Welcome to the Songtaneous Blog

ProfileSongtaneous is where spontaneous singing happens. Once a month, singers (and other creative people) gather to share their voices and their selves while making beautiful, complex and fleeting music. I always learn something about singing and myself when I facilitate Songtaneous. In this blog, I'll share what I learn and experience while traveling in the intuitive, joyful, beautiful, expressive, challenging, abstract world of vocal improvisation.

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Expressing Thanks

Posted by on Nov 24 2015 | Songtaneous

Our parents were right to council us to say thank you. Thanking people is important.

Why? Because it provides an opportunity to quantify just what someone did to help you and how it helped. And if the help wasn’t exactly what you asked for, that’s a good thing to figure out, too.

Maybe you got more (or better stuff) than you asked for. Maybe you’ll learn that your requests could be clearer.

I have a friend who hand writes and mails (or hand delivers) wonderful thank you notes. She sent me one when she graduated from school. In fact, she sent them to everyone she felt had helped her earn her degree — her teachers, her friends and her family.

She was genuinely surprised at how touched people were by the gesture. She said to me “Don’t people thank people anymore?” “Not like that, ” I replied.

Think about how many hand-written thank you notes you’ve received. Now, think about how you feel about the people who’ve taken the time to thank you in that way.

Try to thank people before, during and after they’ve helped you. It keeps you tapped in to the help people (or the Universe) are providing. So even when there is no specific person to thank, why not take time to appreciate and express gratitude for the progress you’ve made?

Thank you for reading this blog, coming to hear me sing, singing with me and all the other support you have provided for my music-making endeavors.

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Getting Uncomfortable

Posted by on Oct 16 2015 | Inspirational, Songtaneous

racoon awkwardly asleep in the crook of a tree.

So I have been thinking about discomfort.

We have all have different relationships and comfort (haha) levels with being uncomfortable and those relationships and levels change throughout our lives.

We are set up to be uncomfortable all the time when we are young. We experience it so often, however, that we don’t even label it as discomfort. We go to preschool or kindergarten, we grow out of cribs and clothes, we enter a new grade, we switch to a new school or start thinking about what to do after school. As I said to one of my high school students this past week, we expect things of young people that we no longer do ourselves “Here is something you’ve never done before, go do it!” “Here is a subject you have never studied before, go learn it!” or “Here is another group of kids you don’t know, go make friends!” (Or, in my case, here’s a new song/band/ensemble/venue, go create!)

So it seems that the older we get, the fewer experiences we have that cause discomfort. Perhaps we are even trying to avoid discomfort? (Not you, of course, but sometimes I do. *wink*)

Feeling comfortable is easier; we know what we’re doing and what is expected of us. It can also be hard to notice. Comfortable is/feels normal. So, in a sense, it is the absence of feelings. Discomfort, on the other hand, is definitely noticeable. It feels itchy or unsure or makes us mildly anxious.

For the past couple of months, I have been trying to observe when I feel uncomfortable. For example, I took a workshop last month and, at the beginning, I noticed that I was uncomfortable. I knew about half the folks, but we were there to learn/explore a new modality and I didn’t know what to expect. More of an issue (for me) was that I didn’t know what might be expected of me.

I realized it had been a while since I had felt this way.

In fact, I’d been feeling pretty comfortable for a while. I figured out how and what (and in what order) to teach my students, I understood the in’s and out’s of my many job(s), and I’d been getting to work with the same singers and players pretty regularly. All pretty comfortable.

So if everything is comfortable and working, why change anything?

Well, we can miss opportunities for growth and learning if we’re comfortable all of the time. If everything’s good, then what makes us seek out new friends, move to new cities, or start new jobs? Why learn or write new songs or work with new players? (Why quit your day job and go to music school?)

I think we have to practice being uncomfortable. That, when done often, being uncomfortable keeps us flexible and makes us more empathetic to the needs and comforts of others. We can take a broader view of situations and consider that others may be feeling discomfort, too. (I will definitely think about my experience in that workshop when I teach my own workshops later this month.)

Most important, we learn that feeling comfortable is not the same thing as being safe.

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The Fall New Year

Posted by on Sep 21 2015 | Songtaneous

Little hands drawing between school supplies and apples

I don’t know about you, but, for me, the start of the school year has the same energy as New Year’s (but with better weather *smile*).

I literally go back to school — teaching at MCTC (and getting to ride my bike there most days!),  but I also feel that back-to-school, new-project energy. All kinds of people are planning and starting things and buying school supplies. (I have to resist the urge to buy school supplies and new school clothes.)

I start thinking about my fall “semester” — the students I will teach and the workshops I will offer. I even start lining up my fall and holiday performances.

I seem to make more connections and re-connections in the fall, too. Two long time friends of mine married in the last couple of months and both weddings were full of friends and memories. I met and worked with new and former collaborators at a Forum Theater workshop I attended and reconnected with my passion for community singing at this year’s Wild Rice Festival. (Thanks to the singers who joined me on and off stage!)

New students, returning students, new and returning collaborators from inside and outside of my singing circles. We all get caught up in the “let’s get back to this” energy of September. For example, I will reconnect with Riotus N, brainchild of bassist Anthony Cox this Friday (Sept. 25, 8:00 pm) at Jazz Central Studios and will work with friend and collaborator Sara Thomsen in Duluth this October.

And, of course, back to school means homework. I start thinking about the upcoming year and strive to catch up in the admin parts of my business (i.e. I finally launched my redesigned web site). I research vocal exercises and tools to add to my teaching methods. After all, if I am going to ask my students to work on their singing, then I can continue to work on mine.


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