June 25, 2014


Some people love to perform.  The thrill of being on stage, the excitement of sharing with others, the anxiety of it not going well,the possibility that it will be brilliant, the comfort of a well-known program.  Other people, not so much. 

Culturally, we revere performance and performers.  And as musicians we hold those that get on stage on occasion or all the time in high regard…precisely because we know what they are going through. And often we’re glad it’s not us!

But if you look at the etymology of the word “Perform” it is enlightening.  It comes to us through Middle English from the Old French Parfournir to see something through to completion, to accomplish something. 

Well, that’s not so bad….or terrifying, is it?  To see something completed is a goal for many people.  And to perform on a stage for a collection of interested listeners (see – doesn’t that sound less horrible than “audience”?) is certainly one fitting end to the hours of practice that you have put in to each piece you have painstakingly learned, refined, and polished.

You are leaning away, thinking that I am only talking about other people.  That you’re not interested in performing on a stage, that someone else will do such a better job of it.  And that is fine…if you mean it.  But if you mean it, why do you envy those that do it? Are you afraid that you’re not good enough?  Or that you’re not prepared enough?  The first is doubt driven, second is correctable if you do want to be on stage.

So, be certain to define your parfournir for yourself – define what seeing your practice to completion means…and then work your way there.  Performing can be done at many levels – just don’t stop at a level that is comfortable but doesn’t fit your definition of complete.

June 19, 2014


We all know that we should close our hands when we’re playing.  Teachers make up funny names to help students learn and remember (clam hands, puppy paws, etc.).  We exhort our students to “Close!  Close!  Close!” 

And many of you know that the point is to allow your hands (and forearms) to relax, to let those muscles rest, ever so briefly.  That musicians are athletes of the small muscles.

But in the midst of learning something new, we are focused (or possibly stressed), trying to learn the tune, or to master the hard bit, or to get the timing just right.  We are focused on the notes, the passage, the phrase.  And what we’re not focused on…is our hands!  What can you do?  Here are three things to incorporate into your practice to improve your ability to relax while playing:

  1. When you are learning new things is it important to occasionally open your focus – knowing the notes won’t help if they sound terrible, strained or tinny.   
  2. Pay attention to what you are doing.  Just as you need to remember to breathe, remember to check your hands – how is your technique?    
  3. Slow down!  There is no race to learning – you will get the tune, learn the notes, master the passage – so quit trying to compete with everyone else – there is no race!

Enjoy – playing is enjoyable so don’t stress yourself out – just relax…and play

June 11, 2014

Summer weekends are not all for the beach

There aren’t very many weekends in the summer and most of us do our best to have fun on every one of them.  But you can only spend so much time at the beach.  If you have already wisely chosen to spend one of those weekends at Harp Camp with me and Kris and another at OSAS, you will want to spend another one at Somerset Folk Harp Festival!

Somerset has only been going on for a few years but it definitely has a place on the well rounded harper's calendar.  There are loads of interesting workshops taught by amazing harpers many of whom you might never even dreamed of getting to spend time learning from.   

There are so many workshops that it is often difficult to decide which one to participate in in each available session.  And then there are the concerts, the vendor hall and the opportunities to see old friends and make new ones.   And Scottish Harp Society of America will have a table!   

What more could you possibly ask?! See you there?