What’s is like to dare to learn a whole new way to play music? To let go of the notes on the page and arrange and improvise, right in the moment – regardless of your technical level – regardless of how long you’ve been playing an instrument – regardless of how old you were when you started?  

Let the members of Hip Harp Academy tell you – in their own words, music & video – as they share a snapshot of time.  Click the toggle beneath each video to read the personal creative journey of each piece.

Be inspired by that commitment and courage, let it infuse your own life – and if you play the harp, come join us at Hip Harp Academy.

[ See All the Winter 2021 Projects:  Projects #1  –  Projects #2  –  Projects #3


Jolijne Viergever:

Dancing with the Waves is an ode and farewell to a long-time inspirational friend. I sat behind the harp and though extremely tired, the notes came out as I saw her dancing with the waves. I feel the freedom to just be me with my harp and my story.

Jolijne's Insights about this Project

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.

This is a picture of my friend in dance pose on the beach when she was younger. It gave me the inspiration to create the middle 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?

The 5-part arrangement, finding a chord progression as a base, using 1-5-10’s and 1-5-9’s, the concept of doodling 😊
Too tired to even lift some levers, but seeking comfort from my harp, i just started doodling with all the levers down (Cm or Eb), just using 1-5-10, going to 1-5-9, trying out thirds and got to some base I liked, but got completely stuck then. I just wanted to send this bit in as a half-bake but then my friend passed away. Her daughter asked me to come over to wake with her and she showed me the picture on the beach. When I came back late night I sat behind the harp and though extremely tired, the notes came out as I saw her dancing with the waves.

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

I was very tired both physical and emotional and had no clue what project to choose as a final. Because I want to replace some of the songs in my performance for originals, I was thinking of writing something about the sea or water. I just started with trying out several of the tools I wrote down in my notebook

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

Being so tired and emotionally drained I couldnt find any inspiration. I felt completely blocked

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

 When I finished the piece, I was totally fine playing it here at home. I was asked to play it at my friends cremation. Wave of emotion hit me when I sat next to her to play and it took me some time to reconnect with myself to be able to play for her

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

I have written my first solo show, in which i speak, sing and play using some of the tools from class, but most of all the freedom to just be me with my harp and my story.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Not trying to force anything and keep connected with yourself

Betty Herloski:

I can do this! I’m getting rid of the idea that lead sheets are not really playing and that it’s not ‘cheating’, it’s creative and expresses the real me.

Betty's Insights about this Project

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

Final perfectly imperfect version for Hip Harp Tool kit final project. My take on “Seasons of the Night.”

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?

3 part song (main theme, improv, main theme) Using vamps to introduce each song section, 3 part turn around to end. Using 1-5-8 and 1-5-10 chords. Building chord down from the top down – adding a 6th, and then a third below 6th. In the improv I tried a few different new things.

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 learn/practice song in snippets because I can’t play for long. That way allowed me to see what notes and chords I liked. It’s really perfectly imperfect, but the song touched me. Emotionally I had to accept that is what I can do right now.

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

Freedom knowing I can make the song my own. I actually wasn’t found of it until we did it in Lead Sheet Boot Camp. It really touches me when I play. 

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

I was able to memorize the chord patterns and melody and switch it up. To add a little creativity, I added the day to night background as well as my harp at the beginning and end. I had to deal with physical limitations.

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

Not to give up and to work at my level of function.  I need to try not to feel down, and it’s okay to take a break.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I can do this! I’m getting rid of the idea that lead sheets are not really playing and that it’s not ‘cheating’, it’s creative and expresses the real me. I know that I’ve said this before, but playing harp in my small part of world comes with expectations – I’m finally beginning to put that aside.

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

I am having shoulder surgery on 12/6, so to play I had to keep my right arm against my body. Things had to be changed from what heard in my head. The beginning and last shots reflects my feelings now – my harp will be in shadows for a while, but not forgotten.

Cathy Hornby:

My main breakthrough in this course was, finally, starting to sing as I play the harp – a major goal!

Cathy's Insights about this Project

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

Here’s an arrangement of ‘Bonny at Morn’ – of a snippet of it anyway! It’s a traditional folk song from the North East of England, and I’ve sung it, unaccompanied, for years, and thought this beautiful tune would be lovely on the har.

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 main breakthrough in this course was, finally, starting to sing as I lay the harp – a major goal. The principles of using chords, being able to improvise around the shape of the tune, and letting go of the need to play melody is part of what enabled me to sing. The techniques of using cookie cutter hand shapes, using the 1-5-10 pattern, and the structure has been so helpful, and by learning SIMPLE chord progressions, then trusting my right hand will find some interesting melodies and counter melodies over the chords has been a game changer. 
I’ve taken to heart the coaching regarding slowing down the sections of a piece/song to be able to negotiate the trickier places, and also to keep going if I make a ‘mistake’. 
In one of the chats, that big takeaway was ‘what you played might not have been exactly what you meant to play, but maybe it said exactly what it was meant to say’ – and this has made a whole difference. Really helpful advice I’m holding on to!

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

I have so many critical voices (in my head) telling me that I’ll ‘never be able to play and sing’ and that what I record is such a poor version of what I ‘could’ do and it’s not good enough, so pushing past this is a huge achievement. 
Logistically, this course has been during a busy and very emotional time (son’s wedding, and a big family funeral, and a couple more trips taking me away from my harp) so I’ve not been able to work through modules, and nearly missed the window for making a final video – I’m so pleased I did manage to make something that I’m ‘happy enough’ with. 

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

I’m getting more relaxed around improvising, though accuracy generally, and particularly when nervous (which is when anyone is watching/listening/recording) is still a huge issue and I find returning to a melody, playing it without mistakes, is tricky. But, I’m starting to see the ‘mistakes’ as ‘creative diversions’  – and that sometimes they sound like I meant it. 😉

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

The main issue was finding time, and space where I could set up and play without feeling self conscious, and also allowing myself to explore this song in a new way. The song has three verses and a repeating chorus so I also worried about conveying the mood and tone of the piece in a time constraint. Also, I know my harp playing is less competent when I sing, and my singing less free and accurate when I’m playing…but, I so want to combine them and hope the result is still greater than the simple sum of the parts.

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

I’m starting to be able to imagine playing and singing other pieces. This gives me a sense of accomplishment, and is challenging those years of ‘I can’t do this’ thinking!

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Play slowly if you need to
And if it does what it’s meant to do it’s great, even if it’s not quite what you meant to play! 
And – yes, I CAN sing and play.
Following a lead sheet opens up loads of possibilities even if I can’t follow a single note of what is written! 
I’m learning that ‘good enough’, is just fine!

Louise Bell:

I always gather inspirations from the course and chats. My “Aha” was that I can find a way to transcend technical challenges if I persevere!

Louise's Insights about this Project

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 pattern I sketched out during a chat, and played for the faster sections in both Half-Baked & Final Beginning.

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 always gather inspirations from the course and chats, but was especially taken with the overlapping hands pattern for broken chords on November 8, AND it was in one of my favourite modes! [5th mode of A Harmonic Minor]

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

To make this more interesting I took up DHC’s suggestion of layering, but not being slick with a looper yet, I chose a tempo, recorded the main video/audio with metronome from phone via earbuds, and overdubbed the rest of the bass line in GarageBand! Visually, she wanted to see my harp but I wanted to be less visible so I could emphasise the desert and sky images, so I filmed as a silhouette with just the harp and my arms showing. Emotionally: exhilarated with the creativity; determined, and relieved when I came up with solutions!

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

I’m at home improvising in this mode, so that felt free. My hesitancy with looping I solved with overdubs [see above]. I glaze over with iMovie at times trying to find techniques and buttons; but I’ve now learned about Cutaway, to layer 2 videos and control the opacity, hooray.

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

It took quite a few days to solve the visual challenges for filming me playing harp. I tried lamps in the studio; hanging a white sheet on the clothesline for a shadow plan, but then the weather was overcast! Finally, hiding in plain sight: a large window in the bedroom. Double layer of white fabric to diffuse the light more evenly, coffee table perched on the bed, harp on a box and me standing by the window: voilá!

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

Loving how a new pattern in the chats can blossom so readily into a fresh creation.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

That I can find a way to transcend technical challenges if I persevere!

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

When you see the section with forward and backward footage alternating ask me about a childhood dream! 🙂

Joke Verdoold:

In this project I’ve told the fable of the Tiger and the Donkey. I discovered that I don’t have always to be very sure that content and ways of communication are fitting for the listener, before I speak. The same is valid for playing, some ‘unintentionals’ can work very well.

Joke's Insights about this Project

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

In this Fin.Beg. project I’ve told the whole fable, but stil somewhat shortened. I’ve tried to make a better match of voice and harp, made a theme for the Tiger and made the Donkey less overwhelming. I just hope all this shared attention, didn’t deminish the pronunciation.

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?

Free improvisation used for helping the storytelling.

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

I found (and find) it very hard to find good stories that suit me and my way of speaking and at the same time are interesting for the listeners. 

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

I didn’t perceive story telling as an achievement. I couldn’t see why people would listen to something I’m saying.

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

It proved very difficult to imagine which played sounds/parts where supporting the story. And difficult to play them correctly, as I felt I had to look at the public meanwhile telling the story, so I couldn’t look where to place my fingers at the strings.

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

Sometimes, when I speak to people out of my inner-circle they really seem to enjoy it. I’m learning to stop bothering that my inner-circle never will. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I don’t have always to be very sure that content and ways of communication are fitting for the listener, before I speak. The same is valid for playing, some ‘unintentionals’ can work very well.

Sally Walstrum:

I always struggle with perfectionism, so I was determined to do this project in one take. There are parts of the video that I like and parts that I do not, but I let go and submitted my one and only recording.

Sally's Insights about this Project

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

I’ve been working on adapting DHC’s “My Mother’s Mexican Hat,” which is the first movement of her concerto “Soñando en Español,” for solo harp. This is an extremely shortened version of it.

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?

With DHC’s coaching, I’ve been working on taking a piece written for harp & orchestra and playing it as a solo harp piece. I incorporated the use of 6ths, improvisation, playing a melody line in both hands 2 octaves apart, and ideas of what to add in the bass.

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

I cut down a piece that takes me around 7 minutes to play to under 2.5 minutes for the purpose of this Final Beginning. I struggled with what to leave in and what to cut out. I kept changing my mind since I enjoy all the parts of the piece and didn’t want to leave any of it out. I also wasn’t sure if what I finally came up with made for a cohesive piece of music.

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

I’m very much a reader of music so it was a struggle to come up changes for the harp in places where the orchestra takes over the melody. I didn’t think I could do the piece as a solo, but DHC’s coaching was invaluable in this area.

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

It was a challenge to change the mood of certain sections since a single instrument can’t do a big buildup the way a full orchestra can. There were places where I wanted to make a big splash musically, but found it was effective with just the harp. I sometimes ended up taking the opposite approach and made it softer and calmer.

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

I’m trying to be more accepting of who I am and what I can & cannot do. I always struggle with perfectionism, so I was determined to do this project in one take. There are parts of the video that I like and parts that I do not, but I let go and submitted my one and only take.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Embrace who you are.

Harp Players!

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Angie Smales:

Once I let go of the compartmentalisation and self-criticism, I was able to relax and have fun.

Angie's Insights about this Project

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.

This is the poster I produced for the labyrinth walk, I approached local shops to put it in their windows and shared it on Instagram.

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 produced the attached poster and took my harp to the labyrinth and played around with Intro, melody, exploration and outro. Because my playing is meant to be a meditation focus, I stayed away from recognisable melodies.
The video clip caught me doing the 2-5-1-6, 2-5-1 progression.

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

John Lennon said ‘Life happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. I thought I was too busy to submit a final beginning project, being in the middle of final assessment tasks for the Therapy Harp Training course and juggling my little zither enterprise. When I saw Carol’s submission in the last chat, it dawned on me that I actually have incorporated the key points of the HHT in what I’m already doing (many, many thanks to Carol for sharing). 
One of my tasks for the THTP is to choose an Independent study area and I chose to explore the role of the harp as a focus anchor in meditation.

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

I had to let go of perfectionism which the allowed me to explore.

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

Self-criticism.

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

Doing this project gave me a structure that, apart from new techniques, made me practice self-discipline, especially the early morning session.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Once I let go of the compartmentalisation and self-criticism, I was able to relax and have fun.

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

This is not a polished video, just a demonstration recorded for an assessment task.

Tina Scholz:

Be brave.  Keep it simple.  Make a connection.

Tina's Insights about this Project

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

My project:  “Another Way to Say Goodbye”  

Here I’m making a graduation message for one of my graduating seniors.  I used the chord progression of “I Hope You Dance” while I read a poem about a bird.  I ended up using the piano cuz I was working out some improv issues that weren’t working for me on the harp at the time.  I had to use landscape mode on my phone from the piano to make the “best eye contact” with my student.

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?

Vamps, noodling, intro, melody, improv and ending (the ending didn’t repeat as I would have like cuz of time constraint)

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

To suck it up and be brave.  Keep it simple.  Make a connection

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

That I could make sounds from the notes and my vision worked, although rusty & needs more work.  Kinda my first composition. 

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

Trying to make a ending, smoothing it out, needed to play the chords faster

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

I’m braver.  Leading my own zoom meetings in another book study, Christmas harp circle.  Turning in recordings for other projects outside of the Academy (Harp Day, Shelley Fairplay’s Christmas Collaboration 2021.  A year ago I wouldn’t have thought myself worthy enough.  Thank you, Deborah!

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I “can” do this — yea!!

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

The whole idea was a big experimentation I wanted to try

Cherrie Mooney:

There were times of frustration when I didn’t believe this piece would work at all. I didn’t give up. I’m feeling more confident with each completed project.

Cherrie's Insights about this Project

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

I chose a traditional piece, Arioso by Bach. My goal was to change the rhythm the second time through the melody, try a cadenza, and to play fluidly. I played an intro, melody (1st half), something similar to a cadenza (maybe part improv), melody with a different rhythm (still 1st half), and an ending. I used the 6545 progression for the cadenza/improv.

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?

  1. Use the blueprint for guidance.
    2. Play the different sections repeatedly, with an open mind, and new musical ideas will emerge.
    3.  Try different chord progressions for the cadenza/improv .
    4. Try substituting chords.

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

I needed to study the piece before starting anything.(Patience) I saw the 2-5-1 chords changing it to a new key. It also had odd phrasing, 5 measures, 7 measures. I also needed to review the new ideas/options learned in the class to see if they could be used.

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

There were times of frustration, when I didn’t believe this piece would work at all. I didn’t give up.

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

I’m still working on the ideas becoming a part of me, so I don’t have to keep going through my notes to find something that works.

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

Slow and steady wins the . . . completion of the project, this and other projects.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I’m feeling more confident with each completed project. I’m enjoying the challenges.

Laurie Hartmann:

I had just come back from a visit with my two year old grandson and wanted to send him a video reflecting my love for him and memories of our visit. Fun to communicate this way!

Laurie's Insights about this Project

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

Song for Jasper- talking with harp morphing into impromtu song

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?

daring to connect rather than perfect

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

I had just come back from a visit with my two year old grandson and wanted to send him a video reflecting my love for him and memories of our visit

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

The freedom of not knowing what I was going to do and then plunging in.

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

Learning to cut and edit it on Youtube studio

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

Creating and expressing love for my grandson in a way that is tangible

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Fun to communicate this way

Vera Stern:

I wanted this piece to be a more advanced playing level ….. but after struggling with clarity and sound I gave up being overly ambitious and followed my intuition to create a good composition, not a technical exercise…

Vera's Insights about this Project

Video 1

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

The short video is the actual introduction ( with exposition and a second theme).
I used the first theme partly inverted to create the second theme.
I used repeated bass note to move the melody into canonical shape and then changed harmony to lapse into a jazzy playful section..
With The first theme I intended to introduce the listener to the harmonic- melodic journey ( a parallel narrative of the life journey). Second theme with a lilt was meant to depict the character of the person who is on the journey. This section tells of a happy childhood until the break of the WWII.

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 the following principles we talked about in various chats: repeating a bass note above which a melody unfolds.; changing one note in the harmony to give colour and character ; development of theme by changing rhythm and harmony. Returning to the home key with short cadence. 

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

This version took a long time to develop. I kept playing this in my mind to find intuitively what did not feel right. Checked harmonies at the piano. The technical skill was a challenge until I could make sense of harmony, melody and sound on the harp which is not always obvious… I remembered the point made in one of the chats : simpler is better, easier to play is more clear for the listener. 

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

I wanted this piece to be a more advanced playing level ….. but after struggling with clarity and sound I gave up being overly ambitious and followed my intuition to create a good composition not a technical exercise…

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

THe challenge for me was the harmony and left hand accompanying the melodic theme. I wanted the melody to be like a song, a lullaby, a soothing chant and a deep sorrow for the loss of my mother. The title of the piece is her life journey, a soul raising above all odds to affirm the positive of life. This was very difficult for me to overcome as only now in hindsight can I understand some of her challenges…

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

There was a lot of inspiring encouragement in the chats. Also listening to the works presented being discussed gave me perspective on my own process of composing.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Giving up on not being good enough…!

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

This composition has been in the working since summer 2017 … during the pandemic I felt an urgency to work on it daily wether in my mind or actually playing on the harp. Dozens of short videos  to get feedback from  my own playing, dozens of corrections printed out… and private sessions with DHC. Now I wonder have I reached the end of this work process?

Video 2

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

A longer video : (3.45 min) A segment of the composition Eva’s Journey 

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.

To introduce this segment I started with an arpeggio in e minor, the home key . Then I presented the melodic and harmonic pattern to introduce the listener to the movement, time, volume settings of the heart pulse of the 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?

Using the melodic thematic material from the exposition ( first short video), breaking it down into motives, using rhythm to express feelings, and inverting the melody .

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

Harmony was a bit tricky because of the harmonic melodic minor key . To change feelings and moods I tried using hues of Blues and use of the melody as a vamp in the Lullaby allowing the rhythm to take over and convey the rocking feeling.

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

The narrative of this segment came to me after a session with DHC in Which we discussed how to transition between different segments of the composition 

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

The challenge was in the various ways of using the same thematic material without is being overly stated and redundant.

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

I looked for the feeling of accomplishment in every little change I made to improve the composition 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Enjoying simplicity…

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

The sections in this video depict :
a dream with an  affirmation of life ( using the introductory theme).
A reminiscence of past life.
A lullaby ( a new life ,a new generation,).

Tara:

When exploring ideas for arrangements/improvisation, I tend to reach beyond what I can play smoothly.  But then I have to consciously and repeatedly try to simplify, as well as stay focused on what I’ve got rather than continually exploring.

Tara's Insights about this Project

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

This is my version of “Daisy Bell,” also known as “Bicycle Built for Two,” which I play on the double-strung.  It’s in 5-part song format: intro, chorus, interlude, chorus, ending.  The original song was written by Harry Dacre and published in 1892.  My version here is instrumental only.

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?

Although I’ve known this song since childhood, I had never played it on any instrument until preparing for this project.  I tried playing it on the harp with no printed music at all, but when that seemed unnecessarily frustrating, I created a lead sheet (choosing my own chords).  For a while, I played from the lead sheet (mostly), alternating my focus among just the chord roots (big letters), just the melody, just interlude ideas, etc.  Eventually, I migrated away from the printed music, trusting that I would be able to stick to a 5-part song form without it.

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 play the song A LOT. Even when I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, I spent a lot of time stumbling over where I wanted to go.  Sometimes that was mere confusion and sometimes it was some doubtlessly brilliant idea cropping up in an otherwise smooth play-through.  I had to be patient with myself and allow the process to take however long it needed.

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

This piece has a gently rocking and joyful quality that inspired me to keep working on it.  Because the melody is so well-known, it is very accessible to listeners.  That also gives the disadvantage to me that I have to be careful not to mess it up, because people have very strong expectations.

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

When exploring ideas for arrangements/improvisation, I tend to reach beyond what I can play smoothly.  That is the nature of exploration, so I’m okay with that for a while.  But then I have to consciously and repeatedly try to simplify, as well as stay focused on what I’ve got rather than continually exploring.

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

Not only do I have a lead sheet that I can share with  other musicians, I also have a nice little double-strung arrangement that I might write out to share also.  More widely, this experience reinforces the idea that periods of relative chaos are fine when alternated with periods of relative tidiness.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I need to approach a piece of music in many ways and many times before I can feel comfortable with it.  That fact is no reflection of how musical or talented I may feel (or not feel).

Special Thanks

Very special thanks to harpist Sally Walstrum for collecting and curating these video gifts (including the 20+ others that we’ll be sharing in coming days). Sally – you are a joy and an inspiration.  And thanks to everyone in the Academy for your willingness to share your gifts with the world. You make this a richer world to live in. (DHC 12/24/21)

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