Deborah Henson-Conant

Telling stories with music at HipHarp.com

Dear creative adventurers,

As I tumble out of 2016, one of my biggest realizations is what it means to ‘finish’ a thing.  My realization is that for something to be ‘done’ it doesn’t need to be perfect – it just need to be ready for the next person to be able to run with it.

The image I had was of a relay race – but not so much a race as a creative expansion. And ‘the next person’ is the one who needs your creative work for their next step of their creative work. In other words, you release your work to inspire, empower and liberate someone else’s creative journey.

What I learned in 2016 is that that’s true for me in every way: as a composer, a performer and a coach.

And to do that I have to embrace the supreme discomfort of passing on imperfect things in imperfect ways.

Know what I mean?

So as I tumble into 2017, here’s how that plays out for me:

  1. Strings of Passion

“Strings of Passion” is about to go live – and by ‘live’ I mean I’m about to open the doors to a new phase of creation in a project I’ve been working on for years.

It started as a speaker-concert program: distilling the core principles of my creative process into 7 strings. And now I’m building it out into a 10-week online creativity course all based on those 7 “Strings of Passion.”

What I discovered in 2016 about “Strings of Passion” is how creative impulse and expression are mirrored inside and outside – and how the interplay creates creative resonance in our lives that we can enrich with concious creative practice.  OK – the power of creative practice to enrich creative expression isn’t new …

But what if I could set up a creative playground or gym that would make it easier to develop that creative resonance?  Ways to work on the inside instrument via the outside instrument — and vice-versa.

That was the principle behind building the “Strings of Passion” program. I thought: what if put all the creative prompts, games and ideas I’ve collected over a lifetime in one place – like, create a gym or a playground or a laboratory – or something that is all three??

What if, instead of hoping to stumble on them over a lifetime, creative searchers – like me, like you – could just go there, click a button and focus on just being creative – using the prompts –  instead of on finding them?

So that’s what “Strings of Passion” is — and the virtual creative gym-playground-laboratory opens January 9th.  It’s my first online program open to non-harpists though this soft-opening of the program is definitely focused on harp players and musicians – with a lot of musical prompts, along with writing, drawing and physical prompts — because my own creative learning has been in theater, dance and writing along with music – and for me, they all enhance each other.

Here’s how you see it and be part of it:

  • Register for “Inside the Creativity Gym” – a webinar that takes you inside the creativity gym at “Strings of Passion” on Sunday Jan. 8 at 3:30 pm EST.  Register for FREE here.
  • Watch an overview of the 7 strings in this Intro to Strings of Passion” webinar
  • Sign up for the 10-Week “Strings of Passion” program right now and get ready to join me starting Jan. 9. The program combines ‘at your own pace’ learning and creative prompt with a live Q&A chat with me each week (which you can watch via replay if you can’t make it) – and at the heart of it – the creative gym … er, playground .. um, I mean laboratory. Register now “Strings of Passion

2. Performing

Honestly? It’s driven me crazy at times these past 3 years that creating a school (see #3 below) seems to take forever — and that my own performing sometimes feels like it takes a back-seat to teaching performing skills. On the other hand, teaching what I do has a profound effect on my relationship to my own performing – and I see that every time I do perform.

As my friend Cherie Magnello once said to me “Isn’t it amazing to realized we can have a powerful affect on ourselves?”

So one goal for 2017 is MORE PERFORMING.  Starting with my first show of 2017 at The Center for Arts in Natick on Feb. 18th (buy tickets now – here – and if you can’t come, but them for your friends in the Boston Area)

3. Learning Takes Time & Community

One of my big revelations from 2016 is that ‘classes’ are not always ‘learning’ – and that real learning takes time and community.

I started creating online courses for harpists in 2013 – but in 2016 I wanted MORE for the students than learning cool techniques – as great as that is. The concepts I teach have profoundly liberated me, because they showed me how simple it can be to use a musical structure to build infinite creative expressions and experiences.

But teaching that simplicity when people are dazzled by the complexities takes time. Time to deconstruct.

I’ve spent a lifetime digging beneath the dazzle of what makes each piece of music different in order to find the profound simplicity of what’s the same.  To teach that takes time and community. Students need to be with other students who are learning – you need the perspective of others’ ahas and takeaways – and you need to see the same basic principles played out in many different ways in order to be able to identify them and play with them.  This is part of what makes ‘a school’ way more effective than ‘a class.’

So in 2016 I made the commitment to turn my courses into a school. That meant creating a year-long curriculum.  It meant putting the curriculum all under one roof in an online campus – and making a decision that people need to join the school in order to work with me. So in October, 2016 ‘Hip Harp Academy” was born and now I think it might be a pre-teen (HipHarpAcademy.com)

I took this same concept to my top-level creative coaching: This deeper commitment to learning also meant turning my 1-on-1 creative coaching into a yearlong group mentorship, and in 2016 my “Harness Your Muse” program became a ‘mentored mastermind’ – which means that I am the mentor and the group of 12 artists work together as a creative mastermind – giving both support and witness to each others’ creative projects.  You can see some of those projects  in this post.

What you can’t see in their projects is the power of the group – their support of each other.  Witnessing that support has been one of the most moving parts of creating this powerful, intimate community.  I’ve been incredibly moved by working with these each of artists and so proud of what they’ve each accomplished – from the shows they’ve debuted to the huge strides they’ve made in their own creative expression, and the powerful courage they’ve showed in stepping up to their fears — but nothing has trumped watching their support and inspiration of each other .

If you’re a creative artist, learn more and apply to the program at HarnessYourMuse.com .

4. Golden Cage ~ Baroque Flamenco

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like there’s something you’ve working on your whole life — but I’ve been working on my 2-person musical/operetta “The Golden Cage” for 40 years now. I’ve produced it, rewritten it, produced it, rewritten it (see the beginning of this post, about being ‘done’ … yup, this is a challenge, for sure).

I spent a huge portion of 2016 on more rewrites, working with a script coach, a creative support group, readings in NYC with my long-time musical buddy Paul Gordon — and it’s now ready for a series of readings in the Boston area.  Right now I’m just looking for the right actor/singers – and this is where I’ve had two huge revelations:

  1. Finding the right actor-singers feels like an impasse – and I’ve often hit this impasse before. It was the impasse at which  I’ve said on many project, “Oh screw it! I’ll just perform it myself” – it’s why I’ve created so much solo work, including entire multi-character stories with symphony orchestra that I can do myself. This lifelong frustration has been the impetus for a huge body of my creative work – so it’s been a profoundly fertile struggle. On the other hand … I want to move through it this time!
  2. Working on this same story for 40 years I am awed at how much more relevant the story is to me as I unpeel it – and that reminds me yet again of how rich the creative process is, and how much it gives to the artist.

Meanwhile – my concerto Baroque Flamenco just seems to have a life of its own. It’s being performed by more and more harpists with more and more orchestras – it’s like the polar opposite of the “The Golden Cage” — it truly does have its own life now — and more and more I just try to keep up with who’s performing it where.

That is pure fun.

5 … Let’s talk about it later

 … then there’s the election.  But how about we don’t talk about that right now?

So … here we go, my friends, my fellow adventurers — tumbling into the adventure of 2017.  Me? I look forward to living and sharing one of my favorite quotes, from Jerzy Growtoski: “Don’t do more … hide less.”

How about you?

love,

DHC