Tag Archive | workshop

Creative practicing: not an oxymoron

practicing-instruments

I recently attended a workshop on improvisation*, and one of the interesting topics was practicing.  Not just figuring out how to improvise over a jazz standard, although we did some of that as well.  Finding new ways into the music, ways to make it more creative and a lot more productive.  I was fascinated, because I had already been invited to offer an evening workshop at the New England Conservatory about the very subject.  I had a lot of ideas before and now I have even more. The free event, for adults of all persuasions (beginners are encouraged), is coming up soon.  Here’s the scoop:

Wednesday January 31, 8-9:30pm, Pierce Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, 241 St Botolph Street, Boston.  Free to all, no NEC affiliation necessary.  Appropriate for all styles.  Bring your questions or even a bit of a song you’d like to ask about…there will be handouts, so if you’re coming, shoot me an email so I know how many to prepare.  No one is required to sing, but there will be opportunities for the group to try exercises together.

*it was a weeklong workshop with two master performers/teachers, Rhiannon and Laurence Hobgood.  In Hawaii.  Poor me.  I did, however, suffer through Boston’s Big Chill before earning the right to get warm.   There was also an exciting false alert sent to my phone about incoming missiles.  Some people have all the fun.

Video montage

 

Liz sitting at a desk with Emma Suzik holding my hand from behind

Liz with stage daughter Emma Suzik, Kristin Seeger peeking out in the photo behind

There are video and photo montages of the show I sang in North Carolina this past July on this site An Extra Penny.

Scroll down for the video; I appear at about 6:15 and at the end, and on the way you can hear the beautiful music by Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian and view so many of my colleagues.

In through the back door: Singing 2s and 3s

“If you saw this notated, you wouldn’t know how to begin to learn this,” said Eugene Friesen at our recent workshop in Vermont.  We all agreed.  We were moving our feet in one pattern, our mouths in another, and using rhythmic shakers in third.  Pretty shaky, overall.  I would think I had achieved some sort of groove, then would lose it.  And then gain it back by NOT thinking, but by feeling the pulse “in the lower part of your body” as master percussionist Glen Velez suggested.

two absract figures with leaves

Matisse polyrhythms

“Your Rhythm, Your Life” was the title of the workshop, but we often felt as if we were being mugged by our fears.  And yet, we each improved, improvised over the patterns and gained confidence.  I learned a lot about how I learn and how others do as well, and I had a barrel of fun improvising with the other intrepid participants, a gaggle of string players and singers.

I LOVE being a student in musical workshops.  I get to be nervous and excited, want to please the teachers, ask questions, get plenty of feedback, and not take up too much space .  It reminds me of what my students must go through in my classes.  Beginner’s mind.  Well, advanced intermediate in this case, but you get the idea.

I learn best when I’m not expecting too much or trying too hard.  I have had some of my best lessons when I was feeling under the weather–lower expectations.  When I can play at something, I discover for myself and learn the best.  When I am praised for small victories, I thrive and feel safe to take more risks.

The third teacher at this marvelous workshop is a singer, Loire.  She demonstrated, sang duets with us and played with us musically.  The last session, she said that as she looked around, we were all scowling and focusing our faces so hard.  She observed we could say “I have no idea where I am” with either a frustrated voice or a very playful voice.  We all laughed and someone said that we actually hear better with our mouths open in a smile.  Is that why it is so pleasant to have a little open mouthed yawn as we inhale to sing?  We hear better?  And I thought it just opened the physical apparatus so I could sing better.  Hmmm…

Polyrhythms.   Easier to learn  through play and body movements than thinking too much.  In through the back door.  Start with something we CAN do and build on that.  Expect fun, set reasonable goals.  Aim high as we like and be willing to allow ourselves to make some messes along the way.