January 29, 2014

Check Your Resolutions

Surveys earlier this month indicated that many people make resolutions each year.  Those same surveys indicated that most people didn’t make it very far on those resolutions.   

We typically make resolutions to focus on something we think we should be doing but haven’t done or on things we do that we know are bad for us. Assuming you’ve made some harp resolutions, this is a good time to determine if you’re on track to achieving those resolutions or if you’ve already fallen off the wagon and need to climb back on!   

Here are four ways to keep yourself moving forward to successfully achieve your resolutions for 2014:
  1.  Make sure you really want it– sometimes we set a resolution that we think we should set, rather than one we actually want.   For example, we think we should practice for two hours every day, but we don’t really want to. Be clear on what you want and work toward that.  If you really only want to practice for half an hour a day, a better resolution would be to structure your practice and really get benefit from those thirty minutes.
  2. Identify what has gotten in your way and how you’re going to get around it – if your resolution is to practice every day but you’re not making it, examine why – what is getting in your way?  Once you know what is blocking you (you don’t really want to, you have to move your harp to play it, you haven’t scheduled the time) you can devise a strategy to stay on track.
  3. Catch yourself doing good – set up a reward schedule for making progress on your resolution.  Make sure it is a good reward!
  4. Verify that it was a good resolution to begin with – sometimes we set resolutions that really aren’t good (something we just can’t achieve or a resolution that you don’t really want)…change it!  Resolutions are not set in stone and you can set a new one that is a better fit at any time.
Remember that you set a resolution to make you better, not to punish yourself!  Do what you can to help you make your resolutions successful and you’ll have a real feeling of accomplishment.

January 22, 2014

Step out there

Stage fright has an incredible power over people. There are well known, well loved performers who famously suffer from stage fright.  The problem with suffering with stage fright is that it cuts you off from opportunities - and most of us don't like to have good opportunities disappear.  However, being afraid to get in front of a group and perform can significantly impact your harp life.  After all, why do we play if not to share our gifts with others? 

So how do you get to a point that you can perform for other people when you are terrified?  It is easy for others to tell you to get over it or to tell you that you need to focus outside yourself and share.  But if all that goes right out of your head when you're about to set foot on stage, here are a few things to bring into your practice to help you be feel more easy and lower your stage fright.

  1. Practice the material!  Be sure that you know all the tunes you want to play in your program. 
  2. Record your self – at first you’ll be self-conscious…but keep at it – you’ll hear all kinds of things you don’t hear while you’re playing (both good and bad)…use this to build your practice, your program…and your confidence. 
  3. Practice improvisation – most stage fright comes from the fear that you’ll forget what you were going to play and will be left standing on the stage like a doofus.  The sure way around this is to practice improvisation to get you out of scrapes and to fill time while you think (I am not kidding). 
  4. Build up - first play for your cat, then your immediate family, then add your best friend, other friends, etc.  Work your way up to a room full of strangers. 
  5. Connect with your audience – it is one thing to be told that they want you to succeed.  But if you look up, look at them, connect verbally and nonverbally, you’ll finally believe it - you'll see it in their faces.  They know they can’t do what you’re about to do…and they will be amazed! 
  6. Laugh – you will be tense…it probably helps that you’re a little tense…but be prepared to laugh, to enjoy yourself…and your audience will too. 
  7. Plan for the day – arrange to have time before you play to give yourself time to get there, get set up, breathe, and settle in. You will feel better if you're settled than if you have to race in at the last minute.
  8. You are not alone!  Know that everyone has some level of trepidation.  Once you realize that everyone feels this way to some extent, you might not feel so marked out.
Stage fright is just another thing you can overcome with practice.  Maybe that should be a goal for this year?  Always play to enjoy - even if there is a little bit of fear mixed in.

January 15, 2014

It's a new year -

It is a new year – the time when we know that we “should” be reflecting on the past year and generating new goals for the coming year.  Making resolutions that we're highly unlikely to actually keep.  And we do this every year…sigh.

So how about this year we make a plan rather than a goal? What if you focused on what you wanted to do rather than generating objectives?  What if this year you started out knowing that you could do it rather than waiting to fail?  What would you do to make this plan so that you can follow it all year long?  

Here are six things you can do to start working toward a plan:

  1. Write it down – this way not only can you not forget what your plan is, but you can make sure the plan doesn’t get any bigger (or any smaller) as time passes (unless you intend for it to).
  2. Think first – don’t just burst into action, but each day think about how you’re doing to get through that day’s part of the plan.  Take a few moments of quiet time (can be in the shower, over your morning cuppa, or anywhere else you have the time to be quiet) and think about it.
  3. Focus – spend time in your harp space, doing harp things.  Don’t bring your phone in with you, don’t turn on the TV, put down your novel and focus on your harp.
  4. Keep your space neat (to help you focus…and to be able to find your harp).  If at all possible, have a harp space – an area that is harp only with no other obligations for the space (that is, don’t play from your desk chair or turn the bench around to have breakfast, but rather have dedicated space for harping).
  5. Make a habit – this is not just me telling you to practice but rather, develop your own habits for your harp time. Warm up in the same basic way, work through your new material in the same pattern, segment your practice time similarly each day.  Once this becomes a habit you can begin to deviate to alleviate boredom – but stay within your habit pattern.
  6. Develop a ritual – this is akin to the habit, but a ritual helps set the mood. Start each day at your harp after you’ve had your tea and brushed your teeth.  Or put up the dinner dishes before your sit down, secure that all is well before you begin to play.  Or light candles in your harp room…or develop any other ritual that reminds you that it is time to practice and prepares you to spend time with your harp. 
This is a gentle way to slide into the new year.  Sneak up on your plan and accomplish your goals without anyone (except you) being the wiser!

January 8, 2014

It's a new year and a new tour!

You know that at the beginning of the year you should set some goals.  One way to achieve your goals is to have fun getting there – so I suggest you join us on the 2014 Harp the Highlands and Islands Tour!

We continue to build on previous year’s successes including making improvements suggested by our guests.  We have updated the agenda and will include new sights and opportunities.  

We will travel 11 – 19 September beginning and ending in Edinburgh.  We have a great time, see amazing stuff and learn from terrific tunes!  Hope you’ll join us!  For more details go to the website.

What will you do on your vacation?  Join us and do something interesting!