piano music

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!

What I Learned From My 2nd 100 Day Project

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If you follow me on Instagram or my Facebook page, you couldn’t miss my 2nd 100 Day Project while it was happening, but I didn’t write about it on the blog as much as the first one. Although I finished it right at the end of 2017, I haven’t taken the time to reflect on it until now. My observations about the 1st 100 Day Project are here

Both projects had the same parameters: write 8 measures of music each day, of any kind, for any instrument. Some ended up continuing from day to day, some were picked back up later, and some never went anywhere (but were still equally important to do!) My favorite pieces that I finished during the 2nd 100 Days were: an as-of-yet untitled maxixe/samba; Centimonk, a 100th birthday tribute to Thelonious Monk; an autumn-inspired waltz, a funky ostinato about a crime-fighting manatee; a Bartok-esque piece for solo violin; and another piece about Rusty the Cat (his superhero identity).

HOW THE 2ND PROJECT WAS DIFFERENT FROM THE 1ST

  • 21 days of the 2nd project were spent doing a different piece every day, so that I could test out some composition prompts that I wrote (along with a small group). Many of these didn’t develop into anything more, but the manatee one and one designed to accompany this piece of art definitely will!

  • I stretched my comfort zone a bit with these prompts, by trying out some different styles, and also, by writing a piece for solo violin toward the end of the year.

  • Toward the end of the challenge, I started to get tired of having to post something every day, and I felt a little boxed in my 8-measure requirement (even though there was nothing stopping me from writing more.)

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE 2 PROJECTS

  • Every day is not going to be profound (as in music, as in life), but accepting this fact makes it so much easier to show up and do the work every day

  • It was still hard to think about form (something I want to try focusing on more), especially without feeling like I was boxed in by groups of 8 measures.

  • I ended up with tons of ideas, and many finished pieces - lots of material to work with.

  • Editing pieces and finishing them is the hardest part of the process for me, probably because the perfectionist part of my brain wants a flawless finished project. I thought that easing the requirement of having to generate something every day would help with this, but I still need to create some structure around it, both through scheduled work time and having a list of pieces that I definitely want to finish, then dedicating my writing time to those.

OTHER INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS

  • Even though finishing pieces is still the hardest part for me, I am now really comfortable with generating ideas and starting things, from doing it so many times over the course of these projects. Oddly, I don’t worry about running out of ideas (which definitely surprised me) - I proved that I could show up on 200+ days last year and come up with something. Running out of good ideas, on the other hand, might be another story, but I’ve developed a lot of trust in the process.

  • Even though I did need a little break by the end of the project, my daily habit has lapsed since then. Although for good reason - I have other projects I’m trying to launch, on top of my normal teaching and rehearsal schedule, I don’t like that. I want to have a mostly-daily habit (I am always pro-days off when needed) without the hassle of posting something every day. But, committing to a daily habit is part of the motivation for me, and public accountability certainly helped, too. I’m still figuring out how to re-structure my practice habit this year, and writing should be easy to roll in with that.

  • Looking back now, choosing to do the first 100 Day Project was an amazing decision because it has totally shaped the direction of my work and my decision to focus on composition and sharing composition resources with other musicians, which has been SO FUN!

You can also listen to all of the pieces from my 1st 100 Day Project here, and many from the 2nd project here - other projects like launching my 5-day composition prompt course (which you can sign up for below), and my sheet music store (coming soon!) have eclipsed it lately, but I will finish soon!

Have you ever embarked on a daily creative project or challenge (of any length)? If so, I want to hear about it - the good stuff, the bad stuff, anything!

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!