I’m always surprised and moved by emails I get from students in my workshops and classes. What moves me is people willing to share the underbelly of what it takes to set out on the path of bringing more creative freedom into their lives – because no creative strategy avoids how we come face to face with ourselves.

So I was especially moved by this, which I got yesterday after about 75 harpists made it through “Lead Sheet Bootcamp Retreat” over the weekend. Bernadette shares so honestly how difficult  it can be – but at the same time how rewarding it can be – to let go of the notes, AND how doing it together with others can keep you going.

 Thank you Deborah,

I am two thirds of the way through the replays.
Painstakingly hard to keep up
and humiliating to let go of notes in order to keep going.
So much wonderful learning ABOUT MYSELF
for which I hope I will be very grateful.
When you showed participants, one lady with silvery white hair
had a frowny/ concentration face.
THIS is what is keeping me going,
Knowing it’s not just easy for everyone else.
Thank you for all your hours of work,

Bernadette (O’Rourke) –
Melbourne , Australia

I was so blown away by Bernadette’s willingness to acknowledge that sense of humiliation that so many of us experience when we feel we ‘can’t keep up,’ but continue to stick it out and eventually overcome it.  I felt like she was helping me see my own struggles with what I need to let go of in order to keep going. I asked her if I could share what she wrote and I wrote back:

Congratulations for being two thirds through the replays!

Even greater congratulations for letting go of notes. That’s THE HUGEST triumph of this! (And writing this to you is making me wish I’d said that 20 times a day)

The minute we let go of the notes and let the music pull us, tumbling, feeling out of control, unable to ‘keep up’ – is the moment when we’re actually starting to play the music instead of the notes.

We get so stuck in trying to get it right — and you pegged it exactly: we feel humiliated when we DO have to let go of what we think we’re supposed to be able to doand yet that is what actually allows us break free, to have fluency: the ability to communicate and connect without being stopped by how overwhelmingly imperfect what we’re doing is.

I struggle with it constantly – not so much in music, but powerfully in other areas. So I deeply appreciate your taking the time to share how you experience it. 

I think that people who’ve been in the Academy for awhile have gotten used to this (which doesn’t mean they don’t still struggle with it).

And you’re absolutely right: that seeing that others are also struggling DOES give us courage. I think that’s why it’s so important to me to teach within a community, they get to see each others’ struggles. They also get to see each others’ bravery – and they get inspired by each other. 

Thank you so much for sharing that with me. 

Until I started this Academy, I honestly thought it was ‘just me’ — that I was the only person who couldn’t keep up. Now I realize that it’s RARE when someone feels they’re actually ‘keeping up’. What’s beautiful is having a place where we can share that, and still belong 100%, and still trust we’re moving the needle on our own creative freedom.

And that has everything to do with being IN a community of people who share their goals, their breakthroughs and their struggles. So we’re not ALONE.

Not having to do it ALONE was one part of what Bootcamp gives you.

To do that, I literally sat there and played WITH all the participants – harpists from around the world – for 12 hours. Nobody could hear each other except during the Q&A session. Everyone was simply playing in their own homes along with me (and apparently, swearing and throwing tantrums from time to time – or so they told me later).

Support in playing through that frustration and being able to let go was the other part. Because it’s being able to play THROUGH it that gives you FREEDOM.

When I was developing my improv chops in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I was playing in dining rooms to make a living. I was learning on the job and I had to keep playing through, and find in-the-moment strategies to make it sound like I knew what I was doing. I had to learn to let go of every finesse and embellishment that got in my way so I could make it through each tune, had to learn to drop everything I couldn’t do and hold to what I could do to complete each tune, imperfectly – and go on to the next.

My JOB depended on it.

This is what I tell students in Hip Harp Academy to do because it’s the only way to get fluency:  to NOT STOP and FIX … but to keep moving, to get the EXPERIENCE of truly playing THROUGH each piece, of feeling COMPLETION instead of the ever-stuttering incompletion of trying to get every note right.

I tell them to just sit down and play without stopping. But it’s almost impossible to do that unless you’re playing with someone else who doesn’t stop. So that’s what I did in Lead Sheet Bootcamp, where we developed a whole repertoire of tunes over the weekend, from Classical to Celtic to Blues and Jazz. In fact, part of the INTENTION of the Bootcamp model was to make it impossible for people to stop and engage in the old model of ‘getting all the notes right’.

And while I suspect there was a lot of swearing and throwing of tuning-keys across the room, there was also a huge celebration at the end.

If you missed “Lead Sheet Bootcamp Retreat” you can get it ALL – now that all the replays are on line.

And Bernadette — THANK YOU!!

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