shine theory

Connecting at the MN Music Coalition Summit

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My word for 2018 is CONNECT, and it’s been in full force so far (setting an intention makes a difference!) I’m open to connecting with any interesting people, but I especially wanted to form and strengthen relationships with women musicians, both locally, and via social media.

Since the beginning of 2018, I have:

  • started a Sunday shout-out series on Instagram where I highlight women creatives doing awesome work
  • kept up with Binders of Women in Minnesota Music, a very supportive private Facebook group
  • performed my music with Jenny Klukken at a MacPhail Faculty Recital in February (video here)
  • met more local women musicians through friends and through hosting another local women musicians happy hour with Lauren Husting
  • made plans to play shows with Susan Shehata (accompanying her in a cabaret performance called “What’s Your Story”) and Jen Bluhm (an all-waltz show - she goes by the name Waltzing on Waves) in May
  • made friends with more musicians on Instagram that seem to align with my values
  • finally figured out that I like networking, as long as it’s in smaller doses, and in a scenario where I’m surrounded by interesting people, like Giant Steps last October, and the Minnesota Music Coalition Summit, which just happened last weekend.

I wasn’t able to attend all of the events over the 3 days of the Summit, but everything I went to was excellent, and I even just realized that all of the panelists/speakers that I saw on Friday afternoon were women:

Andrea Swensson in conversation with Lori Barbero

I loved this conversation - Lori seems very down-to-earth and sounds just like your Minnesotan aunt (if you didn't know, she co-founded the punk band Babes in Toyland. She told lots of great stories about famous musicians of the 90s, and talked about her amazing-sounding project with local artist Chris Larson: MN All-Girls Music Studio, for girls ages 6-15 to come and form bands and make recordings, for free!

Gig Gear w/Molly Maher

This presentation was geared toward guitarists (as Molly Maher is a guitar tech), but I still found it super interesting. She went through her guitar tech gig bag, which has literally eveything someone might need on stage (and I learned that steel wool near a 9 volt battery can start a fire, some solid MacGyver-ish info!) I also learned a bit about sound, how to diagnose troubles on stage (my keyboard setup is super simple but I would feel lost branching outside of that), and some of her opinions on what kinds of cables are the highest quality (American-made, with lifetime warranty).

Looping for vocals with Lynn O’Brien

Lynn talked about her setup and process for creating songs with vocal loops. She values the spontaneity of doing this on the spot, but plenty of people also pre-record loops and just play them back live. She uses a Boss loop station that allows her more flexibility with layering and saving more tracks than the previous pedals she’d used.

Behind the Board with Holly Hansen

Holly answered questions about running your own sound at shows, something that I know very little about. She affirmed that the best tool you have is to trust your own ears - no one knows your sound better than you, and don’t let sound people convince you otherwise (especially if you’re a woman, being mansplained.) She also had lots of great advice about recording in studio, such as giving reference tracks to the engineer ahead of time, pacing yourself by not recording too many hours each day, and being extremely prepared (plenty of rehearsal, and good physical condition - eating well, getting enough sleep, etc.) Lastly, she recommended that everyone sign up for a (free!) subscription to Tape Op magazine to learn more about engineering.

Panel on Crowdfunding

This panel was led by local musicians Vicky Emerson and 2 others (a father/son duo whose names I unfortunately didn’t write down), and was one of the most helpful for me, since my Kickstarter is launching on May 29! They talked about the importance of knowing your fan base and what they like (by tracking attendance and sales at shows), making people part of the journey by having a compelling, concise story and a video that grabs people’s attention quickly, and using the psychology of momentum (joiner effect) to your advantage, possibly by doing a campaign that’s shorter than a month (for your sanity, too!) Since Vicky has done a few Kickstarters already, and has one underway right now, she also had some great promotion ideas (release a new track, do a live video, have a giveaway), and tips for reward incentives (watch out for expenses, especially postage, and putting good rewards in the $25-50 range where the most people will give).

Getting to Know the Jerome Foundation

Jerome Foundation president Ben Cameron and Kris Kautzman, Manager of Community Partnerships at American Composers Forum outlined the Jerome Fellowship criteria and typical winners, since the deadline is coming up on May 8. I had to leave this one early, but they gave some good advice about grant writing, such as considering where the funder is listening for (what do they care about?)

Mentor session with composer Will Van De Crommert

I signed up for a 15-minute conversation with Will to learn more about film and TV composing. He suggested that the first step is to become comfortable with self-producing my own music, and gave me a list of the gear and software that would enable me to do that. He also mentioned that some places to connect with filmmakers would be MN Film Board meetings, or looking on campuses like MCTC or MCAD for film students.

Being Your Authentic Self with PaviElle (interviewed by Janis Lane-Ewart)

I always love anything that affirms our ability to show up and be our authentic selves, so, of course, I loved this conversation. They talked a lot about how PaviElle manifests her personal authenticity - by putting her own values first, creating change in her community, and “doing things from the heart” from a young age, though she was different than her peers in many ways. I liked her answer to a question about how to collect inspiration when the opportunity strikes (since she works a day job) - she takes a quick break and goes to a little-used bathroom and sings into her voice recorder, and keeps a text file open for lyric ideas. My favorite part, though, was her quote, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it.” That’s what we all have to do as creative people on our own paths that reveal themselves one step at a time, and PaviElle is such an inspiring example of following your own path!

There were also more great-sounding sessions that I unfortunately didn’t get to attend, like Racism in the Music Industry, Creating Safe Spaces for Artists, Protecting Artists in Music Transactions and Against Inappropriate Behavior Toward Women, How To Get Asked Back (about booking etiquette), and a keynote by Venus DeMars, sharing her story as a transgender artist. Music business-related events like this could easily trend toward being very white male-centric, but it was great to see the effort that Minnesota Music Coalition made toward inclusion of a much more diverse group of presenters.

Overall, this was an awesome event, and I’m really glad that I braved the beginning of a blizzard to go (luckily I live under 15 minutes away on city streets). It was great to connect with more local musicians, and being inspired always helps me connect internally with my goals and my overall direction as a musician. I have attended lots of professional development events as a piano teacher, but it was really nice to attend something that supports my own music career as a performer.

Speaking of which, my Kickstarter for my upcoming Brazilian album officially has a launch date!

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

What’s the best networking or professional development event you’ve attended? Let me know in the comments!

My Creativity Manifesto + Amazing News!

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As I ponder my new projects (one of which has to do with the amazing news at the end of this post!), and ways that my work might pivot in the coming year, I’ve been pondering big questions like, “What do I stand for?” and “What do I know to be true?”

I’ve had this document going for a couple years now, but I kept postponing posting it because it never felt done. I realize now that, of course, it didn’t feel done because a personal creativity manifesto is the kind of thing that’s always evolving!

I also feel like I need to elaborate on each point, but each one could probably become its own post (some have already, and some will in the future). So, I’m sharing the current version, in list format. (See #35: Done is better than perfect, plus I’m all about sharing my process!) These are the things that I know to be true for myself (and many of these statements are pretty universal):

Everyone is creative (even you).

No one needs permission to create, or to call themself an artist, writer, musician, composer, etc.! We decide how (or how not) to label ourselves.

It’s valuable to think of myself as creative - we miss out on some ways to be creative if we don’t think we are.

Creativity has much less to do with talent than with consistent effort (supported by healthy habits).

I have time to be creative, even if I think I don’t. I just also have to be creative with my time.

People are also doing amazing creative things without realizing it - creativity shows up in so many places besides art.

Don’t worry about creating something completely original that’s never been done before - work is original because it comes from a unique individual.

Just make lots of things, some will be better than others - we have to make some bad stuff to get to the good stuff (and if we persist, we definitely will).

Since creativity is a practice, different types of creativity feed the others, and the whole person (don't forget about physical movement).

Draw inspiration from other disciplines and creative careers. The creative process is endlessly fascinating, in any format.

CREATIVITY IS SELF-CARE.

I need to play and write music, or I start to feel a bit depressed and drained of life.

Self-care is essential - not taking care of oneself is like slash-and-burn agriculture - nothing will grow if there are no nutrients left in the soil.

Creating a sense of ease/flow around my creative habit helps “fertilize the soil”.

Wellness and creativity depend on each other. I will continue to explore this interdependency.

I don’t always have to know what I’m doing, in fact, maybe sometimes it’s better not to!

I need enough white space in my schedule to support and make time for creativity. The “hustle” can make creativity (and my life force!) dry up.

I need more time to process things, whether daily events, things I’m writing about, big successes/failures, or how to approach a project.

Even though being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) can be difficult, sensitivity is also a super power for my life as a musician.

Creativity can happen in small bits at a time. Small bits add up to large things.

Even if I feel fragmented (because the variety of a “mosaic of jobs” is a reality and a survival strategy), pieces can be rearranged to make something new and profound (or, the path may not be clear, but it sorts itself out, bit by bit).  

Prioritize joy - it’s most worth doing work that I’m excited about - creation is hard work but hard work can feel easy.

It’s important to me to share music, and hopefully bring others joy in the process (especially Brazilian music!)

I love working on my own, but also love making music with other people. As an introvert, I have to balance the two wisely.

I need to be disciplined (as in forming a daily composing habit) but keep it fun enough that the work has room to breathe (also a balancing act).

I will support peers in their creative projects (especially women) - by going to shows, sharing info/links, etc. (I'm doing weekly Sunday Shout-Outs on Instagram.)

It’s really important for me to create a welcoming space for others to share their work, and to encourage others’ creativity.

I will never: make someone feel bad about what they’ve created, discriminate based on style of music (or anything else), or pressure or guilt people around their creative habits.

I want everyone to be able to feel: welcomed, inspired, capable, excited to make things, nurtured by keeping a creative habit, fearless (or fearful but doing it anyway), open to sharing their goals, and encouraging of others (a rising tide lifts all boats).

We are all works in progress - art AND life are experiments. We all have permission to figure it out as we go (because that’s actually how it works).

Action > inaction (especially via overthinking and “research” as procrastination.)

There’s no shame in utilizing external accountability if needed (yes, I’m an Obliger). 

I will share my process and journey openly, in hopes of helping others feel less alone.

I would rather make something more slowly to remain in accordance with my values BUT...

Done is better than perfect.

Where I am currently is right where I’m supposed to be in my career/life/etc.

Creating the work is ultimately more important to me than any self-doubts or fraudy feelings, so I have to work through those by focusing on my mindset.

I am committed to my personal evolution as a human and a musician (human comes first). This list will also keep evolving!

COMING SOON: MY FIRST ALBUM!

And now for the amazing news: I am thrilled to announce that I've received a grant through MacPhail Center for Music (one of the places I teach), funded by the McKnight Foundation, toward recording my first album this summer! All three of these original compositions in Brazilian styles will be included, in addition to a bunch of my arrangements of Brazilian songs, and the whole album will include Tim O'Keefe on percussion, among other guests. I'll be raising additional funds to complete the project, so look for that crowdfunding campaign in the near future, to pre-order the album!

I invite you to think about what’s in your personal creativity manifesto AKA what you stand for as an artist. I bet you have more thoughts on this than you realize!

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Let me know in the comments!