Introducing: Coaching for Creative Wellness

It’s been less than 2 weeks since I officially launched my debut album, Florescer, and maybe I’m crazy (probably!), but I’m launching another big thing today! I’m very excited to introduce…

We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of our work, and I have experienced this firsthand, again and again, as well as knowing countless burned-out musicians and artists.

So, let’s take care of ourselves! I offer help with:

  • Finding and honoring your priorities

  • Making small + sustainable changes

  • Creating more ease and balance in your work and life

  • Developing and keeping healthy habits

  • Managing time + finding tangible ways to be more productive so you can make more time for what matters

  • Avoiding burnout

  • Adjusting your mindset around success and money

  • Moving through creative blocks

  • Getting accountability for achieving your goals

I have a few different options available: a 50-minute call + followup, a package of 6 calls, and email coaching (a more budget-friendly option that may be easier to schedule!) Head over to my coaching page for details, and don’t hesitate to email me at if you have questions!

Getting Back in the Groove

Well, it’s been a while! I’m finally getting back in the groove of my fall schedule, since I just started teaching last week. I didn’t mean to be so sporadic with blogging over the summer, but I was dealing with the aftereffects from some burnout (mainly mega anxiety issues), and didn’t have a whole lot of space left in my head for much more than already planned work and basic life activities. This really deserves its own post, but I wanted to at least casually mention it for two reasons: 1) I value keeping it real and being honest, 2) The more people I talk to about my issues with anxiety, the more I find out that so many people I know have similar issues (and most of them are highly functional people who you wouldn’t guess are struggling). Mental health issues are so common, and more needs to be done to de-stigmatize them. So, if you’re reading this, and you’ve had similar struggles, you’re not alone, I’m definitely here with you. I have a lot more to say on the topic, but more about that another day. I am feeling much better now, thanks to SSRIs, taking a month off from teaching, and my 6th trip to California Brazil Camp, which was very rejuvenating and soul-fulfilling.

Speaking of Brazil Camp, this year was particularly incredible. It’s always incredible, but this was the 20th year, so they had the most stellar lineup yet, including Hermeto Pascoal, a total genius (I don't throw that word around) and legend of Brazilian jazz. If you’ve been reading my earlier posts, it’s no secret that I am a huge fan of his - I even flew out to San Francisco in April to see him perform! I had a blast at camp, as usual, playing piano and melodica in lots of ensemble classes, with Hermeto, Vitor Gonçalves (who I also study piano with), and choro with Alessandro Penezzi. If you want to know more of what camp is all about, check out my 2016 recap posts here and here.

I usually dread fall and the return to a packed schedule, but instead this year, it feels more like an exciting new beginning, since I’m not working (outside my home...a musician is always working in some way) 6 days a week. I had to say goodbye to a handful of longtime students who I will really miss, but I started with a few new little guys who are really excited, and it’s contagious. This year I’m only teaching 3 days a week so that I’ll be able to shift the balance of my work more toward playing and composing. Exactly what that looks like remains to be seen, but I’m trying to get more comfortable with dwelling in uncertainty during this transition phase, and stay open to all of the possibilities!

Also, I started another 100 Days of Writing Music on Sunday, which will be finished by the end of 2017 (what? I thought 2017 just started?) I wanted to start it sooner, but I got bogged down trying to come up with themes (hi, I like to overcomplicate things), and really it was time to JUST START. So I did. I might still add some weekly prompts to mix it up, we’ll see. I’m planning on keeping my goal from the first 100 Days, which was to write at least 8 measures of music a day, and post it on Instagram. You can read about my experience with the 100 Day Project earlier this year here: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4, and listen to recordings of my compositions on SoundCloud

[soundcloud url="" params="visual=true&show_artwork=true&callback=YUI.Env.JSONP.yui_3_17_2_1_1506046918872_73876&wmode=opaque" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

Follow along on Instagram here, with the same hashtag #100daysofwritingmusic!

I have a few other exciting things in the works, too, so stay tuned. I’ll be back to posting here weekly again, and I’ll definitely keep you updated!

Currently - Thanksgiving 2016


I’m on Thanksgiving break for 6 whole days, and on day 11 of the cold/cough that just keeps hanging on, so you get a mostly non-music-related post from me today. Work/life balance?

Reading the Nutrition Stripped cookbook that I just got from the library.

Listening to music that makes me happy. (Samba de Mulher means Samba for Women, BTW.)

Watching Parks and Rec again for the millionth time - their commentary is spot on, hilarious, and makes me feel better. Leslie Knope 2020!

Taking a self-care Tuesday, brunch with a dear friend, acupuncture, and required (rare!) supreme laziness.

Stepping back from endless to-do lists.

Walking outside, even in the snow - showing Mother Nature who’s boss!

Plotting my hygge strategy for the Minnesota winter, so that I can enjoy winter as much as possible. Right now I have fuzzy moccasins, blankets, a Himalayan salt lamp, and lavender-scented candles. Oh, and an orange lap cat - he really knows how to relax.

Continuing to play as much music as I can while balancing with relaxation (no pressure!)

Catching up on reading email newsletters - some of my favorites are by Caroline Winegeart, Mara Glatzel, Christy Tending, Ann Friedman, Erica Midkiff, and Tara Mohr.

Thinking about the importance of community.

Deciding how best to become more politically active, where to send donations, and thinking of ways to make everyone feel welcome in our society.

Being inspired by Grace Bonney’s latest book In the Company of Women.

Reflecting on 2016 and deeming it the year of “Well, I never thought THAT would happen.”

Cooking this squash/rice salad to bring to Thanksgiving. I’m really looking forward to seeing my extended family, who I don’t see often enough.

Remembering all of the things and people I’m grateful for.

Hoping you all have a great Thanksgiving!

10 Things I Wish I'd Known When Graduating From Music School: Part 2

For the first 5 things, see last week’s post here.

 Ithaca College campus + Lake Cayuga

6) You're never done (and that can be a good thing)

When it comes to practicing music, there’s always more to learn, which can be overwhelming, but also really exciting. The key for me is coming to an acceptance that I can’t do as much as I’d like, but making a consistent effort anyway (still a constant battle). Consistency is worth so much more than it seems - showing up every day to practice really adds up, even when I’m only squeezing in an hour or less each day. I say this to my students all of the time, and it’s hard advice to follow, but a bunch of tiny steps add up much faster than zero big steps. I used to really lament the length of my to-do list, and how it never totally disappeared, but I’ve come to terms with setting boundaries on work time to make space for other facets of life. Which leads me to...

7) Don’t work all of the time - Get space/distance from your work

The culture of music school, for me, glorified being as busy as possible, bragging about how little free time you had, how many credits you were taking, how many hours you practiced, etc. - all telling us to work more, not to work better. It’s taken me a long time to deprogram myself from this attitude (this may be a lifelong process!) It really comes down to this: I do love my work, but do I want to work constantly with a feeling of pressure looming over me? Of course not! This is a very American attitude, too - Germans would wonder why American workers are so inefficient that they need so much overtime to get work done. Also, great songs are not written about productivity and to-do apps, they’re written about real life experiences - we need time and space to have those!

8) Don't be such a perfectionist - just do a lot of stuff

[vimeo 85040589 w=480 h=270]

This one fits in with #5 from the last post, but it deserves its own spot. I love this quote from Ira Glass - we have to wade through the period of making not-so-good stuff before getting to the good stuff. That means just doing a lot, knowing that I’ll naturally improve because I’m continuing to practice these skills.

Mistakes are helpful - they teach us things. I’ve played tons of wrong notes - does this mean that I’m not a good musician? (Not as long as I know how to conceal them, or use them to my advantage!) I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the process of learning new skills (see #4).

9) It doesn’t have to be (that) hard

We’re taught to work so hard - as the descendant of farmers, I certainly have the Midwestern work ethic baked into my DNA. So, when something isn’t as hard, I’m almost suspicious, because, isn’t it SUPPOSED to be hard? On the spectrum of things feeling difficult, we can go too far - things that feel extremely hard, where I’m meeting a lot of resistance, maybe aren’t the best fit. It takes some life experience to understand how things feel when they’re in different places on the spectrum, and to make decisions about how valuable each opportunity is. I think I’m getting better at deciding when something is difficult enough that it will take away time and energy from my most rewarding activities.

10) Your work is intrinsically valuable because you want to do it.

It’s always been easier for me to see how my actions measure up with others’ expectations than to truly decide what work is most important to me. First, that’s silly, because I probably don’t even correctly guess what these expectations are, and second, this is a recipe for unhappiness. It sounds cheesy to say that if your work makes you happy, it will make others happy, but this is totally true - this energy is contagious! Deriving personal value from my work is the most important to me, but financial value is obviously also a concern to those of us doing creative work. With enough effort, personal value on a project can translate into financial, but in the meantime, the struggle is to strike a balance between what my mom likes to call the “mosaic of jobs” that many artists have. This involves some kind of crazy calculus involving energy, time, ease, and a number of other factors, but as long as I’m working on some kind of passion project, I’m typically happier than if I’d given it up in favor of having more free time.

Most of these things have more to do with life lessons than with my specific career path - I’ll have to meet you back here in 11 more years for the next installment!

10 Things I Wish I'd Known When Graduating From Music School: Part 1

This year’s Ithaca College alumni weekend was last weekend - I wish I could have gone to see friends and the beautiful fall colors of the Finger Lakes region. I then started thinking about what I had thought my life might be like 11 years after graduation (I had no idea!) and what advice now I have for 2005 Me (lots).

 The beautiful view of Lake Cayuga

What I Wish I’d Known When Graduating From Music School:

1) Anything having to do with business.

I learned many things from going to music school, but one of my biggest laments is that none of our classes prepared us to gain any business skills. The one token class that tried to prepare us for the future, Career Orientation, was essentially useless - as freshmen, we listened to someone in the music business talk about their job once a week and wrote a short summary. I realize that schools don’t want to cram another class into an already packed curriculum, but in a field where a majority of people end up being self-employed at some point, it seems irresponsible not to teach these topics.

I now have well-defined systems for things like bookkeeping so that doing my taxes is no longer stressful, but it took me a long time to get to this point (with the help of an accountant)! Any tips on marketing oneself would have been drastically updated for today’s technology, but anything more than zero knowledge would have been great.

2) Look for community and connection.

As an introvert, I typically had ignored all advice about networking (ick!), because I always imagined a room full of smarmy business people, and assumed that this was the only way people did it. Now I know that meeting people who do what you do can happen organically (and is often best when it does), and even over the Internet. At the first post-college piano teacher meeting that I went to after moving back to Minnesota, I was the only person there under 30 and no one talked to me, so I avoided going to similar meetings for years afterward.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have given up on finding people who were doing what I was doing, but I hadn’t expected it to take so long. Instead of asking for help from peers, I did it the hard way: figured out lots of things on my own with only internet research to aid me. It would have been so much easier if I’d had a community to check in with, and if I’d admitted that I was new at teaching and thus inexperienced, which is okay! I couldn’t get support without being open to receiving it.

3) You have to make your own path - do it your own way.

I’ve always been a person who reaches for the instruction booklet first, and when there wasn’t one, I essentially made my own by doing tons of research and following a path that had been modeled by others.

I got a classical music degree (which I don’t regret - it was great training), but though I love many forms of classical music, it never felt it would be enough if that was all I did. After graduation, many of my peers either pursued more schooling or became educators - I didn’t see examples of many other career options that seemed safe or appealing enough, so I felt like I should be doing what others were doing.

I see now that even then, I was forging my own path in a small way: I tried to have as much diversity in my studies as possible, taking several jazz classes, every non-classical music class that I had time for, and having an outside concentration in art history and anthropology. It was actually a Latin American music class for non-majors that made me realize how much I loved Brazilian music back in 2003, planting the seed that led to my now full-blown obsession with it.

Also, I took an expensive and time-consuming detour when I auditioned for collaborative piano graduate programs several years ago. I could call this a failure and a waste of time, but now I’m glad that it didn’t work out, because I see that it was just a convenient way for me to keep following other people’s directions instead of my own. I used to feel like I didn’t really fit in anywhere (not fully a classical musician, jazz musician, accompanist, etc.), but now I’m seeing more connections between all of the things I’ve done and how they help each other - my well rounded skill set that grad schools probably labeled “she can’t focus on anything” has made me a better musician, regardless of which style I’m playing.

Now I know that there is really no model for my exact career path (still in progress, always evolving), and that’s a good thing - in a sea of musicians in the world, why wouldn’t I want to be uniquely myself?

 outside Ford Hall

4) Trust in the process: test + change

When it seemed like my whole life was in front of me, without any professional experience yet, I assumed, like many of us do, that everyone else had it all figured out and I would (hopefully) someday achieve the elusive state of Figured It Out. It’s so easy to compare your insides to someone else’s outsides - seeing their product and comparing it to my process always felt bad.

Some of the wisest advice I got in school was from my theory professor John White, who I also took some jazz piano lessons with during the summer after graduation. In one of my lessons, I was mentioning being anxious about moving back home and starting over, and Dr. White said, “The fear doesn’t really go away, you just have to work through it.” I brushed it off, because I didn’t understand how people did that, but it’s harder to face fears of things that have never happened to me than to say afterwards, “Oh yeah, that didn’t kill me, I’m fine.” In other words, life experience makes everything easier, and you can’t get it until you live it.

I was also pretty uncomfortable with the idea of doing things wrong (what does “wrong” mean, anyway?), but really, trial and error is often the best we can do, and learning from mistakes or things that don’t go as expected can lead us to new, interesting places. Then all we can do is move in that interesting direction, even if slowly.

This blog post is even a form of me trusting the process - I put off starting this blog for so long because I didn’t really know how to do it, and I still don’t totally know. We all have to learn as we go, no matter what we’re doing, and I try to choose to be fascinated by the process instead of intimidated - I think it’s working. Curiosity is everything.

 Image credit: the inspirational Elise Blaha Cripe - click through for her DIY!

5) Start before you’re ready

Great advice from a recovering procrastinator, right? (2005 Me thinks that 2016 Me is crazy.) Start today - it’s not going to be more convenient tomorrow. I am still really good at thinking of reasons why that’s not true, but I am at least a little bit wiser and know the great myth of procrastination: that task will be more appealing/less scary tomorrow than it is today (I see what you’re doing there, brain!)

My main strategy to combat that is either to trick myself by setting a deadline when I’m feeling more inspired (and safely months away from said deadline), or to remind myself that it might actually be scarier to know that I haven’t done any of the things that I really want to do. Not to get morbid on you, but none of us know when we’re going to die. I often use the question “if I found out I were dying, would I still do (or not do) this?” as a way to provide clarity for myself.

The other advice I’d have for 2005 Me in this category sounds cheesy, but essential: fake confidence if you don't have it yet - you are legit even if you don’t know what you’re doing. You know that quote “Eighty percent of life is showing up?” It might be a cliche, but it’s true - so many people don’t even bother to show up, so any effort I’m making automatically puts me further down the path to success and gets me closer to my goals. Time passes fast, and in a flash, I’m feeling more experienced at whatever it is - if I put in the work, this is inevitable. Starting is the hardest part.

This post is already getting pretty long, so look for part 2 next week!

Reflections on California Brazil Camp 2016

I’ve been reflecting on how my experience at California Brazil Camp relates back to my normal life. It’s wonderful there, but we couldn’t sustain this lifestyle (off the grid playing music nearly 24/7 in a redwood forest) all of the time - real life gets in the way! The after-camp glow starts to fade as more time at home passes, but I’m keeping the spirit alive - I’ve practiced Brazilian music daily since returning home, both by myself and with others, and have issues stopping, because there’s just so much great music to work on!

To hear some of this music and read what camp is all about, see my previous post. Also, the amazing Eric Crawford (camp photographer) has hundreds of great photos here.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love this camp (it was my 5th time there this year), but as an introvert, I do struggle with balancing the desire to learn and experience as much as I can (classes run from 9am-9pm, followed by multiple teacher/student jams in various places) and meet new people with the need to sleep and avoid total overstimulation. FOMO at Brazil Camp is real, but I know if I stay up until 4am, I won’t be functional the next day to continue pushing my brain to the limit. So, even though it seems like I went on a cool vacation (and it was exhilarating), I really just replaced one kind of overwhelm with another.

Despite my desire to unplug, I still had fall scheduling emails to write, so I did actually sneak over to the bakery with wifi across the street from the camp. Making the fall schedule for my students each year is also an overwhelming process, so I easily became stressed. Luckily, Guinga’s class (look him up, he's amazing!) meets at the bakery, and I heard them rehearsing the most beautiful and peaceful song, Domingo de Nazareth. Along with a cat who was hanging out there too, it really helped ease my stress!


How did I deal with overwhelm at camp? By riding the wave of my ebbing and flowing energy - taking whatever time I could to rest, take a walk to town, or even practice (a solitary activity). I knew that the week would be intense and that pacing myself would be the only way. So why don’t I do this more at home? I take very few breaks during my workday, even the part spent at home during the mornings/early afternoons. Isn’t this the reason that people have flexible jobs? I clearly need to apply this habit of intermittent rest to my normal work life - planning a trip once or twice a year isn’t a sustainable way to live. Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes wrote a brilliant list of ways to recharge when you only have a 10-minute break - use it!

When it’s time to leave camp, I always have mixed feelings - not wanting the connection to this music to fade, wanting to continue having a brain undistracted by technology, and enjoying a break from the real world. At the same time, I am exhausted and can’t wait to get back to my own bed, office, kitchen, and the ability to easily communicate with loved ones. Travel is always an interesting reset button for our routines - while I am definitely a creature of routine, I do enjoy the opportunity for forced minimalism, as it forces me to worry about fewer small/unimportant things.

Being at camp always forces us to leave or expand our comfort zones (part of my reason for starting this blog), and this time I did this in a number of ways: trying the advanced choro class, even though I wasn’t certain I could hang with them (turns out I could), trying the vocal class (I don’t totally feel comfortable with singing), and by midweek, even being ready to sit in at the jazz tent or the roda de choro in the evening, but I didn’t get the opportunity again - next time!

Though I was feeling the humility of being a student (do we ever get over, that, really?), in many ways I did feel quite comfortable: being in a familiar setting, and being around “my people”, which makes me feel most like myself. I find myself gravitating more easily to this feeling at home, to more of a sense of ease and less of unnecessary complication (although there is plenty going on for a teacher in September).

Thoughts to take forward

Brazil Camp is like my North Star - even though I only get this immersive of an experience once a year, it provides me with so much material, in this case new piano techniques, a deeper understanding of samba and baião grooves, new level of rhythmic feel, etc. It was clear to me how much I had grown and learned since last summer, and it’s addictive. In other words, samba is a vitamin that I should never let myself get deficient in! When I stay committed to playing music I love, it helps fuel me for all aspects of my musical, work, and regular life.

 Can you smell the redwood leaves?

California Brazil Camp, I Miss You

I've just returned to Minnesota after 12 days of travel: a week at California Brazil Camp in Cazadero (Sonoma County), and a few more days visiting relatives in the San Francisco Bay Area. For some reason I thought I'd have time to get onto (scarce) wifi and post something while at camp (ha!) Then I came home and got sucked into fall planning for my students - lessons start up tomorrow!

It's a beautiful music camp in the middle of a redwood forest, where cell phones don't work, so instead of walking around with necks craned downward, we are present and greeted by each others' faces. This was my 5th visit, but no matter how many times you go, you can expect to have your head filled to the brim with all of the new music you can absorb, as there are 8+ hours of possible classes each day, and jams or concerts in the evenings that last much of the night.

How to describe the vibe of California Brazil Camp? Some are religious in their commitment to coming every year, and their fanaticism for the music. The vast majority of people who come there are open, friendly, and interesting, and the level of trust is almost instant - people leave out electronics and personal belongings, and I’ve never heard of anyone having something stolen. Mostly we’re all just so excited to be among our people, doing what we love, surrounded by phenomenal teachers and fellow students.

Until you've been there, it’s hard to understand the effect of the near-total immersion in Brazilian music that we get at this camp - I always come home walking to some kind of samba beat stuck in my head and think that music I hear from afar is Brazilian (sadly, it usually isn't). Even saying “Brazilian music” is overly general - many genres are studied: samba, Brazilian jazz, choro, forró, baião, frevo, xote, bossa, etc. I think that I played some of all of these during the week, which would explain why my brain always felt in danger of exploding from fullness.

I always bring a melodica to camp with me, in case there are too many pianists, but this year there was both a piano and a keyboard in the rehearsal room, so I always got to play one of the two, which was incredible. I also tried out the beginning vocal class for a few days, and didn't even have any time for percussion. The hardest decisions to make at camp are which classes not to take, and how much to sleep/how much jamming time you're going to miss (many of the amazing teachers stay up most of the night, and no one wants to miss the opportunity to see them or even participate!) Squeezing any extraneous practice time into your schedule is also difficult, especially for a pianist - limited instrument choices.

Thanks to my fellow pianist Eric, here are some performance videos of the Northeastern Ensemble, led by Vitor Gonçalves (who I also got to take piano classes with), and the Brazilian Jazz Ensemble, led by Léa Freire. I also performed with the choro class led by Alessandro Penezzi, which I only have an iPhone recording of (stay tuned.)


I'll save more of my reflections and takeaways for the next post - re-entry into real life takes a while. For now, enjoy the tunes and views of the incredible redwoods.

Hello and Welcome!


“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

 - Chinese proverb


Hi! I'm Rebecca Hass, a pianist, teacher, arranger, and composer in St. Paul, MN. I love music from all over the world and throughout history, but will never give up a chance to profess my undying love of Brazilian music. I'm planning on blogging here at least weekly to share what I'm working on, what's inspiring me, as well as thoughts about music and creativity.

Why am I writing?

Isn't it enough just to fill up this website with content that shows you what I do, posting events and videos occasionally? I don't think so - writing is one of the best ways to process thoughts, and a way to connect with other humans, even if only through the Internet.

As a proud introvert, I have historically been mostly a lurker on the Internet, usually scrolling and consuming more than sharing and participating. Let’s use the internet morefor meaningful things, and less for endless scrolling (guilty as charged!) I think it's so important to stretch out of our comfort zones, especially when that pushes us toward more things that we really want to be doing. Scary stuff is worth it - I heard this somewhere once: if something kind of makes you want to puke, it’s probably a step in the right direction.

Most of us have a few “I could never..."s hanging out in our brains (I know I have), but they're not even true - Paul Jarvis expresses this better than I can here. Luckily, I overcame a big "I could never" when I became a music major about 15 years ago. I'll spare you my life story for now, but I actually started school as just a minor in music - not because I thought it would be difficult to make a career, but because I actually doubted that I could do it! I don't think that I often say "I could never..." anymore, but there are plenty of things that I haven't started because I didn't know how. Now this blog won't be on that list.

Creating > Consuming

In the 2010s (what are we really calling this decade, anyway?), it's so easy to overshare on countless platforms. Just thinking about the hundreds of billions of tweets being archived by the Library of Congress is pretty unfathomable, and how much of that is really worth reading, or re-reading? I've always been someone who thinks (and overthinks) before they speak or share, but I really think that creating in a meaningful way is more valuable than simply consuming.

This is why I find myself gravitating more toward arranging and composing vs. playing classical music, where one's main job is interpreting material given to them, as opposed to creating new material. (It wasn't always this way, though!) No disrespect to the great classical players, but I know that I wouldn't be happy only doing that.

Composing / Doing Scary Things

Another big past "I could never..." for me was composing. I took one music composition class at my high school, and one in college, but didn't dare label myself as "A Composer", because I never felt like I really knew what I was doing. As a person who often thoroughly reads the instructions and over-researches new projects, it didn't come as naturally to me as reading other people's notes off the page. Over the last few years, I've been doing more arranging - creating my own spin on someone else's tune - which felt like the gateway to composing. A little over a year ago, I decided to form a habit - writing little snippets of things daily, but hadn't made the leap to share it with any other musicians.

Then, in December 2015, my trio played at the New Ruckus Composer Night here in St. Paul, a friendly place to play original music of any kind. I decided that night to get in line for my own slot (because I find deadlines motivating), which ended up being in July 2016. I brought beginning sections of two pieces, and was pleased to get some very positive comments, but ultimately it was most important for me to just show up and show my work.

I made a rough video of the first section of one of the pieces (a Brazilian choro) - see below! The other sections are still emerging, but I'll post more when I can.

What's something scary you've recently pushed yourself to do?