When you do something weird., when you’re used to being misunderstood, when you’ve spent your life hunched and ready to hit back — then when you see things in the news that even talk about someone else doing it too, you celebrate.
Two things crossed my Twitter feed [@HipHarpist] this week that made me celebrate like that.
One was a random news article with ESPN sports host Bomani Jones talking about the harp as – well, kind of about the harp as a chick magnet.
One was about a big black guy I know who plays the harp, Mason Morton, a great kid at Boston University, who’s group “Sons of Serendip” are moving up through the “America’s Got Talent” ranks.
(I just realised, as I looked at the two images that they both involve black men – about as far from the ‘ethereal blonde lady harp player’ as you can get. Read the Boston Globe article about Mason – when he arrived at the America’s Got Talent audition, people just assumed he was a basketball player)
It’s cause for celebration just seeing someone else out there fighting a stereotype I’ve spent my life struggling against.
Don’t Make Me Punch You Inna Nose
I spent years wanting to punch people in the nose. I’d tell them I play the harp, they’d say “Oh I love harp music” and I’d want to punch them. How can you love ‘harp music”? There’s no such thing as “harp music” and if there is, then I DON’T PLAY IT.
I’d say “I play the harp” and they’d say, “Oh, harp music is so soothing.” What harp music are YOU listening to, I thought? Definitely not MINE.
I even tried to claim it wasn’t a harp. I tried calling it a “fretless-multi-guitar,” a “32-string-electric-unicord” but really … it’s a harp.
Even though the harp I play (the “DHC-Light”) has been completely redesigned for me, even though it’s built with racing-bike technology (seriously!) … even if you strap it on like an electric guitar or a pair of Google Glasses …. it’s a harp.
Sigh … it’s a harp.
It takes Two Hands
On the one hand, I’ve spent my life completely immersed in exploring what one weird instrument can do and how I can deeply express my own voice through it.
On the other hand, I consciously disassociated myself from “the harp world” in general. I just thought I had completely different goals from everyone in that world.
Before and After
That was before I met my coach, Christine Kane. One of the first things she told me to do was to connect to MY niche, MY tribe. But it took me two years to realize that my niche was exactly the group I thought I needed to disconnect from — and it wasn’t just a niche, it was an international micro-niche.
A micro-niche of people who, like me, were (are!) dissatisfied with their ability to express themselves in the ‘traditional’ way through this one weird instrument.
Coaching a Micro-Niche
I just started getting dissatisfied a long time before they did, and I’ve spent a lifetime searching out people to help me break that box, discovering what this instrument CAN do, discovering how I CAN express my artistic voice with it – instead of bending myself to fit the stereotype of ‘harp music.’
Now I get to share what I learned. I get to see it make a huge difference. And enjoy the heck out of how I see people change, explore … and explode creatively.
The Internet Connection
It never occurred to me that the INTERNET would let me become a leader in this way – that I’d have the tools to create an entire Virtual Classroom, that I’d be able to take everything I learned NOT punching people in the nose (but wanting to) and give it to OTHERS who want, like me, to express themselves with this weird instrument.
My 10-week “Hip Harp Toolkit” online course begins Tuesday, it’s just for harp players and my guest coach for this session is Brazilian master harpist Cristina Braga. Read about it here and if you resonate with what I said here, sign up. I’d love to share this journey with you.
I marvel this can happen so easily. People sign up. They come into the classroom. We spend 10 weeks together learning. We are a community of people who do something weird.
And when you do something weird, it feels SO good to share with people who want to be weird, too – and to help them turn that weirdness into creative expression.