choro

2018 Recap + How I'm Approaching 2019 Differently

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Welcome to 2019!

Welcome to 2019, happy to be here!

Before I get into planning the new year, it’s really important to look back on the year we’re finishing, and acknowledge all that was learned and accomplished (even if you feel like you didn’t do that much, I bet that it’s a lot more than you thought!) I’m posting my highlights, not as a brag or an encouragement for comparison, but to set an example that we all deserve to recognize our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves!

2018 was a really big year for me, crazy and challenging, but overall a good one. Here’s some of what I did:

WORK

PERSONAL / TRAVEL

  • Celebrated my 35th birthday + Tom’s graduation (after 4.5 years in school) on the same day!

  • Denver to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday

  • New York City to see the installation at MoMA PS1 that Tom helped with

  • Cabin weekend in Northern Minnesota

  • New Orleans to attend Being Boss NOLA

  • Door County, Wisconsin for a wedding during the peak of fall color

  • San Francisco Bay Area for a gig and to visit family

  • Celebrated my 12th anniversary w/Tom!

  • Purged a lot of stuff from the apartment, which was years overdue and felt amazing!

LOW MOMENTS

(I share these in the name of keeping it real - it’s definitely not all highlights around here)

  • Being on my own for almost the entire Kickstarter - Tom was gone in NYC, working on the aforementioned MoMA PS1 installation

  • Sick with the worst cold I’ve had in years while recording my album

  • Felt burnout / “post-partum depression” after album release, which coincided with the sudden onset of winter and seasonal affective disorder

  • Tons of moments of “can I do this?”, “how am I going to do this?”, and other self-doubting thoughts (they’re not very Instagrammable, but we all have them!)

FIRSTS

  • First time feeling positive about winter, by getting outside for a walk most days (it made me happier than going to the gym)

  • Started writing my first piano trio

  • First in-person breathwork experience - I participated in a circle at Constellation Acupuncture with Amy Kuretsky on New Year’s Day

  • First craniosacral therapy (I’ve never been more relaxed - my friend Sara is made of magic!)

  • First time being a podcast guest (on the Essential Omnivore podcast, hosted by my awesome nutritionist Lucia Hawley)

  • First time getting cupping

  • Finally got comfortable with talking at performances

  • First sheet music sale

  • First time dying my hair - purple highlights!

  • First Kickstarter

  • First radio interview (on Jazz88, to talk about my album)

  • First album

  • First Facebook Live video that was entirely spoken (on holiday self-care)

CONNECT (My 2018 word of the year)

I really embraced this word of the year by collaborating with and meeting lots of other cool musicians and artists, some of whom even became good friends! I also attended some great events such as the Minnesota Music Coalition Summit, New Music Gathering, Giant Steps, and Dissonance’s Unhappy Holidays.

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Looking back on this list, it’s really clear to me that I did too much in 2018 - I don’t regret having done any of this stuff, but I worked too hard! I am feeling pulled toward being more present/intuition-focused, and away from tying my worth to achievement (oof, that's going to be a process.)⠀

So what’s in store for 2019?

I’m approaching this year very differently than past years.

After all that I did last year, I have a strong desire to simplify, in terms of things I’m doing, and in the material and digital realms. In the past, I have often treated new year planning and goal setting like arriving hangry at a delicious buffet - I always overdo it!

I don’t normally plan for a whole year at once, but this year I am being very choosy, so only things that truly feel good and right will make my list. (And permission to change our minds whenever we want is implied!)

In support of these goals, I also joined Mara Glatzel’s yearlong circle called Cycle, “conscious planning for women who want to get shit done without sacrificing their self-care” - rest is not optional! The first retreat was last weekend, and I’m already really excited about being part of this community. (This is not an ad, I just really love Mara’s work and have found it so helpful.)

So, appropriately...

This year my word of the year is JOY.

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  • Joy as a goal instead of a byproduct.

  • Doing things that feel good just for the sake of feeling good (something that I often ignore in favor of getting the next thing done, and the next, and the next…)

  • Making music that brings me joy, which I can then spread to others

  • Helping others find their own joy

Feeling good is not frivolous - it helps us show up for the important people in our lives, and do work that impacts others positively.

I do have a short list of things I’m excited about doing this year:

TASKS

HABITS (small changes work!)

  • Re-starting a daily practice and/or composing habit that feels good

  • Reducing my mental input (consuming too much information on the internet is like the mental equivalent of eating too much) by utilizing the Screen Time feature on my phone, and not picking it up immediately in the morning

  • Setting aside time in the morning for journaling and meditation - I know that I need more space in my life for thinking and processing

But, I also plan to check in with myself regularly to make sure that my goals still feel aligned with what I want and need - no “shoulds” allowed, unless they’re practical things in service of goals I’m excited about.

If all of this new year talk doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay, you do you. I fully believe that the new year can be a fresh start, but shouldn’t elicit pressure or frustration. If you’re feeling a fresh start next week, or on a random Thursday in March, go for it - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2019!

If you chose a word of the year, share it in the comments, or share something you’re excited about doing in 2019!

Getting to Know Brazilian Music: What Is Choro

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It’s been almost a year since I stopped featuring Brazilian music on a regular weekly basis, but seeing as I’m making an album of mostly samba and choro this summer, I’m going to start giving a bit more background on the wonderful music of Brazil! I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it - it’s so much fun, and makes you move involuntarily! (As I type this, I’m listening to this samba album and doing a seated dance in my chair.)

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, it’s probably pretty obvious how much I love Brazilian music, but what’s maybe not so obvious is what it’s all about (it’s a big country with as much, if not more diversity than the United States). Most people are familiar with bossa nova, but there will actually be no bossa nova on my album! All of the music will be in either samba or choro styles (with maybe one baião).

Both samba and choro are vast genres with many subgenres, but today I’ll give a brief rundown about choro, especially because April 23 (the legendary composer/flutist/saxophonist Pixinguinha’s birthday) was National Day of Choro in Brazil:

  • Choro comes from the verb chorar, which means “to cry”. There are multiple genres of choro, though, and much of it is very upbeat, with a fast tempo.
  • Choro developed around the same time as jazz and ragtime in the US (early 1900s).
  • Choro's popularity has come and gone many times over the past century, but the scenes in Rio and São Paulo are alive and well, and plenty of people are innovating in the genre right now!
  • Like jazz, choro is improvisatory, and read from a lead sheet (or, really, should just be memorized, like the early musicians did), with a large repertoire of standards.
  • Choro’s most common instrumentation is flute/clarinet/saxophone as the melody instrument, a plucked instrument like bandolim (mandolin), cavaquinho for rhythm, the sete cordas (7-string guitar) as basslines; and pandeiro (a tambourine-like percussion instrument), but it can work with most instruments.

For a little more background on Brazilian choro, check out this Pop Matters article, which references an amazing documentary called The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho (highly recommended!), and this WNYC feature on Choro Ensemble with Anat Cohen.

I’ve written 2 choros so far: Anelante, a choro serenata (slower tempo), and Gingando, a more upbeat choro, which you can listen to below:

If you want to get more familiar with some great Brazilian music, I used to write weekly posts featuring a different song each week, in various genres, and I made a playlist of all of them here:

Because things are really ramping up with my Kickstarter launching on May 29 and recording my album in July, I’m going to switch to a more sustainable blogging schedule of once or twice per month. (To avoid burnout, I actually have to walk my talk about wellness!)  

But, if you’re on my blog mailing list (separate from my gig mailing list), I’ll still be writing you weekly newsletters, so if you want to hear from me more often, sign up below:

What’s your favorite kind of Brazilian music, song, or artist? Or, if it's new to you, what do you wish you knew about? Let me know in the comments! 

Video: 3 Original Brazilian Tunes - Piano/Marimba Duo

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Last Friday I was delighted to be able to perform 3 of my original Brazilian tunes at a faculty recital at MacPhail Center for Music (where I teach), joined by my friend Jenny Klukken on marimba. We had a blast putting these arrangements together - it was fascinating to figure out how to layer our parts, considering that both piano and marimba have so many possibilities for combining notes.  

The first one, Gingando (which I posted a solo piano version of back in December), is an uptempo Brazilian choro, and Gingando is one of those words that doesn't directly translate, but means "grooving" or "swinging. 

In case you're wondering, "What's a choro?", there are different types - many have a very fast tempo like this one. See here and here for more background on Brazilian choro, and watch the amazing documentary: The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho.

Anelante (Wishful/Wistful) is a different, slower type of Brazilian choro: choro serenata. This piece has traditional choro form (AABACA), but not traditional choro harmonic progressions - it has a healthy dose of Debussy influence in there, too!

Brincalhão (Playful) has sections of both maxixe and samba. What's a maxixe, you ask? It's a dance from the mid-1800s that was sometimes also called Brazilian tango (and developed alongside the Argentinean tango) - check out the composer Ernesto Nazareth, who wrote many of them. 

Thanks for checking out these videos - wishing you a peaceful weekend with hints of spring (but if not, the Brazilian music always helps)!

My Sheet Music Store is Live!

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I am excited to announce that my sheet music store is finally live, with 5 pieces available!

So far, they’re a mix of piano pieces and lead sheets:

  • Gingando, an uptempo Brazilian choro (lead sheet)
  • Centimonk, a piece dedicated to Thelonious Monk on his 100th birthday (lead sheet)
  • Anelante, a Brazilian choro serenata (both in lead sheet format, and fully notated for piano)
  • Rusty’s Dream, a funny little chase/pounce adventure about my cat (piano piece)
  • Before the Bright Leaves, a nostalgic autumn-themed waltz (piano piece)

Also, I have some 5x7 postcards with a print of a piano drawing that I created:

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Best of all, everything is under $5! And, during the month of February, for every order of 2 pieces or more, I’ll send you a piano print for free! (Add the piano print to your cart, and use the code FREEPRINT.)

I'll be publishing one new piece at the beginning of each month going forward. I'm really looking forward to getting back into a good writing habit again - editing music and setting up this store took up most of my extra time lately. 

Now it's time to relax (and not open up Sibelius again for a while)! 

Wishing you a great weekend, whether you're on Team Super Bowl or Team Kitten Bowl (guess which one I am!)

2017 Recap + Welcome 2018!

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Welcome to 2018!

And, congratulations, we made it through 2017! (Phew.)

I certainly am happy to turn the page on the calendar - 2017 was a difficult yet rewarding year of growth, in which I did lots of cool things but also dealt with burnout and a lot of anxiety. After trying everything holistic that I could think of to help, I finally decided to try going on meds, and after some extra rest and big lifestyle changes, by the end of summer, I was feeling a lot better - I had to actually listen to my body when it told me what it needed, again and again. I think this stuff is important to mention (#endthestigma), because we all struggle behind our highlight reels that we show to the world on social media - you’re not alone! And, every time we go through a big period of struggle, it brings us to the next, more evolved version of ourselves, which I’m always grateful for afterward.

Some firsts from this year:

  • Getting a studio to teach private lessons at MacPhail (a long time coming!)
  • Seeing Hermeto Pascoal and his band at SFJazz in April
  • Creating and facilitating a set of composition prompts for creative musicians, which is now a free 5 day-course (more about that below!)
  • Starting a regular networking happy hour for women musicians in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with my friend Lauren Husting
  • Receiving my certification from MTNA and became a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music
  • Attending the Giant Steps conference here in Minneapolis - so inspiring!
  • Prioritizing rest and self-care for real (instead of just talking about it a lot and not giving myself what I need)
  • Trying breathwork as a way to turn my mind off (it works) and connect to myself
  • Going back to eating meat again after 14 years without it (with some excellent help from Lucia of Essential Omnivore!)
  • Getting really into drawing, so much that I decided to get one printed!
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Other highlights:

  • Performing 3 sambas that I arranged for solo piano at a MacPhail faculty recital (what I learned from that process: here and here)
  • Choro rodas with local and visiting friends
  • Playing more Brazilian gigs on piano, especially at the National Flute Association Convention with Jane Lenoir and Tim O’Keefe
  • Finishing 2 100 Day Projects of writing 8 measures of music per day
  • Performing my own music several times
  • My 6th time at California Brazil Camp - ensembles with Hermeto Pascoal, Jovino Santos Neto, Vitor Gonçalves, and Alessandro Penezzi!
  • Seeing Anat Cohen and Choro Aventuroso (including my teacher Vitor) at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest in June
  • My 11th anniversary with Tom (celebrated with sushi and sculptures)
  • Growing new friendships with a few awesome women musician/artists
  • To my surprise, I also somehow managed to read 54+ books this year (and I didn’t start tracking my reading until March, so it was probably more like 60!)
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Also, in 2017 I picked two words to focus on for the year, guided by Susannah Conway’s workbook Find Your Word: LISTEN and INTENT (see last year's recap post for explanation). Those words kind of worked for me last year, but they didn’t really stay at the forefront of my mind, although I think that I still made some changes in those areas.

New Year’s resolutions get a lot of flak, but as long as they’re specific and actionable (actual goals), I’m into it - I’ll take any fresh-start energy I can get. All of the reflection that I did in 2017 has enabled me to have more clarity about what I want from 2018, and to feel more ready to begin (or really, continue).

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Ways that I want to CONNECT this year:

  • To my own intuition and purpose
  • To the expansive feeling I get when I’m doing things that bring me joy (in work and in life)
  • To a sense of ease and lightness
  • Being mindful and present in my interactions with others
  • Forming meaningful connections with other musicians and composers (especially women)
  • Showing my work as fearlessly as possible
  • Letting go of things that don’t give me meaningful connection or help me get closer to how I want to feel (hello, mindless scrolling!)

I’m not the type to plan out my whole year at once, but here are some of my big goals for 2018:

  • Revamp my morning routine to always include meditation and journaling (probably 10 minutes of each) before I exercise
  • Record an album of my Brazilian arrangements and compositions (finally) and crowdfund it
  • Collaborate with more women musicians (already talking with a few people)
  • Launch a sheet music store of my compositions and arrangements (this one I’m committed to doing by the end of January!)
  • Publish 1 piece per month for the rest of the year
  • Start writing more pieces for instruments other than my own (and start writing a trio for my trio)
  • Start using my voice more (literally) - starting with Instagram Stories
  • Leave time for fun and hobbies (reading more fiction and graphic novels, drawing, crafting, etc.)

And one I already completed this week:

Launch my free 5-day course of bite-size composition prompts

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, this is for you. If you're interested, sign up below and join us!

I have a good feeling about this year - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2018! 

If you chose a word for the year or have music-related goals you're excited about, share them in the comments!