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Consistency: My Word for 2018

practicing Dec 31, 2017

My guide word for 2018: Consistency.

I suppose you could call it a New Year’s resolution, but for me it’s more a reminder of what is important to me and the imperative to keep those things not just top of mind, but top of schedule as well.

I find, and perhaps you have noticed this too, that when I can create habits around the things that are truly important to me, everything feels easier. I believe that is because those habits create alignment between my desires and my actions. I’m acting on my goals, not just thinking about them. Consistency makes my goals sticky.

When I consistently implement the actions that will lead me to accomplish my goals, I find that I instinctively shed the distractions and detours that are the enemies of achievement.

Naturally, this applies to any area of life: relationships, physical health, spiritual growth, and of course – music.

In my experience, the musicians who succeed in reaching their goals are those who are the...

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My Christmas Wish For You

music miscellany Dec 24, 2017

On this special day, I wanted to share my Christmas wish for you and for all harpists for happiness now and in the coming year. Feel free to share it with a harpist you know!

My best wishes for a wonderful holiday,

My Christmas Wish

H Health in our hands. heads and hearts.

A All kinds of music to play, hear and share.

R Rewards of diligence and persistence in our practice.

P Pride in our accomplishments.

H Hunger for learning that sustains and propels us.

A Achievement and satisfaction.

P Pleasure in the little things, wherever we find them.

P Peace on earth and in our hearts.

I Inspiration.

N Nourishment from our teachers, friends, colleagues and mentors.

E Encouragement before we know we need it.

S Silence so we can appreciate the color that music brings to our world.

S Sounds of the season will bring you joy and peace and much happiness, harp and otherwise.

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Christmas Eve Countdown: Harp Happiness and Joy

music miscellany Dec 17, 2017

Christmas Eve is nearly here and the music-making and merriment is in full swing. It’s likely you have been making plenty of music already this season and are looking forward to the final push to those Christmas eve church services.

If, however, you find that you aren’t looking forward to the playing but instead are only looking forward to having them over and done for another year, it’s time to banish “Bah, humbug” and discover some pointers that will bring the “comfort and joy” to these final days of holiday frenzy.

So to help you through these last days of Christmas performances, I offer you my top “Harp Happiness and Joy” tips to help you play your best and ease the stress.  

HH and Joy Tip #1: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If there is one piece of music on your program for this week that is giving you extra stress, re-think your plan. Can you change it out for an easier one? Cut out the “hard” verse and do the...

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Still Still Still

Still Still Still

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Some Christmas carols are joyous and celebratory.  Others reflect the peace that is also characteristic of the season. If “Silent Night” is perhaps the most well-known of those, the closest runner up would have to be the Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still,.”

The carol is a wiegenlied or cradle song with a traditional folk song melody. The tune sets the lullaby mood with a lilting arpeggio that calls to mind a mother’s soothing whispers to her child.  The original German lyrics bring those whispers to life, translating literally as “Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep.”

Here are the English lyrics used most commonly:

Still, still, still

One can hear the falling snow

For all is hushed

The world is sleeping

Holy Star its vigil keeping

Still, still, still

One can hear the falling snow

Sleep, sleep, sleep

'Tis the eve of our...

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Hymns: A Harpist’s Guide to Playing Along

performing Dec 03, 2017

“Could you play along on these hymns too?”

It seems like a reasonable request. A well-intentioned choir director wants to take full advantage of having a harpist participating in the service. So now you find yourself with a sheaf of print-outs of the hymns with notes to “play along on verses 2, 4 and 5, whatever you feel like.”

Quite possibly you are clenching your jaw just thinking about this. You won’t be heard above the organ and the congregational singing. The pedaling is awkward. The written notes don’t fit well on the harp. While you’re happy to add beauty to the service music, this doesn’t feel like the right way. It feels like a waste of your time and talent.

You’re right. It is.

I used to feel that way too.

For a while I tried gently refusing to play on the hymns. Even when directors were sympathetic, though, I felt as though I were not really doing my best for them.

That’s when I determined to find a way that I...

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Harp Gratitude Day - Giving Thanks

music miscellany Nov 26, 2017

Gratitude is on my mind at the moment.

Here in the U.S. we just celebrated Thanksgiving, arguably the most beloved of our national holidays. In the midst of all the food, fun, family and football, even the most cynical citizens manage to find a moment or two to feel gratitude for something or someone.

I am far from being a cynical person, and I’d like to share a few of the music-related things that inspire my gratitude, not just at Thanksgiving, but just about every day. I encourage you to read my list, to comment and to share some of the musical things or people you are thankful for too.

I am thankful for…

…my harp teachers whose commitment to the harp, to music and to my growth as a musician is still a daily inspiration.

… the generous community of harpists. I am awed by the giving nature of harpists all over the world. And an extra thanksgiving for the technology which brings us all so much closer.

…the amazing caring members of My Harp Mastery....

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Motivation: Rust Proofing Your Practice

practicing Nov 19, 2017

“She just doesn’t have the motivation.”

I remember hearing a performance many years ago by a young musician who seemed to have it all going for her: the kind of talent that makes everything seem easy and natural, and the poise to let her audience see how much she enjoyed performing.

Later though her teacher confided in me that this student was not really making progress. She just wasn’t motivated enough to put in the effort it was going to take to move to the next level.

Many of the students I work with now are adults whose main purpose in the harp study is to play for their own pleasure. That’s a fine goal and one I am happy to support. But it can be hard for these students to maintain their motivation to learn, practice and play without the kind of external pressure that performance deadlines can exert.

I will share with you the secret to keeping your motivation strong, and it’s not having a goal or taking lessons or scheduling performances. All...

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Making Progress: 3 Simple Ways to Sustain Momentum

practicing Nov 12, 2017
I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy. – Marie Curie

You’re a musician; you understand the struggle to make progress.

You practice every day and try hard to improve. But you’re not certain if things are actually getting better.  Perhaps the same issues crop up over and over. Or despite years of study, you don’t really have any music you feel you can play.

Are you making progress? Are you moving toward a higher musical plane, or are you spinning your wheels?

We all understand the loose nature of progress when it comes to music. There’s no simple metric to measure where you are or how far you’ve come. There’s no litmus test for each day’s practice session; if the trip turns blue, you made progress but if the strip turns red, you wasted your time. Thank goodness that litmus test hasn’t been invented!

I think that we feel progress primarily in that feeling of satisfaction that we get from seeing our...

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Adult Music Student? Enjoy the Privileges of Age

music miscellany Nov 05, 2017

Adult Music Student.

Perhaps this phrase conjures up an image of a nightmare recital where you, the quaking gray-haired student, stumble through a beginner piece while the 8 year olds play like virtuosi and take the pressure in their stride.

Banish that vision from your thoughts. Being an adult music student is about freedom and possibility, adventure and fulfillment. At least, it should be.

In the 1959 movie Gigi, a white-haired Maurice Chevalier watches his nephew Gaston suffer through a string of love affairs and sings his relief that, “I’m glad I’m not young anymore.”

You, my adult music student friend, should be feeling the same way. You may have come to music lessons because you wanted to try something new, or maybe return to an instrument that you learned long ago. Maybe this is a bucket-list project or just a whim. Whatever brought you to music, you should be enjoying the pursuit.

And just in case you’re feeling uneasy following that 8 year old...

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10 Ways to Cut Your Practice Time in Half

practicing Oct 29, 2017

Practice time is probably the number factor in your music success.

Let me clarify – practice time spent efficiently and effectively is the number one factor in your music success.

Time is a precious commodity and trying to dedicate some of it to your practice can seem daunting. There are so many demands on our time, and practice can easily find itself falling to the bottom of our list.

So once you’ve found time to practice, you want to be sure that you’re spending that time in a way that will help you play your music confidently and enjoy your progress.

Here are 10 simple ways to add efficiency and power to your practice, so you can stop wasting time or practicing in circles, tips to cut your practice time in half or possibly get twice as much done.

  1. Don’t always start from the beginning. It’s likely that the first few bars of your piece are the ones you have done most often and know best. Try working from the middle or the end for a change.

  2. Use a...

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