What happens when you let go? Is it exhilaration … or a sense of loss?
As a performer, I feel most alive when I really let go on stage. I’m more there when I perform than in normal life. But as a composer, letting go is completely different. It means I’m turning that process of expression over to someone else.
At first I thought I could follow the example of composers before me and simply publish my music in written form.
But when I heard people play the music, I realized the notes on the page were only half the story.
The other half is showing people HOW to play those notes. Tricks in how to learn them, what the squiggles on the page really mean, how to break the piece apart and put it back together so it becomes truly yours.
This is especially true with my piece “Baroque Flamenco,” which began with my obsession to bring the kind of passion, dynamics – and even aggression that I saw in some piano and violin concertos – to the harp.
To see it played, the cadenza looks like a mix of physical abandon and musical passion. But how do you get that down on paper??
For this fiery cadenza, I wrote pages and pages of non-standard notation, and then painstakingly created a glossary to explain what that notation meant.
But still, when I saw people play it, I knew that it wasn’t getting through.
And that’s when I realized that my pieces aren’t just about the composition – they’re about the performance. And teaching performance is a completely different process than writing out a composition. No matter how perfectly I get it written people won’t really know how to play it until I show them. Because it’s not about playing what’s written on the page. It’s about interpreting what’s written on the page. And it’s about each person interpreting it slightly differently because of who they are.
To share THAT I had to create something completely different.
That’s when I came up with the idea for “Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp.” It’s a 3-week online experience for harp players that includes training videos, warm-up exercises, playalong audio files, workbooks and downloads — and a chance to ask me direct questions in live online Q&A sessions.
Now that the internet makes live seminars possible, now that I can embed videos and offer downloadable handout and MP3’s I realized that the web makes it possible for me to create something that’s very close to ‘passing it on by word of mouth,’ very close to the experience I, personally, had, of learning music and performance skills from my mother through a combination of watching, doing, playing with her and getting direct one-on-one answers to my questions.
So that’s what I tried to create in the online course. Before the course even begins, people get access to a set of warmups that let people get familiar with the rhythms and fingerings in the piece, and a set of videos that give people a chance to watch a real-live coaching session.
The other thing essential to me was to make the course accessible to players of all levels: fledgling, intermediate and advanced because that’s how I learned – by having my own version of a piece that I could play at my level – and then being able to build and expand on that piece for the rest of my life.
Here’s what people say about the course:
“I love your ideas about imperfect completion … but my sheet music has always been my safety net, and I couldn’t imagine myself to perform anything by memory. When I worked with Baroque Flamenco and you broke it all down into small pieces, it all felt so simple!” Annette Sollie Hagen (Norway)
“I had a lot of theory with music lessons but never was taught what to do with it. This is the first time I was able to put music theory to practical use.“
Gretchen Cover (Florida, USA)
If you play the harp – at any level – join me for the Fall session of “Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp.” It starts Sept. 15th and if you register before Aug. 29th you can get the pre-launch price of $197 for this 10-module, 3-week course. To register and learn more about the course go to