Are you listening for long enough?

"I learned to listen for a longer time....usually I just play 3 or 4 notes and decide it doesn't sound good enough, then I stop." - Angela, participant in my Music Improvisation for Everyone workshop I love that learning from my class last night. It's a great reminder that we may not be giving ourselves enough time and space to really listen and allow things to develop. We might be judging ourselves too quickly, not allowing those first few notes (which may not sound great) to develop into something else, perhaps something completely different. Recognizing that a few notes don't sound great isn't evidence that you should stop. It's evidence to keep listening for more. Keep listening for the next note. And the next. Bobby McFerrin's definition of improvisation is "motion". You play one note. And you play another note. And you just keep playing note after note. It evolves on its own. That's what I've found about improvisation too. And I'm still playing those first few notes in my life, reminding myself to listen a little longer.

Be prepared to be surprised…

When was the last time you were truly, totally, mouth-gaping-open, not-believing-it-could-be possible, SURPRISED? This weekend I remembered that feeling...the utter glee of being surprised like a child again. After dinner out on Saturday with my boyfriend, I noticed he was a little tense. "We've gotta go," he said. "Why?" I asked. I didn't think we had any plans. But I went with the flow, not asking too many questions. We seemed to hit every traffic light on our way across San Francisco, and I had no idea where we could be headed. We pulled up alongside a large, modern-looking stone building, which I thought was a museum of some kind. There were throngs of people standing outside, and a line of cars waiting to get into the parking garage underneath. A volunteer usher on the street asked, "Do you have your tickets already? Oh good, because the will call line is out the door." We snaked our way down in the underground garage, and still I had no clue where we were. Was it a concert? A lecture? An exhibit? I came up the stairs, saw a sign that said "PME Choir". "Oh, that's nice," I said, not knowing who the PME Choir was, or why he would have picked this out as a surprise for me. "I like vocals," I said, trying to sound excited when I wasn't really. It wasn't until my butt actually hit the seat - on the main floor, left center section - that I heard the announcer say, "...the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, and the incomparable Bobby McFerrin!!!" I couldn't believe it. I shouted "OH MY GOD! NO WAYYYYY!" at the top of my lungs. Everyone around me must have thought I was crazy. I was. I was crazy with excitement! When we were babies, we were great at being surprised. Continue reading "Be prepared to be surprised…"