Welcome to the Final-Beginning Projects from the 2019 “Hip Harp Toolkit” class at Hip Harp Academy. These are all Music Projects by students who just finished the 10-week class in arrangement and improv– harpists committed to liberating themselves from the notes on the page and creating their own arrangements.

Many of these projects are musical greeting cards, and one of the reasons I share this class in the fall is for the chance to use Holiday music to teach the principles of the 5-part arrangement form and the power of impromptu arrangement.

We call these videos ‘Final-Beginning’ projects, because, while they’re the final project of this class, they create a new beginning – a place to start the next phase of the creative journey – and the commitment for everything in the program is Connection – not Perfection.

Below each video you’ll get to learn – in each players own words – what they’re playing, their challenges in creating this project and what their ‘aha’s and takeaways’ were. Readers, please add your own ‘Aha’s & Takeawys’ in the comments below.

You’ll see a huge diversity

Students of all technical levels take this class – and they all use the same principles to create their projects. You’ll see projects from advanced players, and from ‘fledgling’ players who’ve started their harp journey in the 2nd or 3rd acts of life.  You’ll see projects from people who’ve played all their lives – and from people who left the instrument for decades and then returned. They’re all working from the same principles I teach in the class – and you’ll get to see how they each use those to create arrangements at their own level of technical ability.

They’ve also all committed to creating these arrangements ‘off the page’ – so they’re not playing written arrangements, but simply using what they learned to create a spontaneous arrangement, that will be different each time they play it.

One of my favorite parts of these projects is reading what the students write about their journey to creating this video – and I ‘ve included their answers to the questions I ask about that in the dropdown below each video.

In any year, usually 10% – 15% of people in the class share a project – so Bravissimo to everyone who shared a video – or their Insights. And congratulations to everyone else who completed the class, and is putting everything they learned into play off-camera!

A few years ago, when I was explaining to a non-harpist friend how much I enjoy these projects, and seeing everyone taking the same concepts and bringing them alive with different tunes, skillsets, levels of technical proficiency, and in different settings – I showed my friend some of the projects and after looking at the page she blurted out:

“Oh, I love it!  These are real people!”

In one short sentence she put into words why people find these videos so inspiring: These truly are real people, often people who are expert at something completely different in life, sometimes adult beginners who have only played the harp for a year or two – sometimes advanced players who are challenging themselves to break away from the security of written notes — all of whom are investing themselves, heart and soul in expressing themselves with an instrument that’s as tricky as it is beautiful.

Yes, thse are TRULY real people, and they’re sharing the beauty of that realness with all of us. This is a real gift, and I, for one, feel joyously enriched by getting to see every one of these messages of music.

And now … drumroll please … I present the Final-Beginning Projects from the 2019 “Hip Harp Toolkit” class:

Anne

Anne Horton says: “This is a harp-flavoured Christmas message for my friends and family – hopefully it will bring them some joy and they will feel the love I have for them (this includes you!!) and be prompted to pause for a moment and ponder the “wonder of His love”.

One of Anne’s personal challenges in this class was to use her looper for every single project. Anne’s also a sign language interpreter, so you’ll get to enjoy a looper, a holiday message in song and sign-language — and a very special SECOND song revealed in the middle of the tune.

DHC Says: I always love seeing how you combine the elements of music and communication with your irrepressible character to create a message of joy. And this one still has me smiling!!

Read Anne's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This is a harp-flavoured Christmas message for my friends and family – hopefully it will bring them some joy and they will feel the love I have for them (this includes you!!) and be prompted to pause for a moment and ponder the “wonder of His love”.

This short piece has a brief arpeggiated intro and a 3X turn-around ending with a “cadenza-like” gliss and strum to end on the final bass tonic note..  It is not a 5-part arrangement as such as instead of a “melody-exploration-melody” body, it has 5 “layers” (akin to a fine birthday cake!) which unfold as follows:
Layer 1: a metronomic unrecognisable tune
Layer 2: a bass line
Layer 3: rolled chords following the harmonic progression of the piece
Layer 4: a tricky signed/sung alternate melody line with lyrics from a popular Christmas Carol
Layer 5: SURPRISE!! The actual melody is revealed

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I applied the feedback I had been given from my Half-Baked version of this project to make a vastly different rendition (even though it essentially has the same elements).

This project taught me lots of “exceptions” – for example, some tunes do not lend themselves to being repeated – they are designed to be sung through once only – this is one of those tunes, which makes the use of a looper very different to usual.  As such the different layers of the tune “build” to the final “reveal” of the actual tune … once that tune is revealed the song is over.

Other things I have learnt from the course and chats that helped are:
* Have your filming space ready to go
* Add some “Christmas Cheer” tinsel, Christmas tree etc in the background plus my clothes and jewellery.
* Change the angle of the harp to face the camera more to make it easier to make “eye-contact” with my TV audience.
* Believe that “what I can do is enough” and fully embrace that and run with it!! The more I am in my “Comfort Zone” and enjoying what I am doing – the greater the likelihood that others will enjoy it!

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

This song has pick up notes which present a challenge when looping because the song has already started BEFORE you get to the first down beat (the usual place for the loop to start).  I overcame this problem ALLOWING THE FINAL MEASURE TO DOUBLE AS THE FIRST MEASURE as the song looped around and began again.  It took me a while to get my head around this concept! but it really does work and it makes an efficient transition to the next layer. (This is actually different to what DHC suggested in my half-baked feedback, but I stumbled upon it as an alternative option and I actually found it was easier and worked better for me ….  I have learned that these projects are done best when kept at a level that I can cope most comfortably with 😉 .. “less can truly be more”.

Logistically I had issues with background noise during the day: deafening cicadas, dogs barking, garbage trucks, neighbours moving house and calling out etc etc.  I had to wait until the removalist truck and garbage trucks left, the heat of the day dissipated and the cicadas quietened down … and then I shut the dog inside 😉

I had to accept imperfection (eg: I couldn’t find the fairy lights that I wanted to have in the background and my hair wasn’t exactly how I would’ve like it).

I wanted this video to be relevant for everyone and anyone who watched it (generic, not specific)  – so I changed the lyrics.

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

I wanted this Final-Beginning Project to be a Christmas Message for my loved ones … but my Half-Baked project had been the tune “Happy Birthday”! How could I make the most of the feedback I had received for my Half-baked if I wasn’t going to be playing the same tune?  I connected with the freedom of realising “just because these are the usual lyrics for this song – I don’t have to stick to them If I want to communicate a Christmas message!  So I changed the lyrics.

The “value-add” of singing/signing/speaking is exponential (compared to just playing).  It personalises the message and adds character and interest.  I definitely would’ve been reluctant and unlikely to sign/sing/speak prior to experiencing Deborah’s coaching!  This is a new-found freedom … no longer the struggle it used to be. (Thanks Deborah!)

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

A few days before filming this project, my left shoulder “froze” and I had to have a cortisone shot in it to get it moving again.  I was told not to play the harp (with my left hand).  My challenge suddenly became – how will I do this project with my right hand only?!!! …. (with the slightest of use of my left hand – to flip a lever, dampen strings in the C-chord strum and play the final single bass note).  I couldn’t risk further inflammation and damage by the repeated playing of a piece to “get it right” to be submitted. The very first take that was even remotely good enough to submit is when I stopped filming … it is very hard for a perfectionist to do that!! he he.  I was also aware that earlier takes are usually more authentic and you haven’t had the opportunity to “perfect the life out of it”! (exemplified by the story of DHC’s harmonica player’s recording).  Plus, a friend wanted me to go out to dinner with them and I wanted some harp/life balance 😉

Also, I challenged myself to by slightly cryptic rather than spelling everything out very clearly – this added value I thought.  By this I mean, I did not sing the actual lyrics of the song when I finally played the melody in the 5th layer.  I left it up to  the listener to put “two and two together”  (you can imagine my delight when the first person I played it to laughed and burst into song at the Layer 5 “melody reveal” – exactly as I’d hoped they would, singing “Happy Birthday dear Jesus .. Happy Birthday to you!!!”

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

The key ingredient to success is wholehearted, passionate commitment- no matter what your skill level.  This applies to EVERY area of life!

What were your personal “Ahas”?

When something is extra difficult (like trying to loop Happy Birthday), there is usually a reason for that – make sure you ask those more experienced than yourself for help.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

If you hear me say “Merry Christmas from me and my looper” … I’m not talking about my husband! 😉 he he.

Julia

When Julia told me that she wanted to use her final project to create a video entry for the UK ‘musical map for dementia’, where people can find out about music services near them, I thought that was a wonderful idea! I love it when people can use what they learn in the class to support their projects in the ‘outside world.’ Julia shared that she created a medley of “Molly Malone,” “Edelweis” and “You Are My Sunshine,” because” they’re three of the songs that get the best reception when I play in my local nursing home.”

DHC Says: It was so fun to work with you on developing the idea of cadenzas and the modulations – and what a lovely gift this medley is, as well a great demo of your playing!

Read Julia's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your video so I know exactly what you’re sending me. If there’s anything special you want me to look at, listen to (or ignore), tell me what it is.

This is my final beginning project submission. It’s a medley of Molly Malone, Edelweis and You are my sunshine. It’s for my video entry on the UK ‘musical map for dementia’, where people can find out about music services near them. These are three of the songs that get the best reception when I play in my local nursing home, so I thought they would be appropriate (even if it’s not particularly festive!!)

TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED COACHING ON. Provide specific questions here so I know what you want me to give you feedback on. Remember, I’m not grading or assessing your work – I’m coaching – and I can only do that if I know what you’re TRYING to do, so I can gear my coaching to help you achieve that.

There are a few hesitations that i wish weren’t there, but as my old manager used to say ‘don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good’. I’m struggling getting into the cadenza and occasionally miss the timing a bit.

Is there anything else you want me to know about your video?

I’ve filmed in on my phone rather than the laptop and I think the sound is a bit better, even though it’s not exactly high quality.

Thank you very much for the extra help with cadenzas. I’ve always wanted to know how to do them and I feel like I’ve made a good start.

Susan 

Susan’s final project is a Happy New Year medley of Over the Rainbow & Wonderful World, with a spoken introduction she’ll likely be editing together with the performance. Susan said “I tried to be aware of surroundings, clothes & lighting. Using the principle that structure is the foundation of freedom, I was free to use portions of the 5 part arrangement, the idea that simple was good, simple vamp, 3rds, used a flourishing changing keys and enriched the melody by using base and accompaniment.”

DHC Says: It’s so wonderful to see you flourish with the harp in such a short time, to bring all your lifelong skills as a dancer to your harp playing and to see you not only get more comfortable playing, but start turning your new skill into a burgeoning business as a musician, serving a very deserving audience. Thank you so much for sharing all that and the joy of watching you bloom with the harp!

Read Susan's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

My final project is a Happy New Year modulation between Over the Rainbow & Wonderful World with a standing introduction.
I wrote a short press release for the Watertown Senior Newsletter for my event in Jan.
I also redid my brochure explaining my 3 different harp events that I offer.

 

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

A short press release for the Watertown Senior Newsletter about my event in Jan.
I also redid my brochure to explain the 3 different harp events I offer.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I tried to be aware of surroundings, clothes & lighting. Using the principle that structure is the foundation of freedom, I was free to use portions of the 5 part arrangement, the idea that simple was good, simple vamp, 3rds, used a flourishing changing keys and enriched the melody by using base and accompaniment.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I had to rearrange the 2 pieces which threw me off for a while.

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

The freedom was in the structure of the piece and the struggle was to get it down to 2 and 1/2 minutes.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

My biggest challenge was to reduce the length and change my original arrangement.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Structure is the foundation of freedom.
Perfect imperfection is ok.
Can be applied to almost anything.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

A tune can be acceptable without being long or too difficult.
There are many tools available to enrich a tune without being too complicated.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

no

Vera

Vera played a haunting, gorgeous excerpt from a piece she’s been working on in the Academy for 2 years called “Blues for Mom”, which she described as a “Blues by feeling, not by form.”

Vera said about the Academy, “Learning so much about music, harp playing, how to make things sound,  and so much of the talks mirroring a lot of real life aspects resonated a lot with me. I finally had answers to so much….and well, somethings released and music became the expression and harp became the tool….”

DHC Says: Vera – this is a gorgeous piece – I’m imagining a cold, starlight night and magic coming from places, things and people we would never expect, and yet that makes a perfect warmth and sense.

Read Vera's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This is the last page of 4, of “Blues for Mom”. A composition I’m working on for 2 years.

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

Attempting a lift off this last  ending version of my music. It’s e minor, and it’s melodic aspect #6#7 makes  composing a hard task. This composition seems to somehow follow the strings…

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Without any intention the composition seems to follow the Strings of Passion: it is Blues by feeling not by form!
Bits of Chats re : expansion of chords, development/ improv on theme, roles location on the strings, bridges or cadences , return to theme,coda/ ending …..all these just rolled in

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

The character is melodic minor with touches of Blues in melodic theme. Chromatic melody development / expansion. Raised #7 and #9 ( or is it b5 b7. ?) inverted downward arpeggios to a cadence back to original theme. LH doubling RH on scale creating harmonic role in the middle/upper
register .  Still not sure…?

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

Blocks: in my practice  I tried to decide which is more connected: e b5 b7, or e #7 #9, to create the cascading arpeggios in bars 3-6. Somehow they both seem out of character though e b5 b7 seems less so…. or is it a composition problem?

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I find it difficult to work in e minor, it’s an emotional mesh especially with its melodic steps raised 6&7.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Learning so much about music, harp playing, how to make things sound,  and so much of the talks mirroring a lot of real life aspects resonated a lot with me. I finally had answers to so much….and well, somethings released and music became the expression and harp became the tool….

What were your personal “Ahas”?

After every chat I went back to my music trying to see how I can work out the  topic discussed…. sometimes it felt like diving head on into cold waters… but I discovered I can swim…..

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

3 weeks after mom passed on,(2 years ago) I had this impulse standing at the top of the stair (G F#DB) a kind of dance… it would not go away…. for 2 years now I’m trying to give it Life . We were doing Blues at the time, but Strings of Passion are such fundamental aspect of any composition that it follows naturally. I  Decomposed and re wrote many parts.  In this video I’m trying the Lift Off last page of Blues for Mom…

Mike

Mike chose to share two contrasting Christmas tunes as a holiday ecard for friends, many of whom know very little about his harping. I think Mike speaks for a lot of people when he said about sharing his project: I had to face the immortal truth enunciated by Popeye: “I am what I am and that’s all what I am…”

DHC Says: It’s been so great to see your dedication to this class! When you started it you didn’t even have a harp, right? And here you are playing a medley! And I loved the set-up of the ‘stage,’ with the stockings behind the harp on the mantlepiece. What a GREAT holiday egift for friends!

Read Mike's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

Two contrasting Christmas tunes non-medley

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Principles from the class informed my choice of contrasting tunes

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Logistics were complex arranging harp, lights, backdrop, costume, computer, etc, etc
Emotions were involved when seeing myself in the video takes somewhat freaked me out

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

I had to face the immortal truth enunciated by Popeye: “I am what I am and that’s all what I am…”

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

“Stage fright” has plagued me to varying degrees in front of live audiences, but was manageable here

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Practice time varied with my emotional ups and downs

What were your personal “Ahas”?

See Popeye quote above

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

As Christmas eCard this will be directed to friends and family many of whom know very little about my involvement with harp 

Debra

Debra says she put her project together in two days, but it’s what she learned in the Academy that helped her do that. She wanted to create a special feeling of summer and sunshine, even in midwinter, so she looked for tunes about sunshine, transposed and deconstructed them to the simplest form to get a sunshine medley that’s really fun.

DHC says: This is GREAT!!! It really DOES bring sunshine – love the backdrop, what you’re wearing the songs you chose. You really did keep it simple and AND TOTALLY BROUGHT YOURSELF – I LOVED that wink!!!  What a great gift … and not too shabby as a promo for gigs either!

Read Debra's Insights about this Project (click to open)
What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

My half-bake was a short video Xmas vignette promotion targeted Senior Living Enrichment Directors. For my Final, the plan was to do a promotion seeking bookings in the winter months – a different theme. Principles – Simplify harp, promote the voice, speak directly to the target, style up the theme with lighting, etc., create a kind of a blended abbreviated medley, keep it short as possible. Pick tunes that convey the feeling of light – & sunshine. So many principles that are being embedded in my practice and performance. Resilience, Yay!!

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I put it all together in two days. I had the theme in my head. I looked for tunes about sunshine, I transposed and deconstructed them to the simplest form, I wrote the script, I got a volunteer to help with camera and lighting (still deficient for my studio). I had been so busy with Xmas gigs, I got to this the last minute, not even finishing HHTK modules.

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

Presenting a happy delivery of the message, being relaxed while doing the takes, feeling confident with a very short rehearsal of the script/concept tune medley. I was tired to start. But I had to do it even if it is not the perfect take, I am on the road to creating these which will help my performance in the long run.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

To remember my strengths and weaknesses. To be cognizant of the coaching I have received and use it to my advantage. To KISS it into under a minute ½. To not sweat the small stuff.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Time always – especially this Christmas season. I missed many chats and haven’t caught up. I find it all valuable. However, I really need time to apply the learning in my practice.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I am understanding better how to craft a promotion using visual and music. Speech, weel, I gotta work on that. Directing myself to the camera, and also relaxation in performance.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

Don’t do it!! Just kidding haha. It’s a relief after you take the first step in really looking at yourself and seeing how you connect with yourself and others. The mirror absolutely helps you improve it and get comfortable with it.

Heather

The tune is “La Vie en Rose” — and it’s played by Heather’s trio – the Summerhill Trio. She says, “I used DHC’s brilliant idea of taking parts of the cadenza, which I had worked on for the cadenza module, and making them into an introduction. And although I’ve known the ‘form and structure’ ideas from the days I studied in music school way back in the Paleolithic era, I had never thought too much about how well they work as a platform to improvise upon.”

 

DHC Says: It’s been so fun to watch you develop the ideas in the class for the last 10 weeks and SOOOO fun to see you using them together with other musicians. I’m so happy you decided to include your ensemble for this project, and I love that this project could double as a demo video for your gigs!

Read Heather's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This video features my trio – the Summerhill Trio. They graciously agreed to show up today, learn the piece from a lead sheet and record it with me. The tune is La Vie en Rose which I worked on for the cadenza module. We had to play it in a different key (ouch) to accommodate our vocalist’s range, which meant I was jumping around looking for levers and bass notes. It is wonderful fun to take a few solo ideas and turn them into an ensemble piece.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I used DHC’s brilliant idea of taking parts of the cadenza, which I had worked on for the cadenza module, and making them into an introduction. also we tried to incorporate a 3x ending just before the final flourish. and Finally I was able to thicken up and provide more color to my accompaniment by using extended chords and non-chord tones.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

It was a real scramble to get three musicians together in one spot to learn and record the tune in one afternoon considering that both the violinist and vocalist were off to other gigs afterwards – it is Christmas Music Madness Month!. I had to let go of my half-baked medley idea as none of us had enough time to learn and record the three tune medley so I settled on one tune and this reduced everyone’s stress level. We are looking forward to working on the medley in January.

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

Settling for less music and a little less difficult project seemed like a “cop-out” at first but today it seemed like the perfect solution…and we are all happy with the end product, especially as we were able to do it soooo quickly.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I had to come to grips with the fact that there is no perfect recording and to realize this fact is quite liberating…aaahhhhhhhhhh- a deep satisfying sigh of relief…YES!

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I can just take chances and try new things and do not have to be successful at everything. I can relax more now and surprisingly even my trumpet playing has become a LOT better…even my high range is coming back because I know I can relax more and still do well – weird but true!

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Although I’ve known the ‘form and structure’ ideas from the days I studied in music school way back in the Paleolithic era, I had never thought too much about how well they work as a platform to improvise upon. I bet learned that it actually allows you to be super creative and once you start to work with them fearlessly, you can really start to breakout even more.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

The ladies I play with are tremendous fun. Our ‘out-takes’ from these recordings are hilarious and full of riotous laughter. We always have a tea chat before any of our rehearsals and afterwards I always have to dump out half cups of cold tea because we laugh and talk and make music with such intensity that our couple of hours together just flashes by…..and that is pure JOY!

Margi

Margi chose three Christmas Carols that sing of animals for her Final-Beginning Project. She says: “This is a GREAT course to learn to transition from being “paper trained” to improv. This was music I needed to work on for an upcoming gig for a group of folks over 90, and while I’m usually “embarrassed” to play such simple music, I realized that the tone, relaxed style and a few glances at the audience are more important. And even ended up having fun with the Hippopotamus song!”

DHC Says: I always love seeing your projects, Margi, and especially this year as I see you developing your focus for playing in ways to really engage the folks you’re playing for in nursing homes and assisted living care – and I’ve always enjoyed the ‘illustrations’ and ‘comments’ you add to your videos. Now you’ve got ME thinking about Hippopotami (if only people realized how dangerous they are, they wouldn’t get stuck under so many Christmas Trees!!)

[Description coming momentarily. We’re still editing this post so please come back in an hour or so, and refresh your screen to see any missing content]
Read Margi's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

I chose three Christmas Carols that sing of animals and added several of the things I learned in the course:  intros, modulating form one song to another, and an improv section.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I learned how to “keep playing” by adding a long intro, an exploration in the middle and how to string 3 songs together.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I struggled with flipping levers going from one song to another, and remembering the chords or chord progressions that go with the melodies. (No sheet music).

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

I started out with a hate obsession with “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” which I had to learn anyway for an upcoming gig for a group of folks over 90. I actually ended up sort of liking it. I realized that taking more time at the beginning to de-construct the music makes it much easier in the end.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I’m usually “embarrassed” to play such simple music, but then I realized that the tone, relaxed style and a few glances at the audience are more important.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

When I love the music, they will too!! I learned connection.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Christmas carols are great to learn without sheet music.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

This is a GREAT course to learn to transition from being “paper trained” to improv.

The main principle I used was simplifying piece down to what I could do rather than my original fancy idea of reharmonizing – and my big ‘Aha’ was to radically minimize the left hand.” (Dianne Phelan-Muller, New Mexico USA)

I chose music I had a connection to during my life and the knowledge I gained was how to arrange 3 pieces of music and modulate between them” (Susan – Massachusetts, USA)

Emma 

Emma played a well-known Christmas song, and created a movie showing pictures of her works, carving – including one still in-progress, paintings photographs and clay work.

DHC Says: What a beautiful gift, and what a generous sharing of yourself, especially knowing you’re feeling challenged by camera-shyness right now. I know this will be a wonderful gift for friends, and an inspiration to others who struggle from time to time (or always!) with shyness and anxieties about showing up – especially in front of video cameras.

What I especially love about this video – and what I think is especially inspiring – in addition to your playing – is that you found a way to share so much of yourself, so much of your creative expression — even if you weren’t ready to show yourself physically playing right now.  What a testament to the power of your creative expression. Thank you, Emma!

Read Emma's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

I am using a well known melody, I only arranged it, created the accompaniment for it. The movie is using all still pictures of my works, carvings (one is work-in-progress), paintings, photographing and clay work.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I used this well known melody and arranged it, added harmony. accompaniment to it.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I have severe performance anxiety. It took a lot of repete to get a somewhat acceptable version of playing. For me it is like a Piece Song.

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

I struggled with every step on the way. My extreme shyness was one of the biggest block, that i was not overcome at all. This is the reason, thet you only can hear but not see me.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

See previous two points.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Freedom of expression, being more willing to improvise not just with music, but other aspects of life, too.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Somewhere along the way I created two “mantras” for myself. 1. Don’t be afraid! 2. Above the migrating clouds the sky is always blue.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

Enjoy

Barbara 

Barbara’s video is a musical Christmas greeting with an adapted version of Greensleeves incorporating vamps, improvisation, parts of the melody in the five part arrangement with introduction and ending. Barbara said that what she learned from doing this project is to “Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to perfect. It’s about connection, not perfection. Have fun.”

DHC Says: I really love that you were able to incorporate that beautiful simple harmony you created when you were first working on this project, and to be loose, enjoy yourself and really connect from your heart – I love the warmth of your greeting at the end. I know this will absolutely warm and connect every one of your friends who sees it. It did for me!

Read Barbara's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

Musical Christmas Greeting with an adapted version of Greensleeves incorporating vamps, improvisation, parts of the melody in the five part arrangement with introduction and ending. It was different every time I played it, and this version was really different. It is always a surprise what happens.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to perfect. It’s about connection, not perfection. Have fun. Smile and connect with the recipient/audience. Consider the setting, the backdrop, what people will notice; i.e., this is about staging a performance rather than practicing a piece.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Actually, I set the scene with a beautiful pointsettia and positioned the phone camera in a position where I could look through the strings and smile at times instead of looking at the music. Since I wasn’t looking at the page, however, I veered off track several times and when I heard a “wrong” note, I just added something to it to balance it out and kept playing.

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

I had to just accept the “wrong” notes, viewing them as unintended, add a note or chord or two and keep going. In some ways it was a sloppy performance, but in other ways I was pleased that I was relaxed and able to smile and be my true self.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

The challenges were leaving ideas of performance accuracy behind in favor of expediency over continuing to make new videos because they kept changing every time!

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I had to stay up late to make the video and send it in. I would sometimes wake up in the night or early morning singing the music of this piece. I have loved being able to just “play around” with the music, rather than just keep playing what’s on the page, and follow strict rules, so I am now feeling more confident and comfortable with playing and I can’t wait to see how this develops from here!

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I am making progress and I am loving being able to play around on the harp like I own it.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

Know it’s not my best, but there’s enough good in it to share and wish each observer a very Merry Christmas!

Myra Brown

Myra played a mini-version of Auld Lang Syne, exploring it using the 5-part Arrangement form everyone learns in this class. Myra said: “The process of exploring each part of the whole was so much fun. Messing around with so many possibilities, say just for an intro, led me down many unexpected paths. Then deciding that a single arpeggio would be fine just felt so good.”

DHC says: Brava, Myra for exploring many possibilities (Yay!) — and then finding something simple that feels good! That’s exactly what I hope will happen when people use the exploration techniques we learn in this class. And what a lovely gift to give to your friends – and to US – to hear a melody many of us don’t know and to know that it’s the one Robert Burns preferred!  Thank you for that — a new enrichment of New Years!

Read Myra's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This is a video of my final beginning project. It is an abbreviated version of a five part arrangement of Auld Lang Syne.

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

The many imperfections are self evident but having done it I feel inspired to make another one with a more  appropriate background and a more thought out dialogue.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

The process of exploring each part of the whole was so much fun. Messing around with so many possibilities say just for an intro led me down many unexpected paths.  Then deciding that a single arpeggio would be fine just felt so good.
The struggle with technology felt massive but knowledge is power!

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I found it very difficult to play the tune and the accompaniment together with any degree of fluency.  I really did get fed up with myself.  It didn’t begin to come together until I could get away from the page.

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

I know that part of my problem comes from having had a mother that called out any mistakes she heard when I was taking piano lessons as a child. When I hear a mistake I find it hard not to freeze and then go back and try to fix it.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

All the usual internal negativity.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Just doing the class has got me back to spending time with the harp.  It has inspired me to claim time for myself despite the needs of others and it has inspired me to do more “messing around” without necessarily knowing where it might lead.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I think I have probably covered them above but so much of it is the guidance and support of DHC.
You have opened many doors.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

I have truly valued the presence of the others in the group.  We all have our struggles and it feels so good to have this link that is spread over such vast distances. Xxx to you all.

 Freedom of expression, being more willing to improvise not just with music, but other aspects of life, too! (Emma)
I learned connection. When I love the music, they will too!! (Margi)
” DHC, you have opened many doors!”  (Myra) 

John

The description section is still to be updated since John has recently sent the video as his Final Beginning Project

John wasn’t able to share a video of his work due to recent eye surgery but was generous with his insight about the class, his challenges, what helped him most and his personal “Ahas”!

DHC says: Thank you so much for sharing all this, John! It was fun to see you at the chats and I was so happy to read that you’re connecting your innate creativity from you work as an engineer to this new realm of music. I can’t wait to see what you do next and I’m thrilled to get to be part of this new adventure in your life of  bringing this freedom of expression to life!!

Read John's Insights about this Project (click to open)

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

With some initial practice playing by ear I was able to make three trial videos, as a followup to the first project submittal a few days ago.  I still have a very long way to go.

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

Updated Version 1.03, with minor updates and links to the three trial videos I was able to complete today.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

See PDF attachment.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

See PDF attachment.

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

See PDF attachment.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

See PDF attachment.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

See PDF attachment.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

See PDF attachment.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

It is the first attempt at a new adventure….!  🙂

Are you OK with me sharing your final project & answers to the 6 questions on my blog (or just sharing your answers to the 6 questions if you didn’t submit a final-beginning project)?

PDF File (click to open)

   

Marian

Marian says this is her “Winter Holiday ‘greeting card’.  Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, using all the things we learned.  Plus costume, lighting, set design and chutzpah!!”

DHC Says: Oh, Marian – this was really fun!  I loved seeing you incorporate the improvisation and reharmonizations. And I LOVE that you were able to switch projects. That says SO much about what you learned  — that you could simple apply everything you learned about the process and the structure of the arrangement form from creating your first project — and then just apply it to the project you finally created. What I love about that is that you’ll now be able to do the same with other tunes – which is the thing I most want everyone to learn in this class. So Yay!  And I love the hat, the earrings and the setting!

Read Marian's Insights about this Project (click to open)
Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

It’s my Winter Holiday ‘greeting card’.  Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, using all the things we learned.  Plus costume, lighting, set design and chutzpah!!

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

Just notes on what I’ve learned about myself and about arranging and playing music.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Having the 5 part idea as a scaffold was useful.  And being able to explore the different versions of each of the 5 parts was fun.  Being able to attend the weekly chats was invaluable so I could ask questions and connect with others. Encouragement from DHC, as well as others was greatly supportive.  The facebook page was a help at times. I changed my project because it wasn’t working and it wasn’t inspiring me to record it.  Making it a gift was a great re-frame.  It was good to see DHC’s concert.  That was inspirational and encouraging.  Good to keep hearing that mistakes are okay.  I practiced my half baked SO MANY TIMES it got really boring!  And then ended up not using it, but it served me anyway, in learning about the aspects of arranging.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

It was really tough to do my final.  After committing to making the recording, and using my creativity, I spent a number of hours designing and creating the ‘set’- using the Winter Holiday theme.  Christmas lights, garland, candles, etc.  And then I created my costume for i- makeup, hat, embellishments, etc.  All of that was a challenge.  It’s something I used to do A LOT of when I was younger, but being older has kicked my butt in terms of external responses to me as an older woman.  I had to dig deep to find my confidence again, and to allow myself to be who I still am, and to look how I look now…to still find myself and my offering beautiful and worthy of being shared.  Also, I didn’t achieve the level of “perfection” that I wanted, and that was hard, too.  I’ve done a lot of performing in my life, but the harp is an instrument I took up later in life, and there have been a few setbacks.  I recorded this at least 8 times and finally had to just take the best one. And I have to play slowly in order to play well, so it makes the time limit stressful.  After all of that, the technical aspect still has me quite frustrated.  Struggling with how to use my (new) PC.   My old Mac died midway through the course and the new PC has been a steep learning curve.

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

I answered some of this in the previous question.  There’s a bit more about affirming my own skill and sense of drama and flair.  And my innate musicality…and what’s in the way of expressing that as I age.  There is more self-consciousness than I realized, and it’s keeping me back from exploring and enjoying music more than I realized.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Challenges;- realizing how self conscious I’ve become and wondering where all of my confidence and skills from  the past have gone.  Technological issues with recording, uploading, etc.  Having my vision be a bit too far ahead of my skill level.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I’m single and retired.  Having this regular slot to commit to has been really important to finding some sense of order in my life.  Having a project to work on has been great.  And I realized that I haven’t been taking my harp studies seriously enough…because of this idea that I’m not that good at it anyway. (!) So I’m glad to have that unmasked and looking forward to getting more engaged and being the updated (or just the ‘dated’!) version of myself as a performer who values my own offerings enough to share them with others.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Ahas;  *I’m not that bad at this!  *I might enjoy making more videos once I get the hang of it. *I do have innate arranging skills.  *I require more practice time than I used to.  That’s humbling!  * Playing slowly is okay!  (except that makes it hard to fit in to the time allotted!!)

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

I think I’ve said it all!  Thanks for witnessing…

I had to come to grips with the fact that there is no perfect recording and to realize this fact is quite liberating…aaahhhhhhhhhh- a deep satisfying sigh of relief…YES!
– Heather

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