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7 Things You Can Learn from Gigging Harpists (even if you only play for your dog)

musicianship performing Jul 28, 2014

Ok. So you never want to play in public. Even playing for your dog makes you nervous. Believe it or not, that’s a dangerous state of mind.

I’m not going to try to goad you into public performance. I believe that playing for your own pleasure is a worthwhile aspiration.

But I have often heard harpists (and other musicians too) use this as an excuse for some poor habits, habits which keep them playing at a lever lower than what is really achievable for them. For the most part, this is not a conscious choice to avoid hard work or difficulty. It’s more often based on a misconception about some of the things that are absolutely critical to playing well, even when that only needs to be good enough to please yourself.

Here are 7 things that every gigging harpist knows. They are skills and habits that are required for freelance work. You don’t have to take my word for it that these are essential. Ask any young harpist who has started playing for weddings.

How many of...

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Are These 3 Things Holding You Back?

Are you putting the brakes on when you play or practice? Or are you frustrated with slow progress?

A quick story…

One summer when my husband, son and I were vacationing in Europe, we stopped in the Alps to take a ride on a Sommerrodelbahn, a summer version of a toboggan run. After all, what do you do in the Alps in the summer if you don’t have snow?

This particular ride was a long, winding, downhill track, shaped like a trough, and the riders sat in small individual sleds. Each sled was controlled only by the rider, so you could go at your own pace. My son and husband zoomed down the hill, their sleds scooting up the sides of the track like an Olympic luge. I was much more cautious, applying my brake often. In fact, I applied my brake much too often for the person in the sled behind me. I still had a good ride, but I knew that I really wanted to go faster on my second ride. My caution might have won awards for safety, but I missed some of the thrill I could have had on...

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5 Tips for Playing Impressionistic Music

I was quite young when I fell in love with the music of Claude Debussy. I didn’t know the theoretical reasons that made his music radically different from what came before. I only knew that it was beautiful and expressive and touched me in a special way.

Debussy is often considered the initiator of the Impressionist movement in music. Impressionist painters had recently made their break with earlier art traditions. They favored unconventional techniques like rough, short brush strokes and used them to create sweeping visual effects rather than realistically detailed representations.

Debussy strove for a similar break with musical traditions that he considered “barren.” He and other composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century challenged the accepted formulas of harmony and melody. Over time, they created music that was more free, with a more flexible form and flow than the music of their forebears; Impressionism had come to music. (As an aside,...

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The 7 Things an Audience Expects from You (and it’s not a perfect performance!)

The audience is hushed; the lights are dimmed. The performer walks out on stage, trying to make her stride confident and hoping that the confidence will show up in her playing as well. Will the audience like what I play? Will they be disappointed? Will they like me?

Over my years of teaching I have helped countless harpists prepare for performance. Some of the performances have been consequential: competitions, auditions, graduation recitals. Others have been more run-of-the-mill like student recitals, church performances or weddings. But even those seemingly less critical audiences like church congregations can seem daunting and intimidating to many harpists. Daunting enough, in fact, that I have known numbers of musicians who will not play in public, or even for their friends and neighbors, (or even the otter audience in the photo!).

While I understand and sympathize with that reluctance, I feel regretful, because I know the value of the experience they are missing. It’s not...

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Why I Need to Get Out of My Practice Room More Often

music miscellany Jun 30, 2014

Here we are at the halfway point in the year. As we begin the second half of 2014, we can seize this opportunity to reevaluate, redirect or recommit to our goals. Many of us have long since forgotten or abandoned our New Year’s resolutions. In some cases, our plans have changed and made our resolutions irrelevant. Some of us have given up, and the more determined ones among us have made real progress towards fulfilling our goals for the year.

Where am I? I fit into all three categories.

One of my goals I have had to abandon at least for now, realizing that there were circumstances beyond my control which prevented me from moving forward. I don’t like to give up on anything, however, so it will survive in a “someday” folder. I have also made a number of pivots this year, tweaking my plans when better ideas presented themselves.

One of my resolutions this year that I have stuck with was to put more time and energy into being a part of the larger harp community....

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Kaleidoscope Practice is here at last!

uncategorized Jun 21, 2014

Kaleidoscope Practice: Focus, Finish and Play the Way You’ve Always Wanted

Have you ever felt stuck in your practice? You know the feeling, the one where you believe that the music will never get any better. You don’t know what to practice; you don’t even want to practice any more.

Or maybe you just need a new approach, something to put the spark back in your practice and playing. You would like someone to show you how to do better practice in less time, so that you can get on with the rest of your busy life and not feel guilty about it.

The Kaleidoscope Practice system is designed to help you solve those practice dilemmas. This revolutionary way to look at music practice frees you from rote learning and mindless repetition. It uses five focus areas to direct your practice to learning the music, not just the notes. Yes, music practice can be musical! And because Kaleidoscope Practice is directed to helping you actually finish your pieces, you will learn more music...

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A Quick Start Guide to Playing Baroque Music

Not sure what Baroque music is exactly? Uncertain about how to approach it musically? Do you know the particular musical characteristics that are the essence of Baroque style? This post is not a music history lesson, but it will give you the information you need to play this kind of music with understanding and style.

First, the facts

I promised this wouldn’t be a history lesson, but some basic facts about the Baroque era will help you.

The term “baroque” is usually applied to music                  composed between 1600 and 1750 (the year of Bach’s death). Famous composers of the Baroque era include Bach, Corelli, Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau. Perhaps the most familiar of baroque harp requests? Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

The harp has its own place in the Baroque era. It was in widespread use, and due to the limited availability of instruments, was often used as a substitute for the harpsichord. Handel wrote his...

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Why aren’t you working?

  • Is your calendar a blank?
  • Is your phone so quiet you keep checking the ringer to see if it’s broken?
  • Is your bank balance shrinking daily?
  • You’re a good musician and you’re ready to work! What are you doing wrong?

It’s not enough just to be good at what you do. It’s not the best players that get the jobs. It’s the best salespeople.

Does that make you cringe? You are a highly trained artist. Perhaps you think “selling” is too crass a word to apply to what you do.

Let me show you why that’s not only a bad attitude but is totally wrong.

Selling is providing for a fee

Let’s look at that attitude. Selling isn’t rude, although some sales tactics may be.

“Selling” is simply a term describing one half of a mutual transaction between two parties. One party buys; the other sells. Just as there is nothing crass about buying, neither is there anything crass in selling. Selling is an honorable act of providing,...

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Resistance and Recovery

I’m back.

In his book “Do the Work!” Stephen Pressfield writes about the most powerful anti-creative force we know: Resistance. Resistance is the enemy that attempts to keep us from accomplishing any creative endeavor, or any other kind of achievement. Resistance attempts to destroy momentum and, with it, our faith in ourselves.

You may have experienced Resistance when:

  • you wanted to begin a new project but something else came up.
  • you started a diet and were invited to a dinner party.
  • you wanted to learn something new but decided you weren’t ready.

Resistance slapped me in the face hard last week. The project I’ve been focusing on for three months came to a screeching halt. Or maybe a crashing halt.

In trying to launch my new video course and related books, I crashed my own website. The day I had expected to celebrate turned into one giant technical snafu. Instead of posting my launch page, I was sending an apology email to my amazing Harpmastery...

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The Top Seven Reasons You Need Kaleidoscope Practice

musicianship practicing Jun 02, 2014

What is Kaleidoscope Practice?

Kaleidoscope Practice is my system for approaching your daily practice with the “finish” in mind. Whether your “finish” is a solo recital or just playing for your own pleasure, Kaleidoscope Practice helps you practice more effectively and efficiently and play more confidently and fluently.

So here are the top seven reasons you need Kaleidoscope Practice.

7. You’re tired of not really finishing the pieces you start.

6. You think there must be a better way to practice.

5. You get frustrated because it takes so long to learn a piece.

4. Your practice always seems like the same old thing – boring!

3. Practice is fine, but performance is another story…

2. You want to learn the music, not just the notes.

1. You want to know why some people can practice less, and play more.

Kaleidoscope Practice can help with all that and more. I should know. I’ve been teaching these techniques for over 20 years.

And now,...

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