behind ‘Summer Harp Jam’ my summer harp program only for harp players. Yes, only harp players. We harp players are a micro-niche. And if you play the harp, jump over to the info page and join us — register for the full 6-Week program by midnight Sat. Jul. 2 with the code SHJ-EARLY-30 to get $30 off.
This isn’t my first course for harp players – I have a whole curriculum of creativity in other online harp programs, but this one is different.
In my other courses, each week builds on the last, all leading towards one goal. But in “Summer Harp Jam” each week is different, and what you’re building is a collection of jams you can play on. So you can’t get ‘behind’ and you never have to catch up. If you miss a week, you just jump in on the next week and you can review later on.
I wanted to create a summer program with no pressure, no stress to keep up. So you can play very simply if you’re more of a beginner – or embellish as much as you want if you’re advanced. You play with the jams using the skills you already have right now – and I help you find out how to connect with them.
I wanted to create something to give harp players the EXPERIENCE of Freedom. I wanted them to be able to STOP thinking, STOP trying to remember how something works or even be creative – and just be able to kick back and PLAY – because that’s how I learned the basics of both improvisation and rhythm.
“Summer Harp Jam” is like a virtual summer camp that gives you 6 weeks of pure play – and the play IS the learning – just like in a summer camp.
The whole idea of “Summer Harp Jam” is to work with tiny structures (Jam sequences) that are so easy to learn that you can get the basic structure in about right away. The fun comes when you play WITH these small structures – by learning to improvise OVER them, or expand them, or change their style.
And people can do it at any level of technical ability because I show you how to both simplify and embellish what I’m doing.
By the end of the summer you have a whole playbook of over a dozen jam sequences that you can play alone or with other people, in styles from samba and bossa nova to open rubato forms, like you’d use for hospice playing.
The Weekly Play-along Jam Session
At the core of the program is the weekly “Play-along Jam Session” where you truly just sit down and play, using one very simple musical form called “Call and Response.”
Instead of having to figure out rhythms, melodies or arrangement forms, with “Call and Response,” you just play back to me everything I play to you – and depending on your technical level you can either play exactly what I play, or simplify it or embellish it – and that simplification or embellishment is the main ‘teaching’ part of the program.
In other words – each week I show you the jam, and then how you can play with it – simplifying, embellishing, adding rhythm – and showing you how you’d play it alone or with other musicians. I also show you how to change its ‘style’ – so you can use the same basic jam sequence to play a rhythmic groove – or to play rubato and meditatively.
Then we just play follow-the-leader -a LOT! And depending on how you feel any day, your response can be an echo of what I played – or respond to it, like in a conversation – so you can use the downloadable MP3s over and over to build your repertoire of responsiveness over time.
Come to a FREE Playalong Webinar July 2nd at 2PM EDT and get a taste of “Summer Harp Jam.” Register for free one-hour online training here. If you miss the jam, registering will give you a link directly to the replay as soon as it’s on line.
After nearly four years of building a virtual creative school for harp players, starting with the nuts and bolts of arrangement, through Blues and harmony, I’m finally hitting the motherlode: the place where what I’m teaching and what I’m learning are flowing directly into the same stream:
It’s not about you “Getting it” – it’s about letting IT get to YOU.
I’m learning – and teaching – that “letting” comes from the practice of doing tiny things that you CAN do, instead of constantly reaching for the things you can’t.
The challenge is to unleash the power, the joy and the pure simplicity of actually DOING the thing that you can already DO. Clicking with it, and then letting it take YOU to the next place.
If you’re not already signed up for “Summer Harp Jam” and you play the harp Register NOW!
Each week we explore a different tiny progression or “Jam” that has infinite possibilities for expression – and learn to click into it at whatever level YOU are at – right now, with the abilities, the instrument, the body, the mind, the age, the time that YOU actually truly have. Right now. As you truly are.
“I’ve played harp for nearly 50 years. I have a strict classical background & never in my wildest dreams thought I could improvise. This makes it all come together in a way that I can relate to.” (Sally Walstrum)
“You made it so simple for me that it clicked in my head and I was adding a lot of extra notes on my own which gave me more confidence. Maybe I can improvise after all!” (Ellen Jordan)
“I just realized that I can play a really gorgeous improv and nobody will know how simple it is! And I can do all kinds of things with my right hand that sound great with the 1-6-2-5. (Nell Morris)
I made this set of photos to show my friend Arthur how the harp-loop functions with the harp when he offered to help connect me to a potential manufacturer. The easiest way to share them was to put them on my blog. So here they are.
This is not an official blog-post – but if you’re here, feel free to look at it.
This is what the “unbent” harp plug-loop looks like:
This is what the ‘bent” one looks like. They both work equally well.
This is what the harness clip looks like attaching to the unbent plug-loop:
This is what the harness looks like attached to the bent plug-loop. Both bent and unbent work fine.
These are my unschooled attempts to draw what a useful plug-loop might look like.
This is what the plug-loop actually looks like, which is fine except it makes the harp too long to fit in some cases, which would mean you’d have to unscrew it, which you DON’T want to do, because if you lose the plug, the harp is unwearable.
Can you remind me how many pieces you ultimately would like? Quantity always has some bearing on how something is produced.Depending on cost, my preference is to start with 100. If that’s unrealistic in terms of their cost, I’m open to suggestion. That would be enough for me to test out whether the project works. If the project works (If people buy my harnesses) then subsequent orders might change. If they’re like CDs, I’m assuming that the first unit is the one that costs alot and the cost of units 2-through-gazillion are pretty minimal. Is that the same with things like this?
How heavy is the harp (approx)? 11lbs (5 K)
Is there any reason why the loop needs to be separated from the heavier threaded plug that screws into the harp? Your piece was made by combining two pieces- a plug with external and internal threads and a screw-eye threaded into it. The simplest and perhaps stronger way is to make it as one piece- a very different production method but I’m sure pretty trivial for these folks.There’s no reason the loop needs to ever be removed from the plug. I think the engineer who made this one was modifying their harness-plug to make one for me that works with my harness.
The loop on your harp is bent. Is this intentional or is it a modification that you made? If it was not intentional it is a sign that the piece is not strong enough and this should be addressed in the new part- especially if you are going to sell them! 🙂That’s unintentional, but the loop works either way, and there are advantages to it being bent (it fits in the harp case more easily), and disadvantages (It’s slightly harder to connect the harness to it). In a ‘perfect world’ (Wow, I just realized I can redesign this slightly to make it work even better), the loop would be more oblong because that would avoid making the harp too long for a standard case, and still make it fairly easy to connect the harness to it (I’ll draw a picture of what I mean and attach it)
I did not see the clip that attaches to the loop. What is the size and nature of that? Perhaps you can send a little photo? (I’ll attach a photo.)
How important is the orientation of the loop at the bottom of the harp? I’m imagining that when it is screwed in and tight it needs to be in a particular direction? (plane of loop parallel or perpendicular with plane of harp?) Perhaps not?It’s probably best when it’s oriented a certain way (horizontal to the player) BUT I’m not sure that’s completely controllable (because of how the harps are made – each housing for the plug may be randomly inserted), and I’ve never had the luxury of it being oriented the way I want, so I often untighten it slightly to make the loop orient in the best way for me.
Can you think of any other issue or design requirement or need that would be important to consider?Yes! The fact (which I hadn’t thought of ‘til I got your questions) that the loop adds length to the instrument and affects how it fits in the case. The last thing I want to do is to have to remove the plug for any reason, since the harp is unplayable without it (and it’s a small, easily losable thing), so if I’m building the ‘perfect’ loop, I’d build it differently (I’ll make a drawing).
Do all small harps have such a threaded insert at the bottom? If it is a standard thing then perhaps the threads are standard? (I think you said something like that but we were pretty rushed before leaving.)No, other harps don’t have a threaded insert. This insert is specific to this instrument, the ‘DHC’ electric harp. The earlier prototypes of this instrument were wood, and I simply drilled a hole for the loop. The threads do not seem to be standard in the U.S. I spent hours in a hardware store trying to find any screw with this particular threading, and couldn’t. The threads may be standard in France, but I don’t know. I can write to Fred, the French engineer to ask. He has offered to make me some, but I don’t feel I can ask for the quantity I need – and if the project is successful, I need to make sure I can get quantities quickly.
Timeframe?I’ve been wanting to move forward on this for years, with this problem as the big fly-in-the-ointment. So it’s not urgent. Once this problem is solved I can move forward to finding someone to manufacture the harness itself.
Maximum or desired cost estimate if you have one.
I’d love to spend no more than $5 a plug (is that absurd? I’ve no idea). If I could get it down to $2.50 or less that would be even better. I’ve no idea if that’s ridiculously high, low or totally realistic.
Two weeks ago, a new Grand Piano came into my life, and sits in the room that was always waiting for The Grand Piano (see this post about how that happened).
A week ago, my house cleaner came for the first time post-new-piano and we were talking about it in our halting I-Can’t-Speak-Spanish/I-Can’t-Speak-English, when she pointed to a picture that hangs right outside my studio, and knocked her fingers knuckles against it, as if she were gently rapping at a door.
It’s a picture I see a hundred times a day, and don’t think much about although it’s right at the entrance of my studio.
It’s a picture of me sitting at a piano. I’m about 18, around the time when I gave my first solo concert. It might have even been a ‘publicity shot’ for that concert.
I’m turned toward the camera, sitting at a beautiful old piano that was in the Dance Palace, the artist collective where I lived — and the photo was taken by Evvy Eisen (one of my favorite photographers).
In the picture, it looks like I’m turned waiting for someone to return.
And yesterday, when Carmen knocked on the picture, I got the feeling that I was finally at the door.
Where are you waiting for you?
Where are you waiting for yourself to return? Where are you frozen in time wondering when – if ever – you’ll return?
Every day, working with the artists I mentor in my “Harness Your Muse” program, I get to experience people knocking on their own creative doors, tentatively opening them a crack to see who’s there, opening them wider and wider.
Every day I get to experience the slow reach of hands across a lifetime as someone picks up an instrument, an idea, a passion they loved and left behind — or one they didn’t dare hope for — and invests themselves in it.
That rubs off on you.
Are you ready to meet yourself there?
My whole life I’ve searched for mentors, and found them. You’ll read about some of them in some of my blogs: Tony, Swack, Michael, Felicia and others – people who helped me find my way to me.
If your dream is musical expression, then consider applying for “Harness Your Muse.” Enrollment ends July 1st – and even if you don’t join the program, the application itself will help you see your own path more clearly. And if yours is a different dream – photography, painting, dance? Find a mentor, a guide to start your journey back to you.
And just think about this: When someone says “What are you waiting for?” the real question is “Where are you waiting for YOU … and what do you need to meet yourself there?”
I’ve been blogging a lot about my new piano and how I first created an illusionary piano to solidify it’s existence in my own mind – and how it turned into a real piano that is now changing my life and my work.
Illusions becoming reality is one story – but even when dreams come true, there’s still work involved – and we had to get this 800-pound dream from Charlotte, NC to a second story music room with a narrow curving stairway in Arlington, MA.
Here’s the story in pictures & video of how it happened.
It leaves Betsey & Dick’s house in Charlotte thanks to Ryan and his crew at Carolina Piano Movers.
The Mysterious Interstate Journey
Ryan takes the piano to his storeroom until Keyboard Carriage – the interstate movers – are ready. Then they rendezvous, and Ryan puts it on Keyboard Carriage’s big truck that drops pianos off all along the East Coast – including to ‘Gentle Giant’ in the Boston area.
Here’s a photo from my web research of the Keyboard Carriage truck. So why is there a motorcycle in the the back of the truck? Well, it turns out that Keyboard Carriage specializes in moving pianos … and motorcycles. New evidence of my belief that there’s a genetic connection between harps and bicycles.
The crane maneuvers up the driveway and Rooty plumbs it and stabilizes it with wood:
The piano emerges!
Time for a strategy session. Patrick, the crew chief (on the right) is cogitating on the best angle to fly the piano in the back porch.
My favorite part … they fly my piano in. I made a little video for this part:
The piano appears over the horizon of the house with Nathan and Patrick ready to catch it and Chad running lines of communication with Rooty, the crane operator.
A view through the screen door of the piano coming onto the back porch:
The piano rides a dolly through the house to its new home.
Another strategy session …
Patrick points out to me the dowels that help stabilize the piano legs
Leg #1 goes on — notice the massive hammer
The piano is upright! Nathan and Patrick crawl underneath like car mechanics to add the lyre – the pedals and the mechanism that connects the pedals to the hammers.
It’s a REAL piano!
I take my place on the bench:
I am ousted by the heir apparent. But not for long:
I bring down the manuscripts I’m editing together for “The Golden Cage” musical, put them on the piano, and get to work. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for:
And … folks … we have achieved lift-off
Thank you so much to Betsey & Dick Sessler, to Gloria Hodes with “Music & Masque”, to John, Joe, Patrick, Nathan, Chad, Rooty and Anna at Gentle Giant (Allston Piano Movers), Ryan & Teeya at Carolina Piano Movers and Rick at Keyboard Carriage. Also to the kind folks, Julie and Dan, at Modern Piano, the one company that does do interstate piano moves from door to door (they spent a lot of time talking to me, but the timing worked out better for us to use the 3-part transport)
Every one of these piano-moving companies spent time with me on the phone, responded when they said they would, arrived on time, were communicative, kind, careful – and that made such a difference.
And Betsey & Dick — come on up any time to hear the rest of the piano concert I started at your house in April!