Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you,
As a fish out of water hears the waves. Come back. Come back.
This turning towards what you deeply love saves you.
For over 25 years, I was fortunate to love my full time work, teaching Yoga and mindfulness, facilitating transformational workshops and coaching private clients. While owner of my studio and in the throws of busy classes, I was surprised when I felt something deep inside of me calling out for change. I heard, as Rumi talks about, that voice through the door calling me back. In my case, it was back to my first love - music.
I began classical piano lessons in my hometown of Syracuse at age eight, and continued my studies all the way through college, graduating from Grinnell College in 1983 with a BA in French, nearly a triple major in music and psychology.
I moved to San Francisco after college waiting tables, continuing classical piano studies privately and singing in a Madrigal choir while I tried to figure out what to do with my life.
Late at night on my way home from the pizza parlor where I worked, I discovered a couple of small, lively jazz clubs. I became transfixed by the intriguing harmonies, rhythm and free feel of the music.
Within a year, I moved to a new apartment and ended up a short walk from Kimballs, where I hung out several nights a week listening to jazz greats Cedar Walton, Bobby Hut-chinson, Dave Valentine and many others. This was blissful!
There also happened to be a used record store a few steps away from my new waitress job, where I spent many of my breaks staring at album covers and picking out several at a time to take home. This is where I discovered Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and more. I sat on a pillow on my floor with headphones on and listened and listened and listened.
I began to have secret fantasies of playing jazz piano and eventually decided to enroll in a course with a sax player, Jim Grantham, who taught in Oakland out of his garage. I joined Jim's class, but was tormented because, while I could understand the theory, I froze up when I asked to improvise and literally couldn't play a note. The frustration, impatience, and paralyzing performance anxiety I felt was too much for me, as well as the anger I felt towards myself for those emotions! I gave up.
This is what led me to seek out my first Yoga class. I wanted to practice something that had nothing to do with performance or "being good" and wanted to learn to relate to myself from the inside out. I fell in love with Yoga immediately, (and later, Chen Tai Chi and compassionate communication, aka NVC), and it changed my life.
Fast forward thirty years later, and I've come full circle, going back to school at our local community college to study jazz theory, improvisation and performance, applying everything I learned in my teaching and coaching career, to studying and playing music. The first two years were very challenging, to say the least, bringing up some of the deepest emotions that were buried and now resurfacing, and yes, I even had a few melt downs along the way. Did this surprise me? Maybe a little! This time, I had the skills to work with what came up, and move through it all.
What I am so grateful for is that I have been able to accomplish what my heart has longed for - to have musical conversations with others and in particular, through the beautiful, intriguing sounds and interesting rhythms of jazz. This is deeply gratifying.
Something that I've always felt since childhood, is that when I learn something, I want to share it with others. Teaching is another place where I feel happiest and most satisfied. I hope to continue to help others live a balanced and fulfilling life, creating meaningful change from the inside out.
I hope you check out my blog, Sometimes Slowly, which includes some accompanying audio with internal practices to support our well being.
I've also started a podcast with my co-host, Daniel Townsend, called Meaningful Musical Conversations. We host a guest every week and have heart to heart talks about music and life.
I hope you enjoy!