No Triumph, No Tragedy

“No Triumph, No Tragedy” is the name of a program on BBC Radio 4 where a well-known blind radio presenter, Peter White, interviews various celebrities who have also had to deal with physical challenges. The program is enthralling–Peter White is an excellent interviewer and his subjects are equally fascinating. So why did that title offend me so much when I first heard it? What on earth could he mean, I thought, “No Triumph, No Tragedy”? Continue reading…

The Best Musical Tools

I’ve recently written two blog entries for Music Teachers’ Helper, one on some of the best tools to improve rhythm, and the other on pitch. Despite being educated at one of the best music schools in the UK, it has taken me a long time to research and refine the best teaching tools, not only to improve musicianship, but to inspire and to have fun.

Thankfully, in the years since I left college, many institutions have also radically updated their own techniques also, and are now approaching music-making in remarkably innovative ways. More on that later….

Are You a Stable Pack Leader?

Photo: Jeremy Burger

“Humans are the only animals that will follow an unstable pack leader.”

–       Cesar Millan, ‘The Dog Whisperer’

How many times have I followed an ‘unstable pack leader’? Try: My whole life! I bet I’m not alone either. Ever since I heard that quote a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been pondering what it means, and whether it matches my own experience.

Cesar defines a stable pack leader as someone who is what he calls ‘calm-assertive’, present in the moment, balanced, and consistently providing clear rules and boundaries. For dogs these are “exercise, discipline and affection… in that order!” He asserts that dogs immediately know whether someone is in that state by their energy, and can’t be fooled by words or the outer symbols of power that persuade us mere humans. I’ve recently become a fan of his show for that reason— to see him modeling that energy, and to learn how to manifest it more in my own life. Continue reading…

Busy blogging

Wow, it’s been a busy time lately, as I have had commissions to write for several other blogs, so what with teaching, coaching and a trip to Australia to meet our new nephew, I haven’t had time to post here.

However, I’d love to point you to a couple of posts I wrote for the Music Teachers blog: one on how to develop effective communication with your students, and one on how to manage your energy in relation to your students. I’m enjoying focusing on the psychological side of teaching and communicating in posts for this particular blog, as I feel it’s a way to contribute what I know, both from study and from experience.

An Event Like No Other

Next month, I’m going to a brand new musical in Libbey Bowl, our picturesque outdoor venue here in Ojai. Written by Deb Norton and Chris Nottoli, directors of Theater 150, they will also be starring in the production, accompanied by a chorus, a band, and, according to Deb, “one or more of the following: zip lines, dancing Jell-O, Mongol hordes, bat swarms and more kale than you can shake a stick at”.

Sounds fun, huh? The plot is the usual: boy meets girl, boy and girl go through many trials and tribulations, boy and girl end up getting married. With one major difference. When Deb and Chris walk down the aisle at the end of the musical, they will in fact be legally married. That beautiful singer who played the minister? She’s the real deal.

Deb and Chris are hosting a blog on their journey towards marriage in the run-up to this wild extravaganza, and this week, on the sixth anniversary of our marriage, they asked me to write a guest entry about what marriage means to me.

New blogging job.

This week, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined a team of bloggers on the well-established Music Teachers Blog to add my thoughts and ideas on music teaching and teachers.

I’ve been enjoying this blog for nearly a year already, as I find great value in being able to exchange ideas with other independent music teachers. It’s very easy to feel isolated, and it’s been interesting finding out how many of us have the same challenges and pleasures, as well as having the opportunity to benefit from new ideas and resources.

I’m going to be contributing ideas from the point of view of a life coach who is also a longtime performer and teacher, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to try out my ideas. Here’s a link to my first post.

Diagnosis of a Faun

Vaslav Nijinsky i sin debutballet En Fauns eftermiddag, 1912jpg

Vaslav Nijinsky

Last week, I saw an amazing article in the New York Times, describing the creative relationship between an experienced and adventurous choreographer and a young and talented actor with cerebral palsy. Tamar Rogoff, the choreographer, saw the actor, Gregg Mozgala, in a Shakespeare play and immediately knew that she wanted to work with him to create a dance piece. He, understandably, with muscular and neurological challenges, particularly in his legs, had not considered himself a dancer until this point, but was intrigued by her offer and agreed to the challenge.

The miraculous part of this experiment has been the changes they have wrought together in Gregg’s body- more dramatic changes in eight months than he had achieved in twelve years of physical therapy. For example, after walking on his toes his entire life, his heels now touch the ground, allowing him to walk normally. He is now aware of, and using, parts of his body that he had no relationship with before. And, most wonderfully, he is becoming a dancer, creating a piece called “Diagnosis of a Faun”. The first performance takes place on Dec. 3 at La MaMa Annex in the East Village, New York City.

I wrote to Gregg to congratulate him on this incredible achievement, and to ask whether he considered the creation of art to be part of the healing process, to which he replied emphatically, “Yes.” And this “yes” makes me curious about my own healing process. What if I could heal some of the old patterns of tension, contraction and pain, which prevent me from leading an active life and playing my beloved piano? What if I could do this through movement, through a creative process, so that rather than just repeating a series of mindless physical exercises, each movement had a purpose I believed in? It’s an intoxicating idea, one that speaks to me on a deep level. My next step is to contact the choreographer. Wish me luck!