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!


Intuitive Improvisation

Kandinsky_WWI

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky

I’m pleased to announce that the article I wrote for American Music Teacher magazine, originally published in the winter of 2007, is now available on line here . It’s specifically targeted at music teachers who would like to venture into the world of creative improvisation and don’t know where to begin, but would also be useful for anyone who is feeling the urge to create their own music and knows a bit of basic theory.

For me, the key to learning how to improvise was allowing myself to approach the piano playfully, as a small child would, and not to weigh myself down with admonitions or expectations. In other words, to be free to create!


Three ways to lessen suffering the pain of auditions

The other day I saw a marvelous television program in which Bill Moyers interviewed Pema Chödrön, an elderly American lady, now Buddhist nun, who has become famous for her wisdom mixed with common sense.

One of the subjects she dealt with that struck me with great force was the difference between pain and suffering. The interpretation she chose to differentiate between those words was powerful. She described pain as being for example, an unwelcome event, an injury, a disappointment, and so on. And suffering is what we then do inside ourselves in response to that event.
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Are you feeling disillusioned? Great!

I’ve always thought that becoming disillusioned was one of the worst things that could happen to a creative artist. I’ve seen it happen to friends of mine– “I’ll never have the career I want”, “No-one is ever going to give me a rôle”, “Even when I am working, the work isn’t what I expected it to be.”

So I was completely taken aback the other day when I heard someone I greatly respect say that disillusionment can be a good thing.

However, when I stopped to think about it, I soon realized that there was something to it. The word dis-illusion-ment actually means the result of being deprived of your illusions. And an illusion is a misleading image, a misapprehension, a hallucination, something that deceives (thanks, Webster’s). My favorite definition is “a pattern of reversible perspective”. So looking at it that way, couldn’t disillusionment actually be a good thing? There is really nothing to be gained by being in a state of illusion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you give up your hopes and dreams! Just that there are times when it can be good to accept what is, rather than beating your head against a brick wall. There can be a real place of peace in just observing where we are, of taking stock.

Then, when the time is right, comes the brainstorming; the opportunity to start afresh. Life coaching can be a marvelous way to cultivate a new sense of possibility, to make a fresh start, to reassess the options, to get back in touch with your creative spirit, to set new goals.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be offering suggestions on these topics –some practical ways to begin to move towards a more fulfilling life. But in the meantime, if you find yourself feeling disillusioned…. bear in mind that it could be the beginning of a whole new way of life!


The Creative Explosion

I heard a fascinating feature on National Public Radio this afternoon about the discovery of some jewelry made from shells, which dates back some 90,000 years. This led to a discussion on what is apparently known as “The Creative Explosion”- the period when humans first began to produce art in abundance. This art has mainly been discovered in Europe, and dates back around 40,000 years. No-one is sure what caused this “creative explosion”- a time of immense creative fertility which occurred simultaneously in many locations.

One hypothesis is that this may have something to do with the weather being colder than in Africa, where the first human remains- dating back 100,000 years- were found. It had never occurred to me that cultures from colder climates might produce more art than those in warm climates. According to the report, Eskimo art is a prime example of this. To read more about Cro-Magnon man and the creative explosion, click here.

I’ve decided do further research in this fascinating area- so watch this space!


Milt the Magnificent

Today I have the honor to refer you to the site of someone who has recently become a hero of mine. Milton Mermikides is a 30-something professional musician, composer and teacher in London who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and has been in hospital ever since. He immediately put up a website from his hospital bed, brought in all his musical instruments and equipment, and began an outpouring of creativity which would be stunning from someone in perfect health, let alone someone who is have ing such intense health challenges. He has so far produced 29 videos and five pieces, including one based on abstract electronic music completely based on his blood results!
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