Welcome to Part 3 of Hip Harp Academy Member Spotlight Series

For the last 3 months, the members of Hip Harp Academy have been stretching themselves creatively, learning to put their creative expression into forms that they can share with others. Now they’re sharing that with you – in the form of these video shares.

How to enjoy these wonderful video shares:  Enjoy the creativity and the willingness to share. Think about the fact that each of these videos is a unique creation – none of these musicians are playing written sheet music – they’ve created these arrangements by learning the fundamentals of arrangement and improvisation and putting them into play – literally – in their own creations.

Read their own account of their personal creative journey in creating each video by clicking the toggle beneath each video – and I encourage you to do that if you really want to be inspired.

Some of the players have played for years, and even decades – some have come to the harp as adults – some even as a retirement gift for themselves.   We’re a community connected by a commitment to creative expression. Every week we meet for masterclasses and training, during the week we practice the new ideas and the willingness to be vulnerable, authentic and self-expressed with our instruments, our voices and ourSELVES.

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

See all the Academy Member Spotlight Series:
Part #1  –  Part #2  –  Part #3

Debra Sawyer:

My personal ahas are that I am more courageous than I ever imagined. Plus people want to help you and it’s a reciprocal position. We share the creative impulse and creative energy.

Debra's Insights about this Project

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 principals in the exploration of patterns through snippets and progressions; modulating to another pattern and back; creating and exploring song structure and what makes a song structure effective. Feedback on the process was essential from submitting homework on my project to getting as far as I am now and I’ve still got a ways to go. 

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

The joy of my music practice is to write, sing/play my own songs. I have written some songs just for harp but this song project had me look at the dimensions of a production – knowing what I felt and heard in my head when I played the song for myself. It is like seeing the landscape and exploring what I hear and dream with instruments and voices, tempo, rhythm, meaning, expression, syntax, etc., and how to get to what I hear and feel. It’s still in process but never have I been so involved in this shaping and forming and all the ahas that brought to this place.

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

I struggle with continuity and connection. I want to connect on many levels but need to really look at details and the whole at the same time. The process is training me as well as input from others.

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

My challenge is to feel secure in my position as a writer, producer, and performer. Working with other people demonstrated what I want to see evolve in this piece as art. Others always have contributions and I had to consider those and how they aligned with my own vision.

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

I had surgery on my right shoulder which inhibited playing with two hands, writing with a pencil, or even typing, or texting. But I realized I am in a supportive and encouraging community so I kept playing with my left hand and on a keyboard as soon as I felt good enough to be physically present. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

My personal ahas are that I am more courageous than I ever imagined. Plus people want to help you and it’s a reciprocal position. We share the creative impulse and creative energy. We do see it in others and have a need to accept it in ourselves, and this propels us forward.

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

This song is still in process. I released this draft version to several other singer/songwriters and asked for their thoughts. It was immensely helpful to hear what others were getting and suggestions on lyric and expression. 

Chari McHale:

I used the Vision Sheet to sketch it and used the process again for another project. I am beginning to be in touch with my creative voice and vision and bring it into being.

Chari's Insights about this Project

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

This is a visual story about Frida Kahlo and her art. It is accompanied by Nataliana v3. I submitted a half baked. The only thing I changed was adding her name to the title page and credits at the back.

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 snippets helped me and version 1 and 3, simplifications of the piece, made it possible to take my first pass and present 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 give myself time to allow my creative process to unfold and used the concepts from the Strings of Passion to guide me.

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

Blocks first. Still have a hard time with the technical part of IMovie for credits and title pages…that it was ok for it not to be perfect. 

Freedoms: allow myself to reach out for help…a friend for a healing process…questions. Also the freedom to not know how it’s going to turn out. Another freedom is realizing that my sight reading could really be improved, so I am looking into that.

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

The challenge was letting the images and music unfold the story. Not to have a verbal narrative. It was the mood of the piece that I wanted to speak…not facts written or spoken.

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

I really felt the process unfold. I had to get out and walk in the forest for the inspiration to come and then I was able to flow with it. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I used the Vision Sheet to sketch it and used the process again for another project. I am beginning to be in touch with my creative voice and vision and bring it into being.

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

Didn’t change much from the half baked; added title page and credits.

Susan Reagan:

I can always submit something even if it’s not perfect and learn from it.  Also, there is SO much you can learn from the other classmate’s projects.  They are all inspiring.

Susan's Insights about this Project

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

This is a piece of music I wrote called “Gentle Breezes.” I used the DCGA, DGC pattern.

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 DGCA,DGC pattern for the foundation.
I also played the chords going up & down.
Both ideas from chat and challenge.

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

I used iMovie for the first time to put in the title page, but I couldn’t figure out how to put in pictures and keep the music playing.

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

I felt a freedom working within a pattern.

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

One of the challenges was the sound. I should have used my other harp.  I think it sounds tinny.
I wanted to make the video outside but it’s been raining.  So I tried to adjusted the background to fit the piece at the last minute.
Another challenge was the second melody.

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

I can always submit something even if it’s not perfect and learn from it.  Also, there is SO much you can learn from the other classmate’s projects.  They are all inspiring.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I should have worn long sleeves!

Eily Aurora:

It was a lot of fun! And many years of courage to bring together. My goal is to create regular videos with harp that soothe people and bring Rainbow The Harp Faery more regularly into their lives.

Eily's Insights about this Project

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

A video of the Harp Faery catching a sacred song while on an island, called Kormu.

I wrote the song and performed and captured this video on the same day. Its a great step forward!

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 structure–it really played a part to support the song. I felt the melody. I took time to slow down and practice it and get to know it. A friend I could come back to.

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

Creating a Spirit-Led Artist Retreat for 5 days on an Island. Sitting down with a still mind on moss in a forest with no expectation. I started playing and this melody and song came through. I had the time to explore the song and melody for most of the day, then get ready as the harp faery, find a good spot, and use my new tripod/microphone. Then patience!

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

The freedom of being more expressive with my music on video as the harp faery.

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

Gear was a big challenge. My harp music wasn’t coming through well on video with my phone. I was partly okay with it, as it gave me an excuse to not push forward. But, I pushed through and got better gear and thus made a big breakthrough.

Also, being alone was a gift and a challenge. It was more tiring to film alone but also freeing as I didn’t feel self-conscious at all with someone watching.

The challenge I overcame was distraction. I created the focused space to tune into the Harp Faery and it worked wonders!

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

The sense of team spirit from the Academy to move past my challenges and make small steps forward into the unknown.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I loved the experience of moving and creating a melody for the Song’s Spirit. As DHC suggested, I used the harp as my puppet for Song’s Spirit and then visualized seeing it move around and me capturing it.

Playing with Shadows and light with the sun—this brought such magic to the video.

Creating a CLEAR storyline before photo/video! This was huge. I knew exactly where i was, why i was there and what the purpose of my movements/actions were.

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

It was a lot of fun! And many years of courage to bring together. Especially getting sound/video quality higher. My goal is to create regular videos with harp that soothe people and bring Rainbow The Harp Faery more regularly into their lives.

Cherrie Mooney:

A challenge for me was being able to play the original piece from the sheet music. Once I had the freedom to play what I wanted, with some suggestions on simplifying, it was more doable and I enjoyed the process.

Cherrie's Insights about this Project

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

Nataliana—I tried to keep the original feel of the piece, while playing some simplifications. I focused this quarter on feeling the music. This was played in my church.

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?

Identifying the “patterns” in Nataliana made learning the piece much easier. What also helped was being shown ways to simplify different sections. In addition, I realized that slowing down and creating pauses can enhance any tune. 

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

A challenge for me was being able to play the original piece from the sheet music. Once I had the freedom to play what I wanted, with some suggestions on simplifying, it was more doable and I enjoyed the process. 

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

I learned that connecting with feelings in body movement/dancing, can transfer to feelings in music. 

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

I realized that when I had been playing, I had been very guarded and mechanical, playing loud and soft, but without much expression. This was the perfect piece to change this for me.

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

Identifying patterns can be used in many ways, including when learning any new piece, and looking for patterns in people’s behaviors. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I realized that I had lost the freedom of my “childlike” behaviors through the years and needed to find a way to connect with them again. 

Sally Walstrum:

I had convinced myself that I needed to play the piece in its entirety. However, I discovered that I could drop the bulk of the piece and still turn it into a completion.

Sally's Insights about this Project

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

This is a very shortened version of DHC’s “Cosita Latina.” I’m revisiting it after not playing for a few years.

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 broke down the various sections of the piece and played with the patterns I discovered.

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

This can be a long piece, but I needed to get it down to around 3.5 minutes. I really wanted to perform the whole piece but with limited time, I had to cut out some parts that I would to have included. I did an intro, strumming, the loop, strumming cadenza, & an ending that I stole from “Baroque Flamenco.”

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

I had convinced myself that I needed to play the piece in its entirety. However, I discovered that I could drop the bulk of the piece and still turn it into a completion.

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

I was struggling with my back so the harp & harness felt heavier than usual. I think more focused on the discomfort more than musical expression.

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

I don’t need to be so rigid in what I do, and I can change things up.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

There’s a lot of improvisation in the video and I’m feeling much more comfortable with it.

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

I was playing with my green screen. I’ve got a long way to go with the technique, especially the lighting. My screen is not big, and I had difficulty staying in the frame.

See all the Academy Member Spotlight Series:
Part #1  –  Part #2  –  Part #3

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