if it sounds pretty, it’s not practice + other a-ha’s from my music teachers

daily rituals book

i’ve shared this book, “Daily Rituals, how artists work,” with my music teachers,
as a thank you for all they do.

(summer school is out, woohoo!)

an artist has to shape their day in such a way that keeps resistance at bay.
outsiders might think it is natural and comes easy.
if i have learned anything it is that,
this is soooo not true.

it takes daily dedication to hone a craft,
and uber diligence to stay on track.
while this book shows us how pros get it done,
none of them had these two to make it fun.

from carol, my theory teacher:

“play intervals, do a load of laundry,
listen to progressions, then maybe dust,
do theory like crosswords, you leave on the table,
to be a pro, whether you play or write,
this has to be part of your daily life.”

from Eileen Prager Perry Schwartz, my piano teacher:

“if it sounds pretty, it’s not practice.”

isn’t that the truth, in whatever we do ??

my days are forever changed,
because of these two.
i thank them, for all they do.

how to know you’re on “a” right path? let your boots do the rockin’

Apparently, school starts tomorrow. But, I’m standing in front of my piano classroom today. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Even a ruffly Free People dress, red Frye boots and Robyn’s oatmeal chocolate chip power balls packed in my bag can’t hide a tinge of heartache.

Apparently, I was really, really looking forward to it.

I don’t question why I enrolled in piano and voice classes two years ago. I’m still curious and interested and even kinda think one day I might be able to rock a few songs… in my living room.

What I struggle with is motivation to practice. Sometimes I ask myself, why are you spending so much time on something that is never going to become something?

I can’t answer that. And at this moment, I’m okay with it. Because I now know that I am committed.

I’ve studied professional musicians, dancers, athletes, entrepreneurs…individuals living lives based on a commitment to their craft, their gift. Every one of them says the same thing.

Motivation wanes. It’s a heartfelt yearning and a deep commitment to honoring that yearning that keeps them consistently practicing and courageously sharing. Most can’t imagine doing anything else. They don’t think about outcome, they just do it. Even when they don’t want to.

That’s what I realized today. I want to do this. No one is making me. And if it is taken away, even for a day, I miss it.

So, here’s to recognizing when you’re on “a” right path. It doesn’t have to be the only path and you definitely don’t have to “do” anything with it. All you have to do is honor it and make some time to cultivate it.

Who knows, one day, these boots just might rock all over you… if you happen to be in my living room 🙂

molly, the cup song and my singing debut

 

I had no idea an online course called “Start a Foolish Project” would have me doing something so scary – or that it could possibly be the best thing I did all year.

 

start a foolish project

 

Who knew that foolishness could cultivate courage, creativity, clarity and in my case, all kinds of a-ha’s ala an 11-year old named Molly?

 

The idea of this 4-week course, led by Andrea Scher of SuperHero Life, was to do something out of your ordinary, something whimsical, joyful, maybe even a little scary… then share it with the group (about 50 people, from all around the world.)

 

The hardest part was coming up with the project. You know the saying, “how you are anywhere is how you are everywhere?  Well, I showed up in all my over-complicated-ness with a long list of “let’s make this a big, make the world a better place type”  project. exhausting!

Fortunately, one of Andrea’s super-powers is how she gets to the heart of the project that’s perfect for you, right now. She gently suggested that my project have nothing to do with making the world a better place. It needed to be something for me, for the sheer delight of doing it.

Then Molly, a friend”s daughter came over. She had taught herself The Cup Song (from the audition scene of the movie Pitch Perfect).  Would I like to hear it?

 

Molly is an accomplished singer, with lots of big performances under her little belt. Her passion is music … and superfoods… this is a special soul.

molly singing

(To see just how special, watch this video on Tucson Girls Chorus – scroll down to the bottom of the page, it”s the video from Arizona Public Media – watch the entire 7 minutes, it”s inspiring on many levels. The end features an interview with Molly and her impromptu a cappella version of “What the World Needs Now” that will make your heart melt.)

 

Of course, Molly performed The Cup Song perfectly.

 

A couple of nights later, I woke up with my project clear as a bell – I’ll have Molly teach me The Cup Song! It was summer. She was bored. It will give her something to do and it will be a big, butterfly in my belly step toward getting over my fear of singing in front of people. I would be sheerly delighted and full of joy if I could pull this off.

 

I could hardly wait to call her…. but me being me, I did wait. I wanted to figure out exactly how we”d practice casino online together before I called. I had a schedule in mind, maybe 3-4 days a week, I”d pick her up, she’d give me my lesson, I’d make her a smoothie, we”d swim a little, bond a lot.

 

Molly had other plans. She was leaving for camp tomorrow. She’d be gone for 10 days.

 

me: hhhmm…(nonchalant panic) ok, well, we”ll only have a day or two to practice before the course is over, but we”ll make it work.

 

molly: while I’m gone, learn the cup part so well you can do it even while talking, then start humming along with it.

 

a-ha ala Molly #1: don”t over-think it. take it step by step. 

 

I did as she said. I practiced the cup part over and over. I sang the song on walks with Bisbee everyday. Then it dawned on me…

What was I thinking?

 

I’m going to have to sing this thing. Molly can’t help me with the practice part. I’m going to do have to that on my own.

 

I didn’t want to let Molly down, so I kept going.

 

When she came home from camp, I took her to my singing lesson where we got some coaching on harmonizing from my lovely teacher Laura, then we went home to practice.

 

After a couple of hours, I wanted another day (or 30 or so) to practice. Molly wanted to go for a swim. As she floated and flipped around the pool, she talked me through our process.

 

She reminded me, that we had accomplished what we were going for… we were able to do The Cup Song… not perfectly, but for the sake of the project, mission was accomplished. Yes, with practice, it could be a lot better, but it was good enough, and we had fun doing it, so let’s just film where we are with it today.

 

a-ha ala molly #2: perfection isn’t necessary here. 

 

a-ha ala molly #3: a float and a few flips in the pool can work wonders when you’re tired of practicing.

 

such wisdom. (she probably didn’t want to spend her last days of summer practicing with that Denese lady!)

 

with that, we went inside and filmed it – with my boyfriend and her mom behind the camera.


molly and me cup song

 

Molly was right.  mission was definitely accomplished. and then some. I sang… in front of them… for the entire Foolish Project group and now for you.

 

Click here for my singing debut 🙂

 

Is there something you”d love to do, but think it”s too foolish? I dare you to do it, then share it… start by telling me what you would like to do in the comments and check out Andrea”s Start a Foolish Project course, it starts Monday!

 

 

 

it’s back to school for the babies… what about you?

Whether you’re craving community, connection, creativity… or simply need a reason to buy a cool notebook, why not go back to school … for a bit?

pima id

The beauty of not having to be in school, is that you can choose something that truly interests or inspires you.

Whatever your intention, opening yourself up to learning – especially things you’ve always wanted to do, the things that delighted you as a child – has the power to cultivate courage, confidence, even clarity, “yes, I want to continue that…” or, “no, it’s definitely time to let go of that…”

Lately I’m loving courses designed to spark creativity, to find your groove, to try that thing you’ve always wanted to try, to serve others in some sweet way.

And I’m amazed at the power of the classroom…

It’s funny how a group of complete strangers, in a matter of a few days can know more about your heart that anyone in your world. It’s good to talk about your dreams. It’s even better to be inspired to go for them. It’s crazy how brave we can be when we think no one we know is watching.

And, it doesn’t seem to matter which class it is… courage and epiphanies come amidst yogis, business owners, knitters, writers, bakers and piano players… online or down the street.

It’s the spirit behind the student that inspires us to try and to encourage others to try…

Think of your babies, would you ever want to squash their willingness to learn? their open-hearted spirit? Why in the world are we not encouraging each other to do the things that would make our heart sing?

What is sparking your curiosity? What would you like to learn?
If you’re not sure, check out my newsletter for a list of courses I’m loving... ones that might get the creative juices flowing.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out your community college… that affordable course mecca that’s probably right down the street!

I just enrolled in piano and voice lessons. Talk about back-to-school-jitters. I am definitely stepping outside my comfort zone with this one.

Here’s to back to school and rocking your best self!

Denese

p.s. I totally forgot about the student ID thing. I would’ve worn a more photo-appropriate top 🙂 Oh well, it’s not about the clothes anyway, right? It’s about the music 😉

Just finished the Superhero Photo course…

I just finished the 6-week Superhero Photo course. While I didn’t participate as much as I’d have liked, it did leave me more inclined to take my camera everywhere and more aware of what catches my eye throughout the day.

capturing the sunrise through the window...

I have enough exercises, technical tips and inspirational insight to last me for awhile. The only thing holding me back is getting more familiar with my camera, which of course just takes practice… the answer to pretty much anything worthwhile.

pretty little flowers in an ugly bush

Thank you Andrea, for sharing your gift with us through this course. Andrea Sher is the co-author of Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters Guide to Shooting from the Heart.  She specializes in helping people (even the non-pros) capture life’s precious moments, with whatever camera you have.

sunday mornings, sleeping in (my favorite picture)

Remember, it doesn’t matter what creative project you choose…. photography, cooking, singing, piano, knitting or basket weaving. Creativity keeps you connected to your heart, to life, to love. It keeps you looking for beauty and in a loving mindset.

What’s inspiring you right now?

Take care,

Denese

© Copyright Denese Russell: Writings | created by: IZUMI STUDIOS