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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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Is it Done Yet? The Final Stage of Music Learning

musicianship practicing May 26, 2014

This is the third in this three-part series of posts on the Three Stages of Music Learning. This post is about the final stage: the Finish. You can find Stage One and Stage Two here.

I have a cake recipe that my family loves. It’s a recipe for pound cake, and when I bake it right, it’s sweet, moist and delicious. The trick is in the baking.

It has to start in a cold oven, not preheated. If you open the oven door even once before the cake is close to done, the cake doesn’t rise properly. The recipe says it should bake for at least an hour and a quarter. But almost always, my oven needs an hour and a half.

So at the end of an hour and a quarter, I start checking. I get a long metal skewer and test the cake to see if it’s done. If not, it gets the extra fifteen minutes, during which I hope I’m not overbaking it. I’ve made this cake enough that I’m fairly confident about my results, but I cross my fingers anyway.

Taking a piece of music to...

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Making it Through the Messy Middle: Music Learning Stage 2

musicianship practicing May 23, 2014

This is the second in this three-part series of posts on the Three Stages of Music Learning. This post is about the second stage: the Messy Middle. Here’s the previous post about Stage One.

“When will we get there?”

The traffic is backed up for miles on the interstate, or the flight is cancelled. Tempers are beginning to feel the strain, and the child picks this time to ask the question, “When we will get there?”

This is also how the middle stage of music learning can feel. We can be bored, restless and impatient. Even worse, we can feel frustrated believing that things should be better by now. We should have mastered that difficult passage or at least be able to play through the piece without stopping. But that level of proficiency still seems off in the distance.

Many people refer to this stage as “the messy middle.” There is a “messy middle” to most endeavors, not just music practice. And it’s the most difficult stage in...

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Do You Know the Three Stages of Music Learning?

musicianship practicing May 19, 2014



When you learn a new piece of music, you take it through three distinct stages of learning: First Sight, the Messy Middle, and Finish. Each stage has different learning objectives and techniques. This series of posts will introduce you to each of the stages to help you focus your practice and speed your learning.

So that new piece of music is on your stand. Maybe it’s one you’ve wanted to learn for a long time. It’s like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.

What are you feeling? Excitement, a sense of adventure, determination, maybe a little fear? How you feel as you approach a new piece depends greatly on your past experiences, good and bad, with practicing and performing.

Ideally, your past successes should have built your confidence in your abilities. You should know that you have the musical, technical and personal resources to tackle new challenges.

I call this beginning stage of learning First Sight. It’s that clean slate feeling when the...

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