In 2013, the first class ever of my “Blues: Harp-Style” online students completed the 5-Week course. (The next session of the course begins Jan. 13, 2015)

On a whim, I offered all 35 students from the original class the chance to work with me on a final project – an original Blues of 3 minutes or less.

Eight of the thirty-five students took me up on the challenge and below are links to their final projects.  I also asked them to answer a few questions about what it took for them to complete the videos.

Almost all the videos are home-style YouTube videos – often taped with a phone. What really jumps out at me is how very different each of these students projects are, even though they all play the same instrument (harp) and all just completed the same online course.  This is a testament to their creativity.

The course itself is a 5-Module course comprised of weekly video lessons, optional homework and online chats – students can also submit 90-second homework videos each week, and each week I choose 3 -5 of them at random, and provide video feedback – which everyone learns from  – kind of like a ‘masterclass.’

My interaction with the students – through the live chat, the homework and the questions they ask – is the most exciting part of the course for me.  Watching what they do with the coursework is thrilling, sometimes laugh-out-loud delightful, and wonderful in every way.

Some of these players are professionals – some are rank beginners  – some wore costumes – some added stories  — and one of the principles of the course is to approach the work in the spirit of “imperfect completion” – in other words, don’t try to make it perfect – just get it from your heart to your hands the best you can and get it out into the world.

For most of these projects, students first sent me what we call ‘half-baked’  versions — rough drafts  that I gave feedback on.  Then they created new videos based on the feedback.

The feedback wasn’t always to make the pieces ‘better’ – because they were great as is – but to try new ideas, to push themselves in new ways and to explore different ways they might express themselves through their musical creations.

I then asked them five questions about their process and experience, and in this blog series I share their projects and their answers to those questions.   I hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Blues: Harp-Style Final Projects

Angela Biggs (USA) – Angela took the course on independent study, so I hadn’t seen any of her work until she signed up for the final project and I was blown away by her voice and how she effortlessly accompanied her original Blues on harp. Click to see her project


Jana Kozlowski (Austria) – Jana was at a huge disadvantage in that she was traveling in the U.S. when I announced the final project – and her harp was back in Austria.  But Jana is nothing if not highly creative and she found a way to create a very cool multi-tempo Blues on a very, very tiny lap harp.  Click to see her project


Lu McClintock (Scotland) – Around week 3 of the course, Lu’s Blues started sounding distinctly Scottish.  Her “Oyster-catcher Blues” is the result of that … and then … in classic Scottish style, she added a story to put it in context. Click to see her project


Jeff McFadden (USA) – Jeff had had something like three harp lessons before he started this course, but nobody embraced the spirit of imperfect completion like Jeff – and this is his original “Embrace Imperfection” Blues. Click to see his project


Blythe Tait (Australia) – Blythe, like me, is highly theatrical – but she also has some really cool wigs and costumes at her house … which she and her husband are building from scratch … somewhere in Australia.  Blythe says this piece was inspired by a cartoon about harps and heaven. Click to see her project


Rachel Schlafer-Parton (USA) – In addition to playing the harp Rachel’s an ASL interpreter and when I learned that, I encouraged her to see if she could combine playing with signing –not singing, but signing.  Rachel did me one better – she combined playing, signing and singing. Click to see her project


Ilona Weir (Australia) – Ilona’s video arrived in my inbox on the 4th of July and we didn’t have time to go through the feedback process on it, so this is her first draft – and I love the evocative, Bluesy feel of it. Click to see her project


Clara Fredrickson (USA) – Clara (or as I call her, Clarice) created an original Blues called “I Improvise My Life”  that she performed as a part of a musical church service where she’s choir director.  Alas, the videocamera jammed and the audio-recorder fritzed, so Clara made a “Home-Version” video for the final project and wrote a description of what the real-life experience was like! Click to see her project

The next “Blues: Harp-Style” course begins January 2015.

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