2016 Recap / Hello 2017

Welcome to 2017!

Despite 2016 being a stressful year for some personal and national/world news reasons, it felt like a pivotal year for me. I gained some clarity about the direction of my creative career, and did a bunch of new things that I found scary. Looking back, I’m not sure how I pushed myself to do all that, but somehow I did!

Some firsts from this year:

  • Wrote my first compositions that I’ve been excited to share with other people, and performed them at the New Ruckus Composer Night in July. See below to listen to my choro so far:
  • Doing 2 hour-long gigs on solo piano
  • Performing on accordion (2x) with Samba Meu
  • Teaching group piano classes to 5-6 year olds
  • Got headshots done so I could redo my website to show my creative work
  • Started blogging regularly (27 posts since August)

Other highlights:

  • Fun performances with Modern Spark Trio, Batucada do Norte, Samba Meu, and lots of other accompanying gigs
  • Writing 2 samba arrangements and performing them at a MacPhail Faculty Recital in April - these felt like my best arranging work thus far.
  • Skype lessons with Vitor Gonçalves, who I’ve studied with at California Brazil Camp
  • California Brazil Camp - my 5th visit and the best yet, which launched…
  • A period of very dedicated piano practice for most of the fall, which felt great and really pushed me ahead.
  • Saw lots of great live music - Chick Corea twice (once with Bela Fleck, once with his Trilogy trio); Brad Mehldau + Joshua Redman, and King Sunny Adé.
  • New dedication to self-care - continued regular acupuncture and self-mandated rest days, started drinking way more water, and started getting monthly massages.

I know that many people thought of 2016 as basically a dumpster fire (and it was difficult for me, too), but like any year, it had its ups as well as its downs.

All of the reflection that I’ve been doing over the past year has enabled me to have more clarity about what I want from 2017, and to feel more ready to begin.

I’m not one to scoff at New Year’s resolutions (as long as they’re specific and actionable) - I’ll take any fresh-start energy I can get - but this year I’m trying out picking a word to focus on, guided by Susannah Conway’s workbook Find Your Word. I actually picked two words:

I have a tendency to stay really busy all of the time, as many of us do. This inevitably turns into distraction, which makes it way harder for me to complete my work, and worse, to evaluate whether the tasks I’ve chosen to do are actually important and helpful to me. I can’t simplify my life without freeing up mental space. So, here’s why I chose these words, and what I want to do with them:


  1. Listen to my mind and intuition to filter out the noise and guide myself in a positive direction.
  2. Listen to others who have a different perspective than I do (more important than ever in today’s political climate).
  3. Eliminate extra noise - create more silence.
  4. Listen to music more often - besides working on my own music and listening to my students, I don’t often give music my full attention in my free time.
  5. Deep listening and noticing, to open my creative mind.

I just discovered the work of composer Pauline Oliveros, thanks to my friend Grace’s newsletter Journalism for the Spirit. Pauline unfortunately just passed away at the age of 83, but her work was all about enhancing sensory perception through what she called “deep listening”, which is both a philosophy and a pun - she would make recordings in caves and even 14 feet underground in a cistern. Her TED talk, The Difference Between Hearing and Listening, defines them as such:

“To hear is a physical means that enables perception. To listen is to give attention to what is perceived, both acoustically and psychologically. Hearing turns a certain range of vibrations into perceptible sounds. When listening, there is a constant interplay with the perception of the moment compared with remembered experience.”


  1. Asking myself what my biggest goals are, and focusing on those first. I’m hoping to make progress on 3 big goals this year: record an album of my Brazilian solo piano arrangements, publish them in printed form, and hopefully go to Brazil.
  2. Knowing why I do what I do.
  3. Being really selective and mindful about what gets my attention - I don't have enough for everything that might come my way.
  4. Asking myself why I’m on my computer instead of mindlessly browsing. Consuming hours of internet is like the mental equivalent of eating a whole box of Oreos - it leaves me feeling terrible afterward. Am I just looking at a screen out of habit? (Probably.)

I hope to take this quote from Pauline Oliveros to heart this year, as it perfectly combines listening and intent:

“My practice is to listen to everything all of the time, and remind myself when I am not listening. I invite you to take a moment now to notice what you are hearing, and to expand your listening to continually include more.”

I’m wishing you a positive start to 2017 - if you chose a word for the year, feel free to share it in the comments!


Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer