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2018 Recap + How I'm Approaching 2019 Differently

Welcome to 2019!

Welcome to 2019, happy to be here!

Before I get into planning the new year, it’s really important to look back on the year we’re finishing, and acknowledge all that was learned and accomplished (even if you feel like you didn’t do that much, I bet that it’s a lot more than you thought!) I’m posting my highlights, not as a brag or an encouragement for comparison, but to set an example that we all deserve to recognize our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves!

2018 was a really big year for me, crazy and challenging, but overall a good one. Here’s some of what I did:

WORK

PERSONAL / TRAVEL

  • Celebrated my 35th birthday + Tom’s graduation (after 4.5 years in school) on the same day!

  • Denver to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday

  • New York City to see the installation at MoMA PS1 that Tom helped with

  • Cabin weekend in Northern Minnesota

  • New Orleans to attend Being Boss NOLA

  • Door County, Wisconsin for a wedding during the peak of fall color

  • San Francisco Bay Area for a gig and to visit family

  • Celebrated my 12th anniversary w/Tom!

  • Purged a lot of stuff from the apartment, which was years overdue and felt amazing!

LOW MOMENTS

(I share these in the name of keeping it real - it’s definitely not all highlights around here)

  • Being on my own for almost the entire Kickstarter - Tom was gone in NYC, working on the aforementioned MoMA PS1 installation

  • Sick with the worst cold I’ve had in years while recording my album

  • Felt burnout / “post-partum depression” after album release, which coincided with the sudden onset of winter and seasonal affective disorder

  • Tons of moments of “can I do this?”, “how am I going to do this?”, and other self-doubting thoughts (they’re not very Instagrammable, but we all have them!)

FIRSTS

  • First time feeling positive about winter, by getting outside for a walk most days (it made me happier than going to the gym)

  • Started writing my first piano trio

  • First in-person breathwork experience - I participated in a circle at Constellation Acupuncture with Amy Kuretsky on New Year’s Day

  • First craniosacral therapy (I’ve never been more relaxed - my friend Sara is made of magic!)

  • First time being a podcast guest (on the Essential Omnivore podcast, hosted by my awesome nutritionist Lucia Hawley)

  • First time getting cupping

  • Finally got comfortable with talking at performances

  • First sheet music sale

  • First time dying my hair - purple highlights!

  • First Kickstarter

  • First radio interview (on Jazz88, to talk about my album)

  • First album

  • First Facebook Live video that was entirely spoken (on holiday self-care)

CONNECT (My 2018 word of the year)

I really embraced this word of the year by collaborating with and meeting lots of other cool musicians and artists, some of whom even became good friends! I also attended some great events such as the Minnesota Music Coalition Summit, New Music Gathering, Giant Steps, and Dissonance’s Unhappy Holidays.

Looking back on this list, it’s really clear to me that I did too much in 2018 - I don’t regret having done any of this stuff, but I worked too hard! I am feeling pulled toward being more present/intuition-focused, and away from tying my worth to achievement (oof, that's going to be a process.)⠀

So what’s in store for 2019?

I’m approaching this year very differently than past years.

After all that I did last year, I have a strong desire to simplify, in terms of things I’m doing, and in the material and digital realms. In the past, I have often treated new year planning and goal setting like arriving hangry at a delicious buffet - I always overdo it!

I don’t normally plan for a whole year at once, but this year I am being very choosy, so only things that truly feel good and right will make my list. (And permission to change our minds whenever we want is implied!)

In support of these goals, I also joined Mara Glatzel’s yearlong circle called Cycle, “conscious planning for women who want to get shit done without sacrificing their self-care” - rest is not optional! The first retreat was last weekend, and I’m already really excited about being part of this community. (This is not an ad, I just really love Mara’s work and have found it so helpful.)

So, appropriately...

This year my word of the year is JOY.

  • Joy as a goal instead of a byproduct.

  • Doing things that feel good just for the sake of feeling good (something that I often ignore in favor of getting the next thing done, and the next, and the next…)

  • Making music that brings me joy, which I can then spread to others

  • Helping others find their own joy

Feeling good is not frivolous - it helps us show up for the important people in our lives, and do work that impacts others positively.

I do have a short list of things I’m excited about doing this year:

TASKS

HABITS (small changes work!)

  • Re-starting a daily practice and/or composing habit that feels good

  • Reducing my mental input (consuming too much information on the internet is like the mental equivalent of eating too much) by utilizing the Screen Time feature on my phone, and not picking it up immediately in the morning

  • Setting aside time in the morning for journaling and meditation - I know that I need more space in my life for thinking and processing

But, I also plan to check in with myself regularly to make sure that my goals still feel aligned with what I want and need - no “shoulds” allowed, unless they’re practical things in service of goals I’m excited about.

If all of this new year talk doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay, you do you. I fully believe that the new year can be a fresh start, but shouldn’t elicit pressure or frustration. If you’re feeling a fresh start next week, or on a random Thursday in March, go for it - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2019!

If you chose a word of the year, share it in the comments, or share something you’re excited about doing in 2019!

Connecting at the MN Music Coalition Summit

My word for 2018 is CONNECT, and it’s been in full force so far (setting an intention makes a difference!) I’m open to connecting with any interesting people, but I especially wanted to form and strengthen relationships with women musicians, both locally, and via social media.

Since the beginning of 2018, I have:

  • started a Sunday shout-out series on Instagram where I highlight women creatives doing awesome work
  • kept up with Binders of Women in Minnesota Music, a very supportive private Facebook group
  • performed my music with Jenny Klukken at a MacPhail Faculty Recital in February (video here)
  • met more local women musicians through friends and through hosting another local women musicians happy hour with Lauren Husting
  • made plans to play shows with Susan Shehata (accompanying her in a cabaret performance called “What’s Your Story”) and Jen Bluhm (an all-waltz show - she goes by the name Waltzing on Waves) in May
  • made friends with more musicians on Instagram that seem to align with my values
  • finally figured out that I like networking, as long as it’s in smaller doses, and in a scenario where I’m surrounded by interesting people, like Giant Steps last October, and the Minnesota Music Coalition Summit, which just happened last weekend.

I wasn’t able to attend all of the events over the 3 days of the Summit, but everything I went to was excellent, and I even just realized that all of the panelists/speakers that I saw on Friday afternoon were women:

Andrea Swensson in conversation with Lori Barbero

I loved this conversation - Lori seems very down-to-earth and sounds just like your Minnesotan aunt (if you didn't know, she co-founded the punk band Babes in Toyland. She told lots of great stories about famous musicians of the 90s, and talked about her amazing-sounding project with local artist Chris Larson: MN All-Girls Music Studio, for girls ages 6-15 to come and form bands and make recordings, for free!

Gig Gear w/Molly Maher

This presentation was geared toward guitarists (as Molly Maher is a guitar tech), but I still found it super interesting. She went through her guitar tech gig bag, which has literally eveything someone might need on stage (and I learned that steel wool near a 9 volt battery can start a fire, some solid MacGyver-ish info!) I also learned a bit about sound, how to diagnose troubles on stage (my keyboard setup is super simple but I would feel lost branching outside of that), and some of her opinions on what kinds of cables are the highest quality (American-made, with lifetime warranty).

Looping for vocals with Lynn O’Brien

Lynn talked about her setup and process for creating songs with vocal loops. She values the spontaneity of doing this on the spot, but plenty of people also pre-record loops and just play them back live. She uses a Boss loop station that allows her more flexibility with layering and saving more tracks than the previous pedals she’d used.

Behind the Board with Holly Hansen

Holly answered questions about running your own sound at shows, something that I know very little about. She affirmed that the best tool you have is to trust your own ears - no one knows your sound better than you, and don’t let sound people convince you otherwise (especially if you’re a woman, being mansplained.) She also had lots of great advice about recording in studio, such as giving reference tracks to the engineer ahead of time, pacing yourself by not recording too many hours each day, and being extremely prepared (plenty of rehearsal, and good physical condition - eating well, getting enough sleep, etc.) Lastly, she recommended that everyone sign up for a (free!) subscription to Tape Op magazine to learn more about engineering.

Panel on Crowdfunding

This panel was led by local musicians Vicky Emerson and 2 others (a father/son duo whose names I unfortunately didn’t write down), and was one of the most helpful for me, since my Kickstarter is launching on May 29! They talked about the importance of knowing your fan base and what they like (by tracking attendance and sales at shows), making people part of the journey by having a compelling, concise story and a video that grabs people’s attention quickly, and using the psychology of momentum (joiner effect) to your advantage, possibly by doing a campaign that’s shorter than a month (for your sanity, too!) Since Vicky has done a few Kickstarters already, and has one underway right now, she also had some great promotion ideas (release a new track, do a live video, have a giveaway), and tips for reward incentives (watch out for expenses, especially postage, and putting good rewards in the $25-50 range where the most people will give).

Getting to Know the Jerome Foundation

Jerome Foundation president Ben Cameron and Kris Kautzman, Manager of Community Partnerships at American Composers Forum outlined the Jerome Fellowship criteria and typical winners, since the deadline is coming up on May 8. I had to leave this one early, but they gave some good advice about grant writing, such as considering where the funder is listening for (what do they care about?)

Mentor session with composer Will Van De Crommert

I signed up for a 15-minute conversation with Will to learn more about film and TV composing. He suggested that the first step is to become comfortable with self-producing my own music, and gave me a list of the gear and software that would enable me to do that. He also mentioned that some places to connect with filmmakers would be MN Film Board meetings, or looking on campuses like MCTC or MCAD for film students.

Being Your Authentic Self with PaviElle (interviewed by Janis Lane-Ewart)

I always love anything that affirms our ability to show up and be our authentic selves, so, of course, I loved this conversation. They talked a lot about how PaviElle manifests her personal authenticity - by putting her own values first, creating change in her community, and “doing things from the heart” from a young age, though she was different than her peers in many ways. I liked her answer to a question about how to collect inspiration when the opportunity strikes (since she works a day job) - she takes a quick break and goes to a little-used bathroom and sings into her voice recorder, and keeps a text file open for lyric ideas. My favorite part, though, was her quote, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it.” That’s what we all have to do as creative people on our own paths that reveal themselves one step at a time, and PaviElle is such an inspiring example of following your own path!

There were also more great-sounding sessions that I unfortunately didn’t get to attend, like Racism in the Music Industry, Creating Safe Spaces for Artists, Protecting Artists in Music Transactions and Against Inappropriate Behavior Toward Women, How To Get Asked Back (about booking etiquette), and a keynote by Venus DeMars, sharing her story as a transgender artist. Music business-related events like this could easily trend toward being very white male-centric, but it was great to see the effort that Minnesota Music Coalition made toward inclusion of a much more diverse group of presenters.

Overall, this was an awesome event, and I’m really glad that I braved the beginning of a blizzard to go (luckily I live under 15 minutes away on city streets). It was great to connect with more local musicians, and being inspired always helps me connect internally with my goals and my overall direction as a musician. I have attended lots of professional development events as a piano teacher, but it was really nice to attend something that supports my own music career as a performer.

Speaking of which, my Kickstarter for my upcoming Brazilian album officially has a launch date!

If you want to stay in the loop on the Kickstarter and upcoming gigs, be sure to hop on my mailing list here!

What’s the best networking or professional development event you’ve attended? Let me know in the comments!

2017 Recap + Welcome 2018!

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Welcome to 2018!

And, congratulations, we made it through 2017! (Phew.)

I certainly am happy to turn the page on the calendar - 2017 was a difficult yet rewarding year of growth, in which I did lots of cool things but also dealt with burnout and a lot of anxiety. After trying everything holistic that I could think of to help, I finally decided to try going on meds, and after some extra rest and big lifestyle changes, by the end of summer, I was feeling a lot better - I had to actually listen to my body when it told me what it needed, again and again. I think this stuff is important to mention (#endthestigma), because we all struggle behind our highlight reels that we show to the world on social media - you’re not alone! And, every time we go through a big period of struggle, it brings us to the next, more evolved version of ourselves, which I’m always grateful for afterward.

Some firsts from this year:

  • Getting a studio to teach private lessons at MacPhail (a long time coming!)

  • Seeing Hermeto Pascoal and his band at SFJazz in April

  • Creating and facilitating a set of composition prompts for creative musicians, which is now a free 5 day-course (more about that below!)

  • Starting a regular networking happy hour for women musicians in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with my friend Lauren Husting

  • Receiving my certification from MTNA and became a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music

  • Attending the Giant Steps conference here in Minneapolis - so inspiring!

  • Prioritizing rest and self-care for real (instead of just talking about it a lot and not giving myself what I need)

  • Trying breathwork as a way to turn my mind off (it works) and connect to myself

  • Going back to eating meat again after 14 years without it (with some excellent help from Lucia of Essential Omnivore!)

  • Getting really into drawing, so much that I decided to get one printed!

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Other highlights:

  • Performing 3 sambas that I arranged for solo piano at a MacPhail faculty recital (what I learned from that process: here and here)

  • Choro rodas with local and visiting friends

  • Playing more Brazilian gigs on piano, especially at the National Flute Association Convention with Jane Lenoir and Tim O’Keefe

  • Finishing 2 100 Day Projects of writing 8 measures of music per day

  • Performing my own music several times

  • My 6th time at California Brazil Camp - ensembles with Hermeto Pascoal, Jovino Santos Neto, Vitor Gonçalves, and Alessandro Penezzi!

  • Seeing Anat Cohen and Choro Aventuroso (including my teacher Vitor) at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest in June

  • My 11th anniversary with Tom (celebrated with sushi and sculptures)

  • Growing new friendships with a few awesome women musician/artists

  • To my surprise, I also somehow managed to read 54+ books this year (and I didn’t start tracking my reading until March, so it was probably more like 60!)

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Also, in 2017 I picked two words to focus on for the year, guided by Susannah Conway’s workbook Find Your Word: LISTEN and INTENT (see last year's recap post for explanation). Those words kind of worked for me last year, but they didn’t really stay at the forefront of my mind, although I think that I still made some changes in those areas.

New Year’s resolutions get a lot of flak, but as long as they’re specific and actionable (actual goals), I’m into it - I’ll take any fresh-start energy I can get. All of the reflection that I did in 2017 has enabled me to have more clarity about what I want from 2018, and to feel more ready to begin (or really, continue).

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Ways that I want to CONNECT this year:

  • To my own intuition and purpose

  • To the expansive feeling I get when I’m doing things that bring me joy (in work and in life)

  • To a sense of ease and lightness

  • Being mindful and present in my interactions with others

  • Forming meaningful connections with other musicians and composers (especially women)

  • Showing my work as fearlessly as possible

  • Letting go of things that don’t give me meaningful connection or help me get closer to how I want to feel (hello, mindless scrolling!)

I’m not the type to plan out my whole year at once, but here are some of my big goals for 2018:

  • Revamp my morning routine to always include meditation and journaling (probably 10 minutes of each) before I exercise

  • Record an album of my Brazilian arrangements and compositions (finally) and crowdfund it

  • Collaborate with more women musicians (already talking with a few people)

  • Launch a sheet music store of my compositions and arrangements (this one I’m committed to doing by the end of January!)

  • Publish 1 piece per month for the rest of the year

  • Start writing more pieces for instruments other than my own (and start writing a trio for my trio)

  • Start using my voice more (literally) - starting with Instagram Stories

  • Leave time for fun and hobbies (reading more fiction and graphic novels, drawing, crafting, etc.)

And one I already completed this week:

Launch my free 5-day course of bite-size composition prompts

If you're a musician who has thought about writing but didn't know where to start, if you're looking for some idea generation, or camaraderie with other creative musicians, this is for you. If you're interested, sign up below and join us!

I have a good feeling about this year - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2018! 

If you chose a word for the year or have music-related goals you're excited about, share them in the comments!