#WritingWednesday - Read to Become a Better Writer

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Reading great fiction makes us richer and better able to navigate our own experience and our way in the world.

As Hannah Frankman explains, fiction offers us something we cannot experience in self-help, history, psychology books. Fiction enriches our lives. It allows us to encounter other people, comprehends patterns of evolution, causes us to see a larger picture, encounter the world in a different light, brings us to a deeper understanding - of ourselves, others, and the world around us.

 

 

 

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The Walrus, a Canadian magazine dedicated to rich thinking and rich dialogue has a collection of wonderful stories that they have opened up online to readers in order to stimulate creativity and encourage readers to become writers. Here are some of their favourites: 

 

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Sources and Further Reading

The Importance of Reading Fiction

The Walrus

 

 

 

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


Quotes for Motivation and Presentations

The other day, I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that I didn't seem able to make headway on certain goals I had set for myself. Sometimes I have to be honest with myself as to whether I am prioritizing the correct things, or that I should be putting my energy toward the tasks that I would rather avoid, but which would light a fire under me if I accomplished them.

Sometimes finding a little inspiration is necessary. Similarly, finding a quote, image, or story upon which to anchor a presentation can be key. It is not a bad idea to have a collection of ideas and quotes that you find will support you in your work.

Here are some of mine:

Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

"Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.”
- Janelle Monáe 

"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes." -Maggie Kuhn

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” - Ellen DeGeneres 

“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” - Najwa Zebian

"It doesn't get easier. You get better." - Unknown

"I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars." - Og Mandino

 

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style" - Maya Angelou

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou

“Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.” — Grace Coddington

"Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire." - Unknown

 

 

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” - Billie Jean King 

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo—far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.” - Jodi Picoult 

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” - Unknown

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” -  Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” - Barbara De Angelis 

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” - Tony Robbins

“Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.” - Simon Sinek

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


Writing Wednesday: Amy Lowell

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Amy Lowell was born on February 9,  1874, at her family's a ten-acre family estate of Sevenels in Brookline, Massachusetts. The youngest of five children, Her family was considered in the upper echelons of Boston society. Initially tutored at home, Amy went on to attend Boston private schools and traveled to Europe with her family. At the age of seventeen, she couped herself in Sevenels' immense library and studied literature. 

With her mother and sister, she wrote Dream Drops or Stories From Fairy Land by a Dreamer in 1887 printed privately. Her poem “Fixed Idea” was published in 1910 by the Atlantic Monthly and several other poems were published in journals. In October of 1912 Houghton Mifflin published her first collection, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass.

Lowell was outspoken and controversial, building a career as a poet, publicity agent, collector, critic, and lecturer, joining the imagist movement and working to promote its principles. 

 

Imagism

A reaction in part to romantisicm and Victorian poetry, Imagism was a movement in America and England that utilised specificity of language to evoke clear images for the reader.  Haiku and tanka poetry were often influential for imagist poets as they too sought to freeze a moment in time. Adjectives are employed conservatively, selected to enhance the emotions and images evoked in the poem.

Ezra Pound is credited with being the founder of the movement however, its ideals were first developed by T.E. Hulme by 1908. Hulme spoke of the words of a poem being more than merely decorative but comprising the poem's essence.   

Writing in the March 1913 issue of Poetry, F. S. Flint, quoting Pound, defined imagist poetry as:

  • Direct treatment of the “thing," whether subjective or objective.
  • To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  • As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome. -  published “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.”

By Spring of 1914 disputes arose within the movement and Pound distanced himself. Amy Lowell became the leader of the movement between 1915 and 1917 publishing three anthologies of poetry all under the name of Some Imagist Poets. Eventually, Amy Lowell also distanced herself from the Imagists and the poetry movement became part of the larger modernist movement. Lowell died on May 12, 1925, at Sevenels.

 

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A Fixed Idea

- Amy Lowell

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy upon my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.

 

 

 

 

Sonnet

A sonnet is a 14 line poem with a variable rhyme scheme and traditionally in iambic pentameter. Here, Lowell uses the Petrarchan rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDCDCD. With such confinements, a sonnet is likened to a box and the aim is to transcend such confinements. The Petrarchan sonnet has a feeling of balance to it, being almost equally weighted into halves through its rhyme scheme.  You will notice that Lowell isn't bound to the iambic pentameter rhythm. More contemporary poets have experimented with ways to push and bend the sonnet form to varying degrees. How might this form of meter convey the meaning of the poem?

 

Your Turn...

What occurs when a classic form is used to explore less typical subject matter?

Choose aspects of the sonnet form that you will use. Pick a specific emotion or moment in time and write your own sonnet using precision in your language. How can you make the rhythm of your poem like a musical phrase?

for other examples and more contemporary takes on the sonnet, see “Voiced Stops” by Forrest Gander and “Incandescent War Poem Sonnet” by Bernadette Mayers.

 

 

References and Further Reading

Poets.org: Amy Lowell

Poets.org: A Brief Guide to Imagism

Poetry Foundation: Learning the Sonnet

 

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


#CreativeInnovative with Lee Su-Feh: Yielding, Dissolving, Fighting, and Dancing Within Inquiry

Lee Su-Feh on Creating, Communicating, and Encountering the Humanity of Others

This is the sixth in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

Lee Su-Feh, Still from the film Migrant Bodies, Dir. Laura Bari

Lee Su-Feh, Still from the film Migrant Bodies, Dir. Laura Bari

Lee Su-Feh is a force of nature. Until December 2017, we have been two ships passing in the night in the “real world” but we operate in some of the same circles. I avidly follow her online and come to her for advice. I am lucky to consider her a mentor and friend. In December, we finally had the opportunity to sit down together and our discussion ranged over the personal, the political, the artistic, and several other topics we won't divulge here.

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"The notion that you can make a go of anything all by yourself is a capitalist myth. You are who you are because of others" 

 

 

Photographer: Joerg Letz

 

F: Lee Su-Feh, you has a remarkable background in children’s theatre, traditional Malay dance, contemporary dance, contact improvisation, and martial arts, and your career is a neverending cycle of shows, projects, accolades, and collaborations. You have also recently been touring your latest show, Dance Machine. This work consists of a kinetic sculpture, formed by sticks of bamboo suspended from a copper disk, creating an immersive space in which the public is invited to work with the artists, becoming collaborators and mindful participates in cause and effect, play and rest. Oh, and you are an Instructor in the Theatre program at Simon Fraser University where you teach voice.

LSF: You should write my bios from now on!!!

F: Well, I try my best! Now it's your turn to tell me a bit about yourself - what about your training in the arts?

LSF: I did Chinese martial arts as a kid, when I was 11-12. Not a lot. But enough to awaken something in my body, something about the pleasure moving my body, training. When I was 15 or 16, I joined a children’s theatre class led by Janet Pillai, who is now an award-winning arts activist, recognized for her work in cultural mapping. We learned traditional South-East Asian forms like Pencak Silat (martial arts), Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry), and became part of a larger questioning of what it meant to create contemporary Asian performance out of the debris of colonialism, half-remembered traditions and sitting in the interstices of multiple cultures and languages. We created work and toured across the country. Through this experience of Teater Kanak-kanak, I met my first dance teacher, Marion D’Cruz, from whom I learned traditional Malay dance as well as Western contemporary dance. These lessons took place in the basement of a place called The Temple of Fine Arts, which was a temple honouring Krishna as well as a school for Indian classical dance and music. So I was immersed in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak, even though I never studied those forms. My first performance in public with Marion D’Cruz and Dancers was a dance from the East Coast of Malaysia called Timang Burung; and we performed it amid a show filled with Indian classical dance with The Temple of Fine Arts. All this is to impress upon you the plurality of approaches, aesthetics and culture that surrounded my entry into the arts. Janet, Marion and Krishen Jit, Marion’s late husband and a notable theatre critic, historian and director in the region, were my teachers and mentors; and they eventually founded, along with others, Five Arts Centre, which remains a provocative arts organization in Malaysia. This hotbed of cultural activity which also grappled with post-colonial politics really set the foundation for me as an artist. I think how I see the world and how I approach performance has been formed by this period. I eventually left Malaysia to go to Paris to study contemporary dance. And eventually ended up in Vancouver, where I continued learning new skills (more Chinese martial arts, more dance, contact improv), but always, always wrestling for my sense of self while being acutely conscious of how power structures play on my body.  

F: How Has your art/training taken you to other places? What are some of the most interesting locations you have experienced?

LSF: Lots of places. Lots of complex relationships to different places. Two examples: Paris for being an incubator of my western contemporary dance ideas, and where I awoke to being othered by white society. Manitoulin island recently for showing me a glimpse into Anishnaabeg ways of being and artmaking as an alternative to settler-colonial ways.

Lee Su-Feh and Benoit Lachambre, Body Scan, 2010

Lee Su-Feh and Benoit Lachambre, Body Scan, 2010

F: Many of your projects are collaborative and call on your ability to communicate. What are the benefits and challenges of collaboration? 

LSF: Collaboration invites you to expand your knowledge - of yourself, of your collaborators and of the form you are engaged in. Any kind of growth is often also painful and involves judgement, a dissolving of who you think you are, a constant question of whether you yield to new knowledge or to take a stand and fight for your (tenuous) beliefs.   

F: How did you decide to take your art in this direction?

LSF: I’m not sure it was a decision. The notion that you can make a go of anything all by yourself is a capitalist myth. You are who you are because of others - humans and non-humans. I usually choose to work with people who I think I have something to learn from. 

F: Did this require you to take on additional training or did you encounter any learning curves?

LSF: Choreography requires communication skills - listening deeply, speaking honestly, while taking care of everyone’s humanity. Maybe my history as a marginalized, racialized person has contributed to my skills in this department. But as I encounter new knowledge and new areas of my ignorance, I also become inspired to learn new skills. Contact improvisation, voice, new ways of dancing...

F: What drives you in your work?

LSF: My questions. About myself, about my relationship to the world, about my relationship to the sacred.  

F: How do you create? From where do you draw your inspiration?

LSF: Usually, the spark of a new project comes from the unfolding of the previous project. For example,  the beginning of my current project Dance Machine was 8 years ago and began as simply an inquiry into the energetic relationship between the human body and inanimate objects. This question came out of working on a piece called Body Scan with the Montreal choreographer Benoit Lachambre, where we worked a lot with fabrics and texture and sensation. I really loved the energetic quality of the costume designer we worked with, Alexandra Bertaut and proposed to her that we explored some things together. I proposed that she do my physical practice, which was deeply informed by Qigong and martial arts, and then see if she could respond by making objects. I would then live with those objects for a period of time and see what came out of my body as a response to those objects. It was during this period of living with the objects - which were fabric based, with personal objects of mine knitted and woven into them - that I went into the studio with my friend and colleague, the choreographer and dancer Justine Chambers. For about a week, we hung the objects up with fishing line, made very shoddy pulley systems and the beginning idea of an environment that was attached somehow to the dancer emerged. After that, I invited a designer/architect Jesse Garlick to help us actually build it. Along the way, I also started to want it to address a whole bunch of concerns - political, social, and underneath it all, my questions about what it means to dance. Anyway, this is a long story. But the gist of it is that works don’t usually pop out of anyone’s head fully formed. I’m usually looking to ask the most interesting question possible and then to construct a process that can lead me to an even more interesting question at the end of that process. Repeat as often as necessary.

You can follow Lee Su-Feh and her work through her company website, Battery Opera, her blog, and on her Twitter page.

 

 

We can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: 


#CreativeInnovative with Emma Dean: Leading From The Heart

Emma Dean Reflects on Forging A Unique Creative Path And Using The Healing Power of Music to Build Community

 

This is the fourth in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Born in Brisbane, Emma Dean is Australia's best-kept musical secret. A genre-bending powerhouse with a heavenly voice, she garners accolades and conquers the hearts of audiences and critics wherever she performs. In 2013, she lit New York's off-Broadway scene on fire and the New York Post named her “one of 10 artists to know." 

Returning to Brisbane, Emma fell in love with music all over again. While her work has always been ethereal and electric,  this latest phase of her career is a whole different level of musical magic - new creative collaborations, a community choir, and a business collective.

Emma Dean's many contributions to the communities in which she comes into contact are immeasurable. She is someone who lifts up and inspires others simply by embodying what it is to be a creative entrepreneur who leads with her heart. 

Note: "Tall Poppy Syndrome" refers to an aspect of Australian culture where people who are seen as aspiring to excellence are targeted, resented, criticised. It is often contrasted with the way America tends to celebrate those who work hard with the dream of attaining success.


F: You have spent a lot of time in Australia, but also have worked in New York. 

E: Yes, Brisbane is home. Though, I have lived in both Sydney and New York. Both of these places were vibrant and alive, but I have found I need somewhere smaller and quieter to create. 

F: How did the New York scene compare to communities in Australia? 

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

E: Both Aussies and New Yorkers are a friendly bunch. The thing I loved most about New York was the non-existence of ‘tall poppy syndrome’. If you were talented and good at what you do, people would WANT to work with you, not find a way to cut you down. What I missed about Brisbane, in particular, was space and time. Everyone in New York was so busy, juggling multiple jobs, sometimes just to get by. I missed having the space (I lived in a shoebox) and time to invite friends over to eat and jam and drink wine. 

Working in New York taught me about what I didn’t want. I saw firsthand what I needed to do in order to climb the ‘ladder of success’ as an original musician and I realized I wasn’t cut out for it. So, I had to redefine what ‘success’ meant for me. I continue to redefine it’s meaning all the time, but I always come down to a few simple things: Success, to me, is to lead a rich life, full of adventure, earning a comfortable living from musical pursuits, working to create a supportive and thriving musical community, helping people find their unique creative voice, and always nurturing my own. 

F: What skills served you in these different places?

E: In New York I was often asked, “So, are you any good?” As an Australian with a long history of dealing with ‘tall poppy syndrome’, my ‘humble’ answers often sparked remarks like, “Oh stop all this false modesty!” I found that really challenging. I was also told, at the age of 29 that I should lie and say I was 24. New York certainly taught me how to hustle, took me to my edges, and brought me out of my shell. I still struggle with confidence, but I do believe the experience of living in New York made me prove to myself that I am tougher than I think! 

F: You have released EPs with an American label. What has it been like engaging with companies in America and Australia?

E: I had a really positive experience with Candy Rat Records in America. One of the owners – Holly - I now call my ‘US Mum’! They were very nurturing, which I think is a quality lacking in a lot of music companies these days where the emphasis is to keep churning out new material rather than nurturing and growing raw talent. Nowadays I don’t have much experience dealing with companies at all, as I am 100% independent. If I met someone who wanted to work with me, I would need to feel nurtured and safe and that they were as passionate about my work as I am. 

F: Tell me a little about your background in the arts.

Photographer: Kate Davies @ KD Photography

Photographer: Kate Davies @ KD Photography

E: I started at a classical ballet school when I was 2 and a classical music school when I was 3. By the age of 6, I was learning classical violin and a few years later, a horrible dance teacher told my mum that my bum was too big to be a ballerina, so as much as I loved dance, an emphasis was placed strongly on music. In late primary school I began learning piano, though I was a terrible student and only wanted to write my own music rather than learn the pieces my teacher had given me! I was terribly shy growing up, so I used to lock myself away in my bedroom and compose songs, kind of like a diary entry. When I was 13, I started my first band – Halo. We performed my biggest gig to date, at The Brisbane Entertainment Centre in front of about 7000 people, when I was just 14. Band politics and hormonal teenage girls did not make for a good mix, so the band broke up a couple of years later. Though it sparked my love of singing, so I auditioned for the school musical – Little Shop Of Horrors – and got in as the lead character, Audrey. After school, I had a gap year and completed by AMus A in classical violin and then went on to audition successfully for the Queensland Conservatorium Of Music in Jazz Voice and completed my Bachelor Of Music. I have also trained with Brisbane physical theatre company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, which gave me a brilliant insight and awareness of my body and made me remember how much I love to move, beautiful big bum and all! 

F: Your projects often involve collaboration with other creative professionals and incorporate music with dance. What are the benefits and challenges of working this way?

E: I have tried to ‘go solo’ and I just get lonely. One of my favourite spaces is the rehearsal room, bouncing ideas off other creatives. It’s a space that can open your mind to new possibilities; things you might not have thought of before. As previously mentioned, I grew up studying dance, so movement has been an important part of my performance history. As much as I adore music, I have been equally as intrigued with the physical interpretation of it, and adore pieces with both music and movement. I suppose it is a natural progression to merge the two art forms in my work. 

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/album/dr-dream-and-the-imaginary-pop-cabaret

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/album/dr-dream-and-the-imaginary-pop-cabaret

F: How did you decide to take your art in this direction?

E: I actually wanted to get into acting so I contacted Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre and they so bravely asked if I wanted to audition for one of their productions – The Tempest. I got the role as Arial and this is where I met my dance collaborator, Jamie Kendall. The rest is history. 

F: Did this require you to take on additional training?

E: Yes! I began training with Zen Zen Zo and was in a number of their productions. I had to increase my fitness and get reacquainted with my body. It was life-changing. 

F: What drives you to be a musician?

E: It is when I feel most in flow, and connected to myself and the world around me. 

F: Am I correct in understanding that you have managed to make music an aspect of all of your jobs as a performer and teacher. How did you make that choice?

E: Yes, you are right! This has been the case for a number of years now, and I am blessed to have this reality. I perform, write songs, teach, arrange choir music, hold workshops and conduct my community choir – Cheep Trill. I made that choice because I’m not good at anything else. Ha ha! 

F: How do you create? From where do you draw your inspiration?

E: It depends. I used to really completely on the creative force to strike me down. Then things got busy. I am sometimes part of the I Heart Songwriting Group which encourages members to write one song in an hour each week. When it comes to my arrangements, I have to be very disciplined as I’m usually on very strict deadlines. 

F: When I look at your biography, I don’t know where to start, you have performed with Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, been nominated for a myriad of awards, played sold-out shows, and, above all, are known for creating moving and innovative performances. When you consider your career thus far, of what accomplishments are you most proud?

E: Starting my community choir, Cheep Trill, which is now 150 singers strong and in two locations in Brisbane; writing a vocal arrangement of You’re the Voice for John Farnham to sing with 2500 choristers, singing out about domestic violence; moving to New York and giving it a red hot go; and the work I am currently doing with my brother – our upcoming EP and Cabaret, Broken Romantics A Vicious Song Cycle… 

F: How do you manage burnout/feed yourself creatively? 

E: Wine. 

F:  Part of the Vibrance philosophy is that some training in voice, movement, and performance gives individuals concrete and adaptable skills that enable them to excel at whatever endeavours they choose.

E: Yes, I agree! I think voice/movement/performance skills train you to listen, to adapt, to compromise, to negotiate, to work alongside other people who have similar beliefs AND different beliefs. I also think training in these ways gets you in touch with who YOU are – with your body, your mind, your soul. 

F: Yes, exactly! And in your own experience, what adaptable skills have you gained through your training that you apply in other contexts?

E: My singing training has helped me with public speaking. My jazz and improvising training has helped me to create work on the fly, under pressure. My movement training has helped me to be more at peace with my own unique body. Working in performance teams has taught me how to work alongside other humans in a respectful way. 

F: Then how do you set boundaries with regards to managing your personal from your creative spaces?

E: I am an incredibly private person and live alone. However, I also teach and work from home so I am constantly having to invite people into my personal space so I can work. I try to set boundaries around work times, however, this is an ongoing process for me that I am constantly refining. 

 

F: Do you use intuition and aesthetic to help you manage this process?

I am trying to listen to my intuition more when it comes to work. I am trying to embrace Michael Leunig’s JOMO (the joy of missing out) mentality, as my tendency is to take on too much work, even if it doesn’t feel right. I think as freelance artists we get used to saying YES to everything for fear that the work will one day dry up. I’m trying to shift this and feel into my decisions more. Is it a F*** YES or just a YES? 

F: Your work involves you being involved in several communities - the music community, theatre community, and wider community. What drives you to do this? What do you get out of this engagement?

E: I feel like I am mostly connected with communities I have built myself, such as Cheep Trill community choir. The reason for this is because I have never really felt like I fit in a box or been part of the music or theatre communities. Instead I have lived on the fringe of all of these worlds. 

F: That's one of the incredible things about you, the entrepreneur in you creates something unique and the artist in you fills it it magic! Tell me about your community choir Cheep Trill. How did your idea to form it originate?

E: The idea was born from loneliness and a lack of community when I was living in New York. I decided I would move back home to Brisbane and I wrote a facebook status asking if anyone would be interested in joining a singing group. The next day I opened my email and facebook and had approximately one hundred inquiries. The choir has grown exponentially and we now have two locations and 150 members. 

From our humble beginnings rehearsing on a verandah in Everton Park, we have expanded into two locations. This allows us to keep growing but also keep an intimate feel at rehearsals. We have a north and a south side location to also cater for people’s many a varying locations. 

F:  What are your proudest accomplishments?

One of my proudest moments was arranging ‘You’re The Voice’ for 2500 choristers (including Cheep Trill) to sing at a Queensland Music Festival performance, singing out about domestic violence. John Farnham made a surprise appearance and sang the arrangement with the choir. It was the only different arrangement of that song that John Farnham had ever sung. 

Another proud moment was singing at Queensland Performance Arts Centre concert hall stage and ROCKING OUT! Also, seeing the female Cheep Trill members accompany Deb Conway, Clare Bowditch and a bunch of other amazing female artists at The Tivoli, singing my arrangement of Hymn To Her by Pretenders. 

F: That's remarkable - and in a comparatively short time. It also strikes me that Cheep Trill integrates your skills as a composer/arranger, teacher/conductor, and singer/musician. You have been teaching private lessons for several years. What first drew you to teaching?

E: At first, it was quite simply the need to fund my art (and being a bad waitress). 

F: Who do you teach?

E: I have actually quit my teaching job in 2017 because choir work was getting too busy. I was teaching beginners or people with naturally good voices but limited experience, mostly between the ages of 20-40. 

F: Wow, that's really exciting! What approaches have you developed to work with choirs or individuals?

E: I put emphasis in finding my students’ unique voice and working with that, rather than teaching a particular technique or telling them how they should sound. 

I try to make each lesson fun as well as informative and challenging

I value wo rds, so putting strong emphasis on story telling as well as technique 

F: Describe your dream student

E: Someone hungry to learn, able to take constructive criticism, someone who practices, who listens, who is excited to try new genres and who is interested in song arrangement and writing! 

Source: Emma Dean's YouTube channel

Source: Emma Dean's YouTube channel

F: What do you say to people who claim to “not be creative”?

E: I’d probably say ‘B******t’. Then I would try to create something with them and prove them wrong. 

F: How can musical training benefit someone who doesn’t wish to be a singer or musician?

E: Listening skills, confidence, connection, storytelling, public speaking, controlling nerves and breathing, fun and play, creative release, a sense of belonging, a sense of achievement…and the list goes on. 

F: What are the moments that reward you as a teacher?

E: When someone walks away from a lesson feeling happier and more connected than when they walked in. Simple. 

F: In your own learning, did you have any teachers who were pivotal ? What qualities or actions made them so influential? 

E: My high school music teacher, Narelle McCoy! She is a firey, passionate, highly intelligent red head and she forced me to audition for the school musical after I had been in hospital with depression. She believed in me and showed me that I could do more than I ever imagined. She was the reason I realised I could become a singer and probably the reason I had red hair for so long too! 

Source: https://www.tigercommon.com/

Source: https://www.tigercommon.com/

F: What is your business?  What is unique about it/them?

E: The Tiger Common is my music school. We are different because we place emphasis on community and try to connect our students as much as we can, through choir, workshops and other informal events. Our mission is to encourage creativity, human connection, self-love and respect through the magical and healing powers of music.

F: How did you get into starting your own business?

E: I had already started Cheep Trill and I was working with Tony Dean (my brother) and Corinne Buzianczuk and we were looking to ‘formalise’ what we did and include our teaching work and workshops. It was a natural progression. 

F: Do you feel that there are unique challenges when ones’s business is so personal?

E: It is certainly harder to not take conflict personally when you run a heart-based business. But I have learnt that the bigger we get, the more likely it is that we will not be able to please everyone. 

F: What was the toughest learning curve that you experienced?

E: The toughest thing to do so far was splitting the choir in two. We were responding to so many location requests and we thought the best idea would be to have a north and a south side location. However, many of the choristers believed this meant we were splitting up the family. Another tough learning curve was to figure out what to do when we would receive gig requests for a choir of 50 people. We have 150. We are still figuring this out! 

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/track/feed-it

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/track/feed-it

F: What are the most useful strategies that support your business and work?

E: Honestly, the key is communication. Tony, Corinne and I have a whatsapp thread that has been invaluable and we have regular in person meetings. Knowing where all our different strengths lie has been incredible. 

F: What performer skills have come in useful in your business?

E: Standing in front of a choir for two hours two nights a week and trying to teach as well as entertain is a performance in itself. My career as a performer has been invaluable! 

F: Is there a tension between your career as an artist and your business?

E: Only when it comes to scheduling!  In terms of the creative stuff, the business feeds into the artist stuff and vice versa! I feel more balanced than ever before because both itches are being scratched. The business also helps to take the pressure off needing to make a certain amount of money from my artistic pursuit! 

F: How do you go about networking/promoting your business?

E: Word of mouth has been the most valuable thing alongside performing in front of new audiences! 

F: What challenges does your business experience?

E: Community choirs have TAKEN OFF here in Brisbane (and perhaps everywhere!) which is a wonderful thing. Recently we had an experience where we had an idea to expand the business and reached out to a venue with a proposal. We didn’t hear back and then next thing we knew, an acquaintance was doing the exact idea we proposed at the same venue… This might have been a coincidence, but it took me about six months to emotionally recover. Now I keep things closer to my chest and instead of comparing our business to others, I focus on making our business the best it can be. 

F: Yes! I have definitely seen that happen a few times in a city like Brisbane, unfortunately. When I get excited, I like to share or bounce ideas off others and I have to remember to stay quiet. Where do you see your business going?

E: I actually don’t want it to get much bigger, because the sense of community is lost when it gets too big. I am being contracted to do a lot of other choir work outside of Cheep Trill which is keeping me busy without disrupting the preciousness of my own choir community. 

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

F: What is the most draining aspect of your business?

E: It involves constant, time-consuming  music arranging and having to be somewhere in real time to actually make money.  So there is no passive income, it’s just a bit of a long hard slog. A slog which I love and enjoy, but a slog nonetheless! 

 

F: And how do you manage maintain your enthusiasm for this work? 

E: As mentioned, I don’t manage this very well. Wine? 

 

You can follow Emma Dean through her websiteInstagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube channel or on Candyrat Records. You can read further interviews with Emma Dean and articles about her career here.

We didn't have nearly enough time to cover everything! I invite you to learn more about The Tiger Common, a collaboration between Emma Dean, Tony Dean, and Corinne Buzianczuk offering creative workshops, musical coaching, and the community choir Cheep Trill in order to build a community united by a love of music.

 

We can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: 


Success Is...

With the beginning of a new year, it is common to take stock and set goals for the months ahead. An important aspect of this process is to understand the elements of what ensures success. There are six skills that successful people excel at and you can develop to ensure your success. This framework shapes the Vibrance philosophy and influences how we teach our clients.

 

1. Grit

Grit is a marathon, not a sprint
— Angela Lee Duckworth
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The foundation for success is grit. Grit means having the motivation to work toward your goals, the perseverance to keep going when things get difficult, and the passion to keep your heart and soul in the work. As Duckworth argues, Grit is key to success.

Impress this on your mind: grit is not based on talent or intelligence. In fact, those with talent may become complacent, preferring to coast along thinking they can fool everyone. Despite being intelligent, individuals may be ill-equipped with problem-solving skills to meet challenges and setbacks. Grit will get you where you are determined to go, and the skills you acquire along the way will make you more successful at success.

 Part of grit is developing a growth mindset. This contrasts with a fixed mindset, the belief that failure must be avoided at all costs because it reflects a failure of the individual's intelligence or character. A growth mindset acknowledges that the human mind is plastic. It adapts and changes all the time. This means that we always have the ability to learn if we put in the effort and grow our passion for learning. Think of what you would teach a child, that they are not a failure, but rather their plan was not adequate to meet the demands of the situation or that they have not yet acquired all the skills they need to meet the challenge. Failure is never permanent if you cultivate a growth mindset. 

My husband has an incredible a growth mindset and I learn much from his example. He was raised with the ADB philosophy, Always Do Your Best. The outcome was less important than process as long as he was doing his best. If he knew that he was and learning along the way he was realizing his potential. My husband has taught me that there is always a solution, one simply needs to find it.

 

2. Discipline

Discipline builds on your gritty foundation. To succeed at anything you must put in the time. More than that, it must be quality, focused time. You cannot phone it in. You must be fully present and bring your complete concentration to the activity.

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For some endeavors, this takes the form of practice. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of diligent practice? This is certainly part of the puzzle in situations with stable structures and unchanging rules. Individuals must also be good at practicing and know how they best learn. This means constantly building skills and aptitude, raising the bar constantly so that there is failure at times, and having a feedback loop in order to perceive areas for improvement and to take appropriate action (think of dancers practicing with a mirror or artists attending a weekly class).

Always do your best .jpg

I like to use sports analogies because people understand that athletics entail effort, challenge, focus, hours, practice, and difficulty - elements that some are less willing to apply to other areas of their lives. A person gets stronger quickly at the gym by lifting heavy weights until failure (8-12 reps) meaning their muscles simply cannot complete the exercise with full range and structural integrity. They will use the mirror, peer feedback, and video recordings to improve their form. They will follow a regime that challenges them mentally and physically while ensuring adequate recovery and nutrition to maintain progress. Lastly, they will incorporate enough diversity that they stay passionate and prevent injury, tedium, and burnout. 

For other contexts where there are no set rules or constantly changing frameworks, as is often the case with creative and entrepreneurial endeavours, practice, however diligent is not the X factor, Instead, discipline may take on another form. A choreographer will get into the studio space 4-5 days a week, an artist will paint for a set number of hours a day, a writer will commit to writing a certain number of words before bed. A stockbroker building a client base may determine a quota of cold calls for the afternoon, a medical specialist may read a specific number of articles a week, an entrepreneur building a business will decide upon a minimum number of meetings a fortnight. 

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most consistent and successful comedians in the industry. On Lifehacker, Brad Isaac relays a story regarding receiving advice from Seinfeld about becoming successful. Seinfeld has since claimed that this advice was never his to give, but the  "Seinfeld Method" remains the stuff of legend. Isaac claimed,

"[Seinfeld] said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

'After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.' ”

3. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are often described as "soft skills" (to contrast with the "hard skills" of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and are becoming recognized as more important than ever.

These include:

  • communication skills (verbal, non-verbal communication, listening skills)
  • emotional intelligence
  • team-working
  • negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills
  • conflict resolution
  • problem-solving and decision-making

As Cathy N. Davidson describes, 

"among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas [....]

[Google] enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs [....]

Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety.  "

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    One of the simplest ways you can develop your interpersonal skills is to slow down, listen, and observe without immediately thinking of what you want to say or of the next place to which you must run off. Try it with your friends and romantic partners, listen to them without trying to solve problems or to judge. Try it with your coworkers and notice what changes.

    Another important skill to develop is to understand facial expressions. This will allow individuals to better develop connection, rapport, and trust, in an individual's professional and personal life. Facial expressions have been found to be universal across cultures, both in interpretation and production. There are seven basic emotions, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. This field has been widely developed by Dr. Paul Eckman. We now understand the concept of micro-expressions, involuntary responses that can be as brief as 1/30 of a second, and therefore can be a very honest portrayal of emotion. 

    Vibrance offers programs to build interpersonal skills in young people and adults.

    4. Failure (is Success)

    You will become clever through your mistakes.
    — German proverb

    Ooooof, this one is very difficult for me!

    Set time at the start of the week and month to set new goals and reassess old ones. Starting now, your aim is to fail at 20-50% of the goals you set yourself while aiming to attain 100% of them.

    This indicates that you are setting goals that are just the right challenge, with the stakes being high enough that  you must exert yourself. If failure is possible, you will work harder - within reason.

    With my school-aged students, I will often pick up a pencil, do a bicep curl, and ask "will this make me stronger quickly?"

    "No," they will say.

    "If I used a much heavier weight instead, will this make me stronger?"

    "Yes!" they exclaim.

    "If I try to pick up a truck, will I get stronger?"

    Mixed answers.

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    "No, I won't because a truck is too heavy for my muscles to engage at all" (at least at this stage). If the bar is set too high, it can be demoralizing, failure seems certain. Here is where my husband offers another bit of wisdom, how do you eat an elephant? The answer?One bite at a time. Break larger tasks into manageable pieces. Maybe I cannot lift an entire truck, but I could work on flipping one of its tires, once, then twice, then ten times and more.

    That being said, ensure that you don't become attached to output or outcome. Some days may not appear productive. You may be gathering inspiration, learning a new skill,  or finding yourself going down some dead-ends before finding the right path.

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Another sports analogy: I attended a triathlon workshop that focused on transitions. Being new to this sport, I had not realized how much strategy and practice is involved in ensuring smooth transitions that will support your overall performance at a triathlon event! The coach reminded us to keep moving forward and to find economy in movement. When switching from the swimming to the cycling, have your equipment arranged so that you can bend down once instead of multiple times. Then move forward as you finish buckling your helmet and arranging your number. If you practice enough, you can even keep your cycling shoes clicked into your pedals and learn to fasten your shoes as you get onto the bike! Find ways to introduce economy of effort into your day and know that forward momentum (whether a slow plod or a lightning-fast sprint) is progress. Sometimes, just showing up and putting in a diligent effort is forward momentum.

    Failure is how one learns. Whenever I am embarking on a creative endeavour, it feels as if I have to fail a few times in order to figure out how I need to do it. Bring curiosity to your risks and focus on mastery instead of success. We see this in children. A toddler learning to roll over or to walk will try and fail - until they succeed. As we get older, failure is associated with shame and fear of looking incompetent to others. As adults, we must ensure that we support failure in others and facilitate reflection and learning. Perform post-mortems of your own failures without ego or shame, commit to remediating any areas in which you need to improve, and your progress will be exponential.  This is growth mindset in action.

    Embracing failure will also reduce suffering. Think of the opportunities you have missed due to fear of failure, the agony you experienced when venturing into unchartered territory resulted in a mess instead of success. How might you have changed your experience by looking for the learning opportunities in every "failure?"

     

    5. Mentorship

    In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.
    — Phil Collins
    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Better yet, conduct post-mortems with a mentor. Find someone you respect, who shares some of our values, and is willing to give you their time. Ideally, this would be on a monthly basis. In health occupations, this is a common aspect of professional development. A mentor can offer you perspective, inspiration, and accountability. Be prepared to be vulnerable and transparent. Picking the right mentor is vital. They must be able to balance empathy with neutrality. Ensure that they do not shut you down or frustrate your vision, but that they still challenge you and hold you to account.

    In the future as you progress, consider mentoring others. Again, ensure this is free from your ego. We often learn best by teaching others and it supports perspective-taking. Don't become attached to your mentee's progress. In my dramaturgy course, I remember my close friend talking about the choreographer she was working with. My friend personally didn't find the performance that they were working on personally engaging however, she realized that it didn't matter. The performance wasn't her "baby." Her role was to support this choreographer in bringing forth her baby.

     

    6. Voice and Body

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    Often, my clients come to me hating the sound of their voices. Therefore, when they speak to others, it is under duress and tension. They will even say their own name apologetically or with contempt, revoking the power of their existence. Listen to your voicemail message and hear how you say your name.

    Voice teacher Roger Love rightly us to percieve our voices exist as a gift for others. If we want to speak to our selves, we can simply speak in our minds. In order to reach others, we much open our mouths.    By thinking of our voices as a gift, this moves our attention away from our selves, our nerves, our inner-talk so we can focus on reaching the other person and reading their responses.

    People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. The way that you speak informs your listeners as to whether they consider you a knowledgeable and trustworthy person. For example, if I end every statement as if I am asking a question, I am unlikely to convince a client that I know what I am doing or have anything useful to teach them. If I use a monotone speaking voice, I am unlikely to maintain a client's attention long enough for them to retain any information I am trying to share.

    The body, breath, and voice are inexorably linked. Amy Cuddy's research focusses on the way that body language impacts our body chemistry, the way we see ourselves, and the way we are seen. In training the body and voice we can transform our lives. 

    Peter Strick's research uncovered evidence indicating that our stress responses are tied to the primary sensory and motor cortices through complex networks:

    "The motor areas in the brain connect to the adrenal glands. In the primary motor cortex of the brain, there’s a map of the human body—areas that correspond to the face, arm, and leg area, as well as a region that controls the axial body muscles (known to many people now as 'the core').

    breathing_painting.gif

    The Pitt team didn't think the primary motor cortex would control the adrenal medulla at all. But there are a whole lot of neurons there that do. And when you look at where those neurons are located, most are in the axial muscle part of that cortex.

    'Something about axial control has an impact on stress responses,' Strick reasons. 'There’s all this evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress. And when you see somebody that's depressed or stressed out, you notice changes in their posture. When you stand up straight, it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel.  Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress. And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.' "

    The body is how we encounter and filter the world. This, in response, shapes our inner world which, in turn, influences how we re-encounter and interpret our surroundings in a constant loop.

    Vibrance specialises in training the body and voice to be free of unnecessary tension, to be dynamic, supple, and supportive of our presence in the world.

     

    Other Reading:

    Six elements of success adapted from Science of People

     

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


    Working with Adults

    Working with adult clients can be a challenge, but it is immensely rewarding. As adults, we may feel exposed and uncomfortable when tackling our vocal and physical habits. After all, adults are supposed to be excellent at something as "simple" as talking. Right?

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    Authentic communication cannot be faked. It cannot be "muscled through." That's the point. The ability to speak to individuals and crowds with ease, to communicate ideas effectively, to demonstrate leadership and charisma is an increasingly rare, and therefore valuable, skill. It is, therefore, a worthy investment and, with a commitment to mastering it, a skill to last a lifetime.

    Adults will seek out my services for some of the following reasons:

    1. To advance at their workplace. These individuals have often received performance reviews stating their voice is flat or unclear, that they lack facial expression or interpersonal skills, or that they fall apart when called on to speak, and that, in order to be considered for promotion, they are required to build their skills.

    2. To build their professional reputation. Looking to advance their skills in networking, interviewing, and public speaking, these are often entrepreneurs, experts in a specific field, or university students. Entrepreneurs need to be able to sell themselves and their ideas. Experts often build sustain their careers with guest speaking slots on the radio, on television, and at conferences, and students look to acquire valuable skills to assist them in accessing opportunities to acquire experience. 

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    3. To achieve personal milestones.  I have worked with men and women wanting to feel more confident when talking to strangers, facing their fear of writing a heartfelt speech to present in front of wedding guests, wanting to build power in their aging voices, and deciding to finally learn how to deliver an entertaining speech.

    In addition, there are often gendered stereotypes associated with speech and movement. I have worked with women who trained their voices to be breathy, pitched artificially high for their vocal apparatuses, who take up as little physical space as possible. The result is not being taken seriously in professional and personal spheres, which can lead to being passed over for promotion, being on the receiving end of bullying behaviours, and lacking the feeling of being a powerful participant in one's own life. I have worked with male clients who had taught themselves to hide behind an expressionless facial mask, to stand with knees locked and feet wide apart, to speak in a flattened vocal tone, habitually speaking lower than is their optimum. Regardless of a person's gender, communicating with power and expression, supported by an open and balanced body is an essential and valuable skill set. 

    upsetadult.jpg

    Then there are men and women who beat themselves up for not meeting limited gender stereotypes. I worked with a female client who handled a difficult time in her life by lowering her vocal tone and setting her jaw so that nothing could touch her. While it was a protective mechanism, it also frustrated her how she was perceived, that she couldn't connect with others or be seen as her true self. I worked with a man who was fabulous at leading his team but would fall apart when it came time to speak to international management, leaving him feeling weak and incompetent. I have also worked with men and women learning to cross cultural divides, as Westernised Australian, American, and Canadian communication styles are very different to Hispanic, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Eastern European patterns (to name a few). As our world becomes increasingly global in scope, it is important that we grow an awareness of our own communication style and be able to adapt. 

    adult-businessman-standing-at-the-board-and-presenting-the-vr-headset-to-the-colleagues_hz4fcwa_e_thumbnail-small02.jpg

    Regardless of your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Learn more about our adult services here or contact us.


    And So It Begins...

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    This is one of my favourite mugs. It was given to me by a special student I taught back when I lived and worked in Vancouver. On our last day together, she came in with this marvellous gift. I packed it carefully into the moving truck and it has sat in my kitchen. With the advent of this website and business, I felt that now was a perfect time to take it down off the shelf, remove it from its box and use it.

    It is a good reminder. Sometimes I struggle with change. I like my patterns and to do lists. I am also a walking contradiction. I can get restless, looking for the new, looking for ways I can build my skills or improve on my weaknesses. I hate being out of my comfort zone, but I push myself out of it often. 

    I have been experiencing this quite a bit.

    This is something I often say to my clients: make friends with discomfort. There will be an entire post (or five) devoted to this specific topic, but not today. Today is about celebration because you found us and nothing makes a good story like a search, discovery, and personal growth.

    How can you make way for the new?

    What is unsettled in you?

    Make friends with discomfort
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    I love teaching speech arts because it is where art and science intersect. I love being able to blend my training in a range of areas, neurology, voice, physical theatre, ACT, and athletics, to name a few, with the art of genuine connection. I have found the ability to speak and connect has unlocked opportunities for me, which has then allowed me to help others.

    I look forward to speaking further about some of my experiences and philosophy that underpins my approach through this blog.

     

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: