End-of-Summer Update + Navigating Transition

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Hey everyone! I know, long time no blog (except for sheet music releases and Kickstarter stuff) - all summer, in fact!

If you’ve missed the style of writing from my usual blog posts, you can still hear from me every week in my newsletter that’s chock-full of supportive real talk about staying well while doing creative work. Sign up at the bottom of the page!

Now that we’re past the ceremonial beginning of fall, I thought I’d pop in to let you know what I’ve been up to.

If you follow me on social media, I know you couldn’t have missed the Kickstarter for my upcoming album Florescer.

(Spoiler: we did it! The project was funded, which I am SO grateful for - thanks very much to everyone who contributed!) I also did a really fun online concert to celebrate the last hour, which you can watch here:

If you did miss the Kickstarter, don’t worry, because the official album release date is coming up soon on October 24, and you’ll be able to buy and stream it through all of the usual places - stay tuned for more details on that.

And, if you’re in Minneapolis/St. Paul, you’re invited to my album release show on October 18, featuring all of the guest musicians on the album (Tim O’Keefe, percussion, Jenny Klukken, marimba, and Laura Harada, violin). I’m also planning on live-streaming it. More details here.

If you want to stay in the loop on the album and upcoming gigs, be sure to hop on my gig mailing list here!

So, what else did I do all summer?

A lot, it turns out! No wonder this summer seemed to go faster than ever. Workwise, I:

(NON-WORK) FUN STUFF

  • traveled to Denver to celebrate a good friend’s 40th birthday

  • traveled to New York to see Dream the Combine’s installation at MoMA PS1, which Tom spent most of June helping install, saw some college friends, and got to have a lesson with my teacher Vitor Gonçalves.

  • visited Tom’s family cabin in Hackensack, MN

  • drove to Iowa for a friend’s wedding

  • spent as much time with family and friends as possible

  • saw some great music: Ivan Lins, Bobby McFerrin, Matra, Hamilton de Holanda + Roberta Sá, and the Twin Cities Jazz Composers Workshop premiere concert

September is always a pretty crazy month, with the beginning of the school year, but this year promises to be even more so, as I wrap up Kickstarter rewards and prepare for my album release. I’m also going to New Orleans to attend the Being Boss Vacation at the end of the month, which is coming up fast! I’m really excited to connect with more fellow creative entrepreneurs, and keep living out my word of the year (CONNECT!)

NAVIGATING TRANSITION

All in all, it feels like a really big transition time right now:

  • I’m adjusting to a new school year, in a new teaching space

  • The seasons are changing (yet teasing us with warm weather, right when I was ready to be cool and cozy)

  • Tom is a few weeks into a new job

  • Etc.

I’m reminding myself:

  • That transitions of various sizes are constantly happening and take mental energy

  • That bigger and/or simultaneous transitions take even more energy

  • Even “good” transitions can be hard, and that’s fine

  • I need to cut myself some slack, generally, and especially during these times

  • I don’t need to start anything else new during a transition time, unless it’s something I really need

  • I can (and should!) do extra nice things for myself when I’m feeling out of sorts

  • I don’t need anyone’s permission for that...and neither do you!

If you need permission to go a little easier on yourself, here it is!

Are you going through any challenging transitions right now, school year, seasonal, or otherwise? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments. (You got this.)

New Sheet Music: Borboleta Azul

Introducing September's new release in my sheet music store: Borboleta Azul (Blue Butterfly). Like last month's new release, Baião da Bicicleta, this tune features baião rhythms, but also switches back and forth between that samba rhythms - it's a favorite of mine! 

Below is a preview of this track with percussion, which will be on my soon-to-be-released album of original Brazilian compositions and arrangements, Florescer, coming in October 2018! 

Borboleta Azul is available as a lead sheet for $2.99, and makes a great companion to Baião da Bicicleta.

Each month I publish one new piece - if you want to stay in the know about new releases, hop on my mailing list at the bottom of this post!

You can also check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

New Sheet Music: Baião Da Bicicleta

Introducing August's new release in my sheet music store: Baião da Bicicleta. Baião is a type of rhythm from Pernambuco in northeast Brazil, which is found in forró, coco, and other genres, and usually uses the zabumba, a type of bass drum with an awesome name. 

It was hard to name, but I kept getting images of determined bikers while listening to it, so…Baião da Bicicleta it is!

Below is a short version of this piece that gives an idea of what the head (melody) sounds like. 

Baião da Bicicleta is available as a lead sheet (with fully notated bassline, if you like that sort of thing) for $2.99, and the full version, with solos and all, will be appearing on my upcoming album of original Brazilian compositions and arrangements, Florescer, which will be released in October 2018!

Each month I publish one new piece - if you want to stay in the know about new releases, hop on my mailing list at the bottom of this post!

You can also check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

New Sheet Music: Maracatu do Manatim (Lead Sheet)

Introducing July's new release in my sheet music store: Maracatu do Manatim (Manatee). Maracatu is an Afro-Brazilian style of music played at Carnaval parades in Recife, Brazil, which you can learn more about here. It typically has a much faster tempo, but for a manatee-themed tune, I think a slower groove works!

This song came out of one of my composition prompts (from my free 5-day email bite-size composition challenge) to write an ostinato about an animal. I selected manatee (because who doesn't like manatees?!), and somehow it ended up sounding like a 70s cop show, so naturally, it became Donald the Crime-Fighting Manatee.

Well, Donald has recently moved to Recife, Brazil, and become infused with maracatu rhythm. I'm not sure if he's been solving any crimes there, but he is having a great time, and is super excited to appear on my upcoming album in October 2018, with lots of percussion! 

Maracatu do Manatim is available as a lead sheet for $2.99, and will be appearing on my upcoming album of my original Brazilian compositions and arrangements, which will be released in October!

Each month I publish one new piece - if you want to stay in the know about new releases, hop on my mailing list at the bottom of this post!

You can also check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

New Sheet Music: Tico Tico No Fuba Piano Arrangement

Introducing June's new release in my sheet music storeTico Tico No Fuba, arranged for solo piano!

This song was made famous by Carmen Miranda in the movie Copacabana in 1947, and the title translates to Sparrow in the Cornmeal (who needs to be shooed out of the food supply!)

Here's a video of me performing it a few years ago: 

Tico Tico No Fuba is available as a fully-notated piano piece for $4.99, and will be appearing on my upcoming album of my original Brazilian compositions and arrangements, which you can pre-order through June 19!

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Each month I publish one new piece - if you want to stay in the know about new releases, hop on my mailing list at the bottom of this post!

You can also check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

Album Title Reveal!

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I am so excited that my album finally has a title: 

Florescer (Bloom)

A few nights ago, I was really tired, had just gone to bed, and of course, that moment was when my overactive brain chose to prevent me from sleeping! (Don’t you love that?) Unlike most times this has happened, however, it was actually productive! I couldn’t get the word “bloom” out of my head, and images of hand-drawn flower art kept popping in.

The next morning, it still sounded like a good idea, and also sounded cool when translated to Portuguese, which feels appropriate for an album of Brazilian music. Then, I read that May 29 (this Kickstarter’s launch day) was the Full Flower Moon, the usual name for a full moon in May. The deal was sealed.

Though I might be a little biased because I was born in May, it’s my favorite month, because of the arrival of greenery and beautiful blooming trees. The Hasses also tend to be botanically gifted people (which I strive to be) - my dad has even co-authored a book about roses - so flowers seem baked into my DNA.

I also find myself using metaphors about planting seeds and growing things all of the time, and, of course, this quote is one of my favorites, which regularly inspires me to get moving on my goals:

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If you haven’t already, please back this Kickstarter to help it grow and bloom, and make the album a reality!

Thanks in advance for your support - if you can't support financially, sharing on social media is great, too!

If you want to stay in the loop on the album and upcoming gigs, be sure to hop on my mailing list here!

My Kickstarter is Live!!

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The Kickstarter for my upcoming album of Brazilian original compositions and piano arrangements is live! Less than 12 hours in, I'm SO excited to say that I'm just over 15% funded, surpassing my expectations, for sure. Much gratitude to my 24 backers so far!

Besides the album itself, I have lots of cool rewards, like an enamel pin and art print that I designed, custom ringtones, and more.

Thanks for following along with my work all this time - I invite you to check it out! 


I'm also excited to share this fun video that features Gingando, one of the songs from the album. This is a solo piano version, but it will eventually have percussion and marimba, too! 

Thanks in advance for your support!

If you want to stay in the loop on the album and upcoming gigs, be sure to hop on my mailing list here!

New Sheet Music: Brincalhão (A Maxixe-Samba)

Introducing May's new release in my sheet music store

Brincalhão, a Brazilian lead sheet that switches back and forth between an asymmetrical maxixe (AKA Brazilian tango) and samba. Brincalhão means "playful" in Portuguese, and I think you'll see why I named it that!

Here's a video of Jenny Klukken and I performing it earlier this year: 

Brincalhão is available as a lead sheet for $2.99, and will be appearing on my upcoming album of my original Brazilian compositions and arrangements, which you can pre-order starting May 29!

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Each month I publish one new piece - if you want to stay in the know about new releases, hop on my mailing list at the bottom of this post!

You can also check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

New Sheet Music: On the Green Line (A Minimalist Piano Piece in 7/8)

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Introducing April's new release in my sheet music store

On the Green Line, a sort of minimalist piano piece in 7/8 time that also has a little Eastern-European-flavored section in the middle. It was inspired by the dinging of the Green Line train that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul (which is right outside my window, and such a regular occurrence that I don't actively hear it most of the time!) The 6-beat dinging pattern continues throughout the piece, but changes in various ways. ⠀

It's available as a piano piece for $3.99, and, bonus, if you buy two pieces or more, I’ll send you the piano print below for free! (Add the piano print to your cart, and use the code FREEPRINT.)⠀⠀

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Each month I publish one new piece - May's release is going to be a fun one from my upcoming Brazilian album! 

Check out the other pieces in my store (lead sheets and piano pieces) here

How I Became A Composer

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My path to becoming a composer has been roundabout, but I thought I’d share a bit about how I got to the work I’m doing today - and it’s not through a whole lot of training specifically in composition!

Much to my regret, I don’t remember many opportunities to be creative in my piano lessons as a child - improvisation and composition weren’t part of my experience. (That’s why I have all of my students do both, and even improvise at the very first lesson!) Looking back, I remember more of a perspective of right notes vs. wrong notes. I can’t remember my early piano education fully, but I know that I was a very shy kid, and could have used more encouragement to create my own music, instead of just playing others’ music (although, that is great, too).

My first experience was an elective music theory/composition class in high school, in which we were given very little guidance - the class was basically spent going through modules of music theory software (most of which I’d learned already in piano lessons), and working independently on our pieces. I don’t remember any criticism that I received on my writing, constructive or otherwise (and I would remember that, since I was such a perfectionist back then), so I assume that we just got a few comments on our final projects. I learned something from trying to write, but didn’t get to develop my skills like I would have if there were feedback throughout the whole semester.

My path to becoming a professional musician had some fits and starts, too - I actually quit piano lessons with my longtime teacher after 11th grade, with the idea that I was going to switch to a jazz piano teacher, but I never followed through on that, and when it came time to apply to colleges, I didn’t consider majoring in music because I didn’t believe that I could do it. Back then I had a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset (read Mindset by Carol Dweck!) - despite years of practice and learning on the piano, I didn’t have confidence in my abilities to grow. I eventually decided to audition to be a music minor at Ithaca College, started with the required theory, sightsinging, and lessons, while trying out other types of classes, too. Toward the end of my freshman year, my advisor had commented to me that she thought I had too many classes in my minor, which then solidified my feeling that music was indeed supposed to be my focus. I decided to audition to be a music major soon afterward, was officially admitted into the program, and still managed to graduate in 4 years! So, even though I didn’t initially choose music, it kind of chose me.

My lack of confidence about my playing abilities at that time also extended to my composing abilities. I didn’t do much more writing, if any, after that high school class because I still didn’t feel “qualified” - I hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with the idea that you have to do something more (and more!) to become better at it and gain confidence. During my last semester of college in 2005, I decided to sign up for another composition class, which was (unsurprisingly) much more helpful, since we wrote weekly assignments, and got useful feedback. (I was going to show an example here, but sadly, I think that those files are lost, and my office closet is too scary to dig through and maybe find a paper copy!) I do remember that my style back then was to overcomplicate things because I didn’t want it to be TOO EASY - I used some interesting rhythms and melodies, but things often got too clunky because I tried to cram too many ideas in - I was using my brain too much, and not trusting my ears enough.

I still didn’t continue the habit of composing after college, but every so often, I would write down a snippet of something. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of writing something for real, so this felt like a safe way to collect ideas.

Then, about 5 years ago, I applied to play at a faculty recital at one of the schools where I teach, with the proposal that I would write a couple solo piano arrangements of Brazilian choros. Before that, I’d written many arrangements for my students (mostly simplifications), but it was the biggest arranging project I’d taken on thus far, with a deadline to motivate me to finish (let’s be real)! Over the next few years, I wrote more arrangements of Brazilian songs for these recitals - this felt like a safe entry point because arranging gives you a sort of template - and began to take on other arranging projects. Each year I got more and more adventurous with my writing, while in the meantime, I would still write down original snippets of things occasionally, but rarely do anything more with them.

In October 2015, I was tired of not taking myself seriously enough, and decided to give myself a personal challenge to write a little bit every day in the month. Although I wasn’t brave enough to share my work at the time, one of these snippets eventually turned into my Brazilian choro Anelante!

That December, my trio played a composition by our cellist Aaron Kerr at the New Ruckus Composer Night, a monthly event for sharing original music (of any kind) here in St. Paul. I thought to myself, “Hmm, I don’t have anything written, but I should get in line anyway - a deadline will be motivating.” (Are you seeing a theme here?) I eventually got programmed on a July 2016 date, and had finished the first section of what is now Anelante to perform, as well as another contrapuntal mini-piece for piano. Performing my music was really scary at first, since I didn’t quite believe that I was officially a composer, but it was a great experience, and to my delight, I got lots of positive feedback.

Showing up in public to share my work was the push I needed to write more - I began to actually feel like a composer, and decided to start calling myself one, which felt like a big deal. I also started to notice my self-critical brain’s grip loosening - less often asking “is this good?” than “do I like how this sounds?” (Still a work in progress, but I do believe in growth mindset - anything can improve if we give it our attention.) I had finished the B section of Anelante over the winter (Brazilian choros typically have 3 major sections), and signed up for another New Ruckus date in April 2017 to force myself to finish it.

The real turning point that increased my output and commitment to the creative process of composing was signing up for the 100 Day Project in 2017 (which I wrote about a lot here), a global art project in which people do a project of their choice for 100 days in a row, and post it to Instagram. I decided that I would write 8 measures of music each day, of any type - the main point was to show up every day and do it.

Showing my work daily was also scary at first, but I quickly became desensitized to it, so it became much more fun. After the 100 days ended in mid-July, I found that I actually missed this daily habit of writing music, so I did another 100 days at the end of 2018, too! (Thoughts on that here.) 

I’ve now shared a lot about how I became a composer, but not yet why - I’ve known for a while that it’s not enough for me just to interpret others’ music (which I also have great respect for). Also, as a recovering perfectionist, I was most often in a right vs. wrong mindset when playing classical music, which felt unhealthy for me. I remember moments of practicing for a concert or audition, playing a “wrong” note or chord, thinking, “Ooh, that sounded cool,” then shutting down that creative spark because I was supposed to be learning that piece, not making up my own stuff (which sounds super sad to me now!) All aspects of solving the creative puzzle that is writing a piece of music are engaging for my brain, and most importantly, it just feels like fulfilling a deep need (that maybe I can’t exactly explain - how do you explain anything that you fall in love with?)

Even though I did go to music school, a traditional path, my path to composing was not academically traditional at all - when I was in school, it didn’t even occur to me that majoring in composition was something that I could have done. Sometimes I wish that I had done it back then, but all I can do is accept where I am right now, and go from there, which is actually kind of liberating - just move forward, whatever that looks like.

It’s a little scary for me to admit that I don’t have a long history with being a composer, but I don’t really think that matters. What matters is that I like the work I’m producing (and hopefully others do too), and that I’m committed to continuing to work on it, and to the experience of the creative process. The way that we build skills is to keep composing, keep improving, look for feedback from trusted sources, and get people to play our music. Anyone can do this - you just have to decide that you will.

If you're a musician who has thought about writing but didn't know where to start, if you're looking for some idea generation, or camaraderie with other creative musicians, I have just the thing - if you're interested, sign up below and join us! Don't wait for years, like I did!

If you're a composer, musician, or creator of any kind, when did you feel like you could call yourself that title? How did it feel when you did?