Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘coaching musicians’ Category

I finally did it. I’ve been threatening to do it for nearly a year, ok longer, but I kept telling myself that my little point and shoot Canon Powershot S500 was good enough. I kept telling myself, “It’s compact, takes a decent macro shot and someday…someday…” Besides, every time I’d begin to research DSLR cameras, I’d get a little spun out in a whirlwind of confusion and decide to check into it “later.”

So yes, you’ve guessed it.  I bought a DSLR camera. I landed upon a great deal with 18 months to pay, no interest, at Best Buy and I had my new Canon EOS Rebel T1i with two lenses delivered directly to my doorstep. I was like a kid on Christmas morning opening the box. I kept saying out loud “Look Dad! Look what I bought for myself!” My father liked to take photographs too. We mostly bonded around photography, windsurfing and computers.  He passed away a couple of years ago. I knew he’d share my joy.

Full Moon Copyright (c) Feb 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Now I can "shoot the moon" (c) K J Loh

But this post is not about cameras or my beloved father. It’s about giving ourselves what we want.

It’s about honoring ourselves with instruments and spaces that allow us to explore and expand our creative outlets, talents and passions, for no reason other than we want it.

Over the years, I’ve wrestled  with  good enough and it works mantras. I’m frugal. I didn’t build a decent retirement fund chasing after every new shiny toy. Sometimes good enough would win and I’d go into toleration mode letting my ego make up stories about how it was a better than ethic to be able to suffer having less. Like my neighbor’s bumper sticker says, “Less is Moral.”

I am not one of the Americans who over consumed and is now attending the church of new found simplicity. I don’t have over-consumption guilt or a heavy yoke of debt around my neck.  I bet many of you can relate despite the headlines in the local rag.

There is another kind of yoke that can make the spirit weary and that is the yoke of tolerating and being stingy with oneself.

I’ve pursued a number of activities in my life. The new tennis racket, the new windsurf board, harness and proper sails, the proper fitting mountain bike with great suspension,  all made an extreme difference in my skill and joy for these sports.

When I was in high school, I took voice lessons and I taught myself guitar. My mother let me have her little nylon string guitar from Mexico. One night, while lying in bed, I was shocked out of my sleep by a loud snap, whap and echoing tone. I turned on the light to find that the bridge had snapped free and tossed itself, with all six strings, at the wall behind the guitar and was left dangling pitifully from the neck. The front of the guitar body was also loosening from the back. My solution?  Duct tape.

One night, at a party, I was playing that taped-up guitar and singing. A guy I’d never met before said to me, “You need a better guitar. I can get you one.” A few days later he called. He had a brand new nylon string guitar that he would sell me (with case) for $50. It was a huge sum for me in those days and well worth the investment. With that new guitar in my arms, I began classical lessons with a neighborhood friend and relished every beautiful sound we made together, that guitar and I.

When I was in college studying music, my parents helped me buy my own piano so that I would have it at my apartment instead of having to go to the dimly lit, dreary, smoke-filled practice rooms. I bought it used from a woman who’d received it on her 16th birthday.  She never played it and was happy that it was finding a good home with me. She gave me an amazing deal. It was still in great shape and when I had it worked on years later, we found a snippet of ribbon inside the piano which I just know was part of the original Sweet Sixteen Birthday wrapping.

As much as I loved that piano, I always dreamed of a beautiful light-filled studio with an Asian carpet and a grand piano. A grand piano is not something you want to move around with a lot. In the earlier years, I told myself I was waiting to know I’d not be moving again in the foreseeable future.  Every move with my “sweet sixteen” piano required  four strong guys, a borrowed truck and cost me a case of beer.

Yet even when I bought my first home, I did not buy the grand piano. I told myself the home was enough and besides, I had not earned it yet. Someday….someday…

When I opened my private music studio, I used the “sweet sixteen” piano for 6 years before I treated myself to the grand. The truth is, I did not count my desire for the piano, my musicianship (because I was a singer and composer more than a pianist) or my worthiness as good enough to give myself such a treasure.

It took one new adult student ‘s words to send me out looking for the grand piano I’d always wanted. She said something like, “I wasn’t sure I should take lessons from someone who didn’t have a better instrument. I wasn’t sure you were a serious musician.” Those words gave me an understanding of the way in which how I value myself creates how others value me.

Within a month of that insight, I had my new Kawai grand piano and I was in heaven. I took jazz and classical lessons from local musician Gini Wilson (The Duchess). My playing improved dramatically. Having the instrument motivated me to play every day and encouraged me to see myself as a real musician, something I’d always had trouble calling myself, M.A. in music notwithstanding.

So now, we hit upon the “good enough – good enough” irony. I did not consider myself good enough, so I sang the good enough song. In other words, I decided that whatever I had was good enough for the not-so- good-enough me. I was the gatekeeper to my own happiness and I was using the ever-elusive goal of being flawlessly good and masterfully skilled as the key to the “promised land.” I had it all backwards.

My Self knows when I’m being stingy with me and it creates an awful rift, a painful disconnection between me and my soul.

The self that feels honored will rise to the occasion.

Who’s responsible for that honoring?

I am.

So, while there may be a hollow kind of consumerism, a need to fill some unspoken void when we chase after bigger, better, newer, there is also an incredible sacred honoring that comes with giving oneself the instruments, the space, the beauty that enable us to open to new landscapes of joy, creativity and serenity.

Yes, there is stretch that is called challenge and there is a stretch that is called receiving.

What is the stretch for which you are longing now?

I take my new camera everywhere. I wear it like an appendage. Not only has it enabled me to take better pictures, it has already stirred my creative juices with some very fun ideas. I have a lot to learn, but I am eager and  I am totally in love. I see the world through a new lens (no pun intended). I notice the smallest of creatures and delight in playing with perspective. I see color and light like never before. As a musician I’ve always heard the world and now, for the first time since I got my first SLR, I am also seeing the world up close and personal.

My inner creative self no longer stands before me all raggedy with an empty bowl pleading “Please sir, may I have some more?” My spirit soars and there is much joy and anticipation over what will happen next.

The earth is the soul’s playground. Give yourself something worth playing with.

And you, my wonderful reader:

What are you tolerating?

What is the one gift you could give yourself today that will inspire and challenge you, taking your skills, your talents to the next level?

What is that you really want?

What will feed your passion?

When will you let yourself to have it; to receive it?

Where there is the will there is a way.

The question is …  are you willing?

Copyright(c) April 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Read Full Post »

This post was inspired by a coaching session. I have asked for and received the permission of the client to blog about it. The name I use herein is fictitious. Although the client is a musician, I invite you to consider your own craft or passion as you read about his discoveries.

One of my favorite coaching experiences is coaching a musician, in person, at their instrument (or with it, as a singer might be.) It’s not always possible to do this though when your clients live all over the US, Canada and Europe. I discovered that there is much we can do to create in-the-body and in-the-moment experiences for our clients even over the phone. Here’s an example of that.

Recently, while coaching a long standing client, whom I’ll call Tom, we got into a perennial discussion around readiness, or lack thereof, for an upcoming recital. As a university professor, Tom’s schedule is full and practice all too often takes a back seat to administrative duties.

His goal in the conversation was discover how he might “bring peace to chaos.”

We explored preparedness. Tom feels he needs to be extra prepared for concerts. What rattles him about performance deadlines and not feeling well enough prepared is that he experiences some measure of performance anxiety which impedes his ability to read the score. So, even if the score is there for memory slips, he can’t rely upon being able to see it.

[ I am all too familiar with this experience. Why we are expected not to have to see when we are in fight or flight mode is beyond me and I know it’s caused by the blood being pumped toward the torso that causes this effect.]

While describing his experience, Tom came up with this metaphor:

“I feel like I’m spinning in a blender, trying to focus but in a soup of chaos.”

I asked him, “Do you have a piano there?” He said “yes.” So I asked him to put down the phone and go over and play part of the piece for about 1 minute and to do so as if he were spinning in a blender. I wanted to bring the experience home to him in the current moment. I could hear him playing.

When he came back to the phone, we discussed what happened for him and what he noticed as he played “in a blender.” It was helpful to him to recreate the experience while not actually in rehearsal or on stage. In this way, he could bring more awareness to the process.

At one point, I asked “what do you need to create peace in the midst of the chaos of a spinning blender?”

He responded, “I need a minute to center myself.”

This was the off switch to his blender: “I need a minute.” It would become his private internal mantra.

As we explored how this would show up, he said that it meant he would deliberately allow himself the time to create the mental space he needs. He would allow himself to move a little more slowly before diving into playing. He would also allow himself more practice time in his schedule for any performance.

Tom needs to stand up for himself. He decided that if it’s about keeping himself peaceful inside, then his fears around disappointing others, making them wait, failing or playing miserably needed to take a backseat to creating peace within.

This peace within, in turn, creates peace in motion.

Tom said that standing up for himself also means not letting other people define him.

piano keyboard (c) March 2010 Kathy J Loh

So back to the keyboard he went. This time, I suggested he take his time, expand into the peace he wants to create (which I just now notice is a kind of double entendre for the piece he wants to create), and then play. He set down the phone and, after a pregnant pause, I heard him begin to play.

What he discovered in that second exercise was, in his own words “I need to take up space.”

We then compared actual performance with practice.

In practice, especially the early stages, we are listening with a critical ear, with curiosity, there is a sense of constant refinement and we are working individual measures and phrases at a time. We are getting the lay of the land and familiarizing the muscles with the routine; introducing them to nuances of expression. We move from shorter to longer arcs. I like to say, we are courting music at this point.

In performance, we are music’s only way to be heard. We are music’s instrument. Imagine you are music. You whisper into the ear of a composer who translates the whisperings into notes on paper. You then come fully alive through a skilled and talented musician like Tom. What do you care about?

I’m not so sure music cares about a bobble or dropped note when the arc is so much longer than that. In the same way that we can read this sentence:

Mry hd a lttl lmb

we hear the full message of music despite the occasional error. In fact, most audience members don’t miss a thing and only those with the most trained ear notice.

Let’s face it, we can assume a lot of forgiveness here. All too often, we assume none.

What music wants is to come alive.

It’s about the pure essence of the art and delivering the message sincerely, rather than being keenly focused on perfection of technique and score. And I say this as a composer who cares about every note I write. There’s a message in the music, that only music can express and it’s about that message, not perfection of each note.

I asked my client; “If you took out your ego’s ambition (which is also driving the fear of failure and concern for what others think) to be in the top tier of all pianists in the world, what would be the next tier?”

He replied: “All I have to do is be a seeker and co-create with music.”

Can you be a seeker and co-create with music and still reach the top tier?

If we are co-creating with music when performing, we are taking up space in a very special way. It’s not about our ego taking up the space. It’s about offering ourselves to the music, to the experience it will create for our listeners, in a way that requires that we command the space. In other words, we create a whole new wondrous space of music, sound, vibration, resonance, emotion, energy. We can’t create that space as magnificently when we are rigidly controlled and cautious.  It takes full on letting go, being a lover to music. It means not holding back, because music will meet you wherever you are from tiny and constricted to the full expression of Beauty.

Please note, I am not making a case for sloppy musicianship. I am assuming that the co-creator in this scenario is someone who has dedicated many disciplined hours to their technical chops.

Co-creating with music means stepping up to ownership of the true skills that all those years of dedicated practice have delivered to us.

You ARE a musician. Stop waiting to become one or receive some seal of approval. From this point on, it’s all play.  Proving, deserving, or earning are not needed. We don’t know what we can truly do until we stretch into it. The stretching will create learning and broaden our musical horizon. It will deepen our relationship with music, our instrument and ourselves.

Tom and I concluded the session by talking about what it means to claim ownership and to take up space as a performing musician, including the structures and accountability for that.

Tom offered that, as a “seeker and co-creator with music,” he thinks of practice time as sacred. It is not an after-thought or luxury on his schedule. He agreed to create that sacred practice space in his schedule and to hold boundaries with others around the use of his time.

From this perspective, saying “no” to others is honoring the sacred “yes” to music.

He also decided that, in rehearsal, he would arrive early and, as uncomfortable as it might be, he would take the time to make others wait while he centered himself before playing.  He also mentioned that ownership brings him the confidence he’s lusted after.

Ownership, being a co-creator with music, a seeker, a lover, creating sacred space for his passion, risking, stretching, taking up space; these are Tom’s off-switch to the chaos blender. He is now at choice. The switch is in his hands.

And now you, dear reader:

What passion awaits your loving, co-creation?

What will have you decide you have arrived and just dance with it, recognizing that there is always more to refine, explore and learn?

When is the more powerful yes the one that you say to yourself and your art (or even your life) than the yes that you say to the opinion of others?

I’m right there with you and taking a lot of my own medicine.

Copyright (c) March 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Looking to create a sense of peace and balance in the midst of chaos? You’ve come to the right place. I invite you to check out my website and set up a complimentary consultation with me to see if coaching is appropriate for your situation.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: