This blog is one of a series. Each includes a student’s final projects from my online course “Hip Harp Toolkit,” along with  their answers to five questions.  You can learn more about these final projects – and why they’re called “Beginning Projects”  here. – Learn more about the course here: – Learn about my NEXT course here: Blues Harp-Style – Get on the “First to Know” list for all courses here: First-to-Know-List

Pema answers questions about this project:

Pema-blog-square-21.  What did it take for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally?

Given my level of expertise, my commitment alone enabled me to submit the last two videos.  Choked up with emotion.  I am grateful for the progress made during this course and for the supportive environment nurtured by DHC’s coaching style and each participant’s involvement.  Awesome talent
and creativity surround me.

This is a simple two-song set with modulation. St. Thomas by Sunny Rollins is played straight through with no embellishment due to time constraints. O Pato by Jaime Silva follows the 5-part structure and utilizes standard jazz chord progression in the improvisation.  Crossovers with the right hand were difficult due to the previous injury and affect both tempo and fluidity.  O Pato has Portuguese lyrics loaded with innuendo.  Musing about giving that a go.  Video editing remains basic.  Had hoped to add text to credit composers and to make a holiday greeting.  My iPad started generating video files of unknown format yesterday that put an end to any perfectionism. Thankfully, I ended up with something to work with.

I am grateful for the supportive environment nurtured by DHC’s coaching style & each participant. Share on X

2.  What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

This course was sandwiched between heavy demands at work to complete training and certifications before the New Year.  Never in my wildest dreams had I considered staging, editing, and uploading videos to YouTube.  The biggest challenge was showing up for myself, having the courage to be seen and heard, accepting my technical capacity, and not comparing myself to others.

3.  What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Uploading videos each week took courage.  It was a delight to play like a child and make every technical mistake in the book without consequence.

Conditioned by years of playing music with lots of notes, it was liberating to trade complexity for simplicity.  Having needed sheet music to play since memorization was difficult, shifting to a lead sheet and playing with the melody and chord progressions was a leap of faith to a road wide open to experimentation.  Being back at square one as a total novice … yikes, an opportunity to travel a new path.

It was a delight to play like a child - make every technical mistake in the book without consequence. Share on X

4.  What were your personal “Ahas”? 

Seeing what is possible given the right structure and support.  Being able to do simple improvisations … something I didn’t think I could do.  Thanks again to DHC and everyone in the course for all the encouragement and feedback.  Experiencing my passion for jazz was amusing.  DHC’s standard jazz list launched me into a web search for lead sheets while bypassing the options at hand.  Attempting to align with the holiday music theme, I listened to Christmas albums.  O Pato surfaced and in the blink of the eye… straight back to jazz.

5.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video? 

Hearing about this course was totally unexpected like a gift from the universe.  The opportunity to learn the basic foundation of improvisation and jazz was my backburner dream.  DHC’s coaching philosophies opened the door by:

  1.  Focusing on what works and expanding from there
  2.  Play, experiment and have fun
  3.  Show up and share what you have in its perfectly imperfect beauty or state of incompletion.

Thank you DHC for making this available.  And, may others join the passionate tribe.

Thank you DHC for making this available, and may others join the passionate tribe. Share on X


Wow, Pema! The first image is spectacular – so strong.  You did a GREAT job of framing this shot!

You have developed SO MUCH in the 10 weeks of this course!!  Brava!!

I loved those moments when I could see you letting yourself really enjoy what you were doing  – that was so fun to see – and I love that you even improvised some on the 2nd tune!  Yay!  It’s GREAT to see how far you’ve come in this course, how much steadier you’ve made your rhythms and how you’ve really committed to these Latin tunes!  I especially enjoyed the vamp you created to start O Pato, and the little transition you used at 2:33 and again at the end of the tune – but mostly I love that you really created a little medley, your rhythm is getting stronger and stronger, you’re improvising on the tune, and the arrangement had a definite arc to it.  Wonderful work, Pema!!!

What was this project all about?  What were the Guidelines?  The project description was to take 3 contrasting tunes and create a medley no more than 3.5 minutes using techniques from the course, like introductions, melodic improvising, embellishing, turnaround endings and modulating from key to key. (If you’re not a musician, you’ll know when they’re modulating when you see them reach up to shift the levers, which change the harp into a new key).

One of the core principles of the course is “Imperfect Completion” so each of the “Final Projects” is really a “Beginning Project.”

YOU can join my next creative harp course:

My next online course for harpists begins January 14, and it’s called Blues Harp-Style.  Take a look at the Blues Harp-Style info page here or get on my “First To Know” list for notification of early-bird specials and new classes.



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