Author: Paula Dreyer

Tuning In…

The Challenging Reality

Let’s face it, online schooling can be depressing for our youth. I’m starting to get a bit concerned about one of my teen piano students whom I have taught since she was four.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we are able to have school in any capacity and I want us all to stay healthy, but in my deepest heart of hearts, I yearn for kids to be in school together.

Kids need to socialize. Kids needs to use pencils, and hold sheets of paper, and interact with real live humans. My piano student is already a very quiet person and always has been. She is fiercely intelligent and can play piano like nobody’s business.

Lately, when we log in to our lessons, her hair is all disheveled. I found out that she is doing her online learning from her bed. She is full of one word answers. She rarely cracks a smile. She is extremely obedient and keeps up, but I can’t help but wonder if she is feeling any joy in our lessons.

Finding the Positive

During the first Piano Flow class this week, I had the participants try a positive visualization. We closed our eyes and went through the rest of our day and imagined it in a positive way. I channeled each of my students and asked myself, “What do they need?”

This dear child came to mind and I thought, she needs to work on some creative improvisation or composition today and we need to stay away from all of her technical studies and her classical piece.

For the first half of the lesson, we did our usual routine, messy hair and all. Then, the magic started to happen.

I have been working on Halloween inspired improvisations with students all week. Register here if you want to join me in a free training next week to learn about what we did. I gave her a few parameters, and before I knew it, she was off. Off into the land of creative flow.

A Little Soul Food

She came up with the coolest left hand accompaniment with an intriguing, spooky melody and was creating a piece as cool (if not cooler) than I could have composed.

And for the first time in months, something happened. A smile appeared on her face. I was so overjoyed to see her spark return.

My idea worked! I shook her out of her routine and added some creative juices to her day. I also insisted that we start the lesson by having her show me one of her beautiful paintings and we talked about the power of painting.

Teachers, parents, caretakers… Take a moment today and ask yourself, “What does this child need?”

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Improvising and feeling the flow. Here’s an example of one of my spontaneously relaxing “Musical Meditations”.
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Interested in learning how to spark this creative joy for you or your students? Join us!

A New World for Performers

A New World for Performers

http://www.oldfirstconcerts.org

The Dream

Last fall, I was knee deep in booking concerts to promote my upcoming original solo piano album Central Star. I contacted venues all over the country, created a spreadsheet, got my pauladreyer.com website completely revamped, and started reaching for the stars. The first venue to accept was the prestigious Old First Concerts of San Francisco. This was an easier one to book, as I have played there multiple times in the past so I already had a relationship with them. This was an exciting time for me, as it was the first time that I was inquiring about solo performances featuring my own compositions. For the past 20 years, I have performed heavily as a musical band member, an accompanist, orchestral pianist, as a classical chamber musician, a flamenco/latin ensemble performer, and a member of a contemporary chamber jazz ensemble. After years and years of fulfilling musical collaborations, I suddenly found myself in the middle of Central Oregon, as our family decided to leave the city life and retreat to the mountain town of Bend. Without my ties to a musical community, I started creating on my own.

The Pivot

How tired are you of hearing about pivoting during times of Corona? But, we must do it. People all over the world had plans. They had plans, dreams, visions, and goals for 2020. So many of these plans cannot come to fruition, so we must pivot. We can sit and wait. Or, we can roll with it and create new opportunities for ourselves. Did you read my blog post about Resiliency? I was so excited for 2020 and then during the first week of the year, I had some disappointments. I didn’t know it at the time, but that week of disappointments that launched me into 2020 was merely the beginning in a string of events that no one could have possibly imagined. My children home with me 24/7 for months on end? People wearing masks everywhere I turn? My whole teaching world existing purely online? Yoga retreat in Hawaii- cancelled. Concerts in San Francisco and Portland- cancelled. Dance performance set to my music in Miami- cancelled (most likely).

I am not one to sit around and wait for things to happen for me. I believe we have to create opportunities for ourselves. Instead of focusing on the disappointments of what could have or should have been, I am focusing on what can be. I launched my highly successful online Piano Flow Summer Intensive where we learn about improvisation, composition, technique, yoga, and the power of a positive and focused mindset, and I will most likely offer something similar in the fall. I am putting the finishing touches on my album. I am working on a new Little Gems for Piano book and a children’s book about creativity. I am composing new material for internationally renowned pedagogue Tim Topham ‘s inner circle. I was particularly proud of a video I worked on of dancers from all around the world who danced in free form to no music. A dance photographer compiled the video and reached out and asked if I would like to set my music to the video. I thoroughly enjoyed timing my music to the dancers’ energies and movements. Be sure to watch the video below.

I am posting performances from my album and musical meditations regularly on social media. I even performed the whole album on a Facebook Live and invited the neighbors to set up chairs in our front yard. This weekend, I am live streaming the entire album and more from the comfort of my home. Am I disappointed that I don’t get to go down to the bay area, visit with friends and family, perform on a gorgeous Steinway in a beautiful church in front of some of my most treasured community? Absolutely! However, I am taking it with grace and putting forth my greatest effort to perform a beautiful show. I am focusing on how grateful I am to be able to perform it for people all over the world, not simply people in the bay area. If you’d like to “attend”, simply click here.

The Future

No one knows how long this pandemic will last and how long public gatherings will be limited, therefore highly impacting the arts. Now, more than ever, we must find a way to speak our voice, to express our creativity, and to touch souls through our gifts. The world from just a few months ago looks very different from today. How can you adjust to this new reality and still find a way to shine your light? It might not be in an ideal way, but it sure beats sitting in the dark and waiting for things to change. I have really enjoyed watching documentaries lately about musicians- John Coltrane, Quincy Jones, Linda Rondstadt, and currently Bob Dylan. This is my favorite line from Bob:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything, life is about creating yourself.”  ~Bob Dylan

I have to say, I fully agree with you, Bob.

Here is the video of dancers from around the world. I set music from my Central Star album to match the energy and movements of the dancers. I was fully in the flow state while creating this project.
The Power of Music

The Power of Music

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” ~ Aristotle

The sorrow…

Some people assume that it is hard to emotionally and personally connect with students during online lessons. I recently had a very powerful and impactful lesson via Facetime. I logged into a lesson with my 10 year old student who I have taught for five years. When she answered, I was surprised to see her in tears. I asked her if she was frustrated with piano or if she was upset with something that happened at school.

She said she wasn’t exactly sure why she was so upset and that it had nothing to do with piano. I immediately changed the subject to try and distract her and then we jumped right into the music as we normally would. I threw in some humor along the way and was sure to be extra positive about her accomplishments.

The turnaround…

Then, out of nowhere, I asked her if I could play my new, short, composition for her (we don’t have to be “productive” every single moment of every lesson. Although, this moment was most likely her most memorable one). I explained the backstory of my composition and talked about some of my difficult emotions that I was expressing through the piece. My piece from my new album Central Star is titled “Moving On”.

Two summers ago, we were in the middle of a move and did not have a solid plan for where we were moving to. This felt unsettling and stressful for this mama of two young children. I composed the piece while staying with my parents and agonizing about what our next step should be. Through the repetitive, relentless left hand pattern, I wanted to convey the feeling of nervousness and uncertainty. As with most things in life, with the tragic, beauty often coincides. I aimed to bring out the beauty as well.

After my impromptu performance, my student loved the piece, gave me some wonderfully insightful feedback (as she always does), and had a big smile on her face. I am continually blown away by her thoughtful comments concerning my compositions. I should mention that she also composes beautiful pieces for solo piano.

The breakthrough…

Finally, we transitioned into her improvisation that we had been working on. This time, I had her experiment with how to express different moods through her improvisation. We made her improv sound joyous, sad, and then pensive. At the end I said, “Do you feel better after playing and listening to all of this music?” Her demeanor was completely different by this point and she told me she felt much better.

I explained to her that that, my friend, is the power of music and that I use music to help me deal with so many different parts of my life. I expressed how happy I was that she has music to turn to when she needs an outlet. I also explained that music helps me when I’m in a ‘difficult’ mood because it takes my mind off of whatever is bothering me and that I’m very grateful for that. The power of music! And the power of a piano teacher! HEART FILLED!

Flowing through Music…

Stories like this have inspired me to create my Piano Flow- Create and Elevate online intensive for this year of quarantine 2020. I want pianists of all levels and ages to access the piano as their own sound spa- their personal oasis that is always there for comfort and security, no matter the circumstances.

I want to empower teachers with the tools to pass down the expressive skills of improvisation, exploration, and composition to their students. I want students of all levels and ages to find their own, creative voice through the instrument. You never know, fostering the craft of creative expression through music might just be the most valuable skill you or your students could ever need.

Growing through Music…

Interested in joining a supportive and nurturing group this summer? The doors are now open for the eight month Piano Flow intensive! Feel free to email with questions, or better yet, let’s connect and chat via phone or Zoom to talk about the summer intensive!

I already have an amazing group of humans registered, and we would love to have you join in on the fun. In the meantime, pop over to the new Piano Flow Facebook Group to get inspired about creativity at the piano, fluid piano technique, optional yoga, and a positive mindset. Hope to connect soon!

Here I am in my happy place~ improvising, seeing what happens next, and going with the flow.

As always, the Little Gems books are available to keep you and your students feeling creatively fulfilled.
Serving Through Music when the World Goes Viral

Serving Through Music when the World Goes Viral

What Can I Do?

During this trying time of Coronavirus, so many of us ask ourselves, how can I be of service, right now? Some people are jumping into action and guiding those who feel helpless or hopeless. Some are feeling extreme grief and overwhelm and maybe aren’t feeling in a position to be of service, yet. I believe that if you really look for it, there are small yet impactful ways that each of us, regardless of circumstance, can show up and serve others.

What does in mean to “be of service”? We can show up for the world in a myriad of ways. Some people serve through their occupation or skills, some serve through their community or their family, others serve simply through their calm and comforting demeanor (also known as their “energy”), and some serve through a unique combination of these things. Some serve simply by lending an ear to a loved one who is hurting, or digging deep to find compassion for your child that you are with 24/7, rather than reacting with frustration. During these difficult and confusing times, so many of us are asking ourselves what we can do to help.

Generous Spirit

People are showing up in beautiful ways and contributing their unique gifts. Famous musicians are doing impromptu live videos, uniting and exciting fans from around the world. Not so famous musicians are doing the same. Piano teacher Stephen Hughes has donated his skills and expertise to train piano teachers how to suddenly be able to teach their studio online. Illustrator Mo Willems has posted a daily video where he teaches the world how to draw his imaginative characters. Some neighborhoods are organizing sweet activities like putting stuffed animals in the windows in order to give children something to hunt for during family walks.

Amidst all of the tragedy including loss of lives, loss of income, anxiety about where we are headed next, and unknowns about how long this pandemic will last, there is something tragically beautiful about this unsettling moment in time. It is highly unusual to have the whole world stopped in their tracks at home (not including those who must serve as health care works, delivery workers and grocery store clerks, to name a few). We are all unified, sharing a common experience, with time on our hands to connect more with loved ones and to possibly reassess our own status quo and question if there are any changes we want to make in our lives when life resumes to normal times. It is also a time that has brought about an enormous amount of generosity, gratitude, and selflessness.

Appreciation

Gratitude is in full effect, like never before. When we come out of this, we will fully appreciate face to face time with loved ones, the freedom of coming and going as we please, the pleasure of eating in a favorite restaurant, and the soul lifting experience of attending a live performance. We will not take for granted how fortunate we are to obtain any sort of household supply and ingredient that we could imagine. Even the appreciation for the sunshine and birds singing have intensified for me. A few mornings ago, I had a stare down contest with a squirrel from my kitchen window. I had nowhere else to be, so I decided I might as well interact with a backyard creature. I found it quite entertaining. My daughters joined in on the fun and we shared a good laugh together. This helps balance those times that are more trying. We are in a time of deep appreciation for the little, simple pleasures in life.

Unique Gifts

Lately, I have been thinking about how I can over-deliver for my clients. I had a week of spring break scheduled and I offered piano lessons that week at no extra charge, since clearly, I had nowhere else to be. Every single student took me up on the offer. I think we both looked forward to having something scheduled in the day- a precious time where we can connect and express music together. I offered a Little Gems for Piano sale and discounted the unlimited digital downloads for the first (and most likely last) time. I have posted more videos than usual, displaying my “Musical Meditations” where I improvise with no prior thought or intention. I have also been recording pieces from my upcoming album as a way of entertaining and engaging people. It is so gratifying to hear people from around the world comment about how the music soothes them or brings them out of a dark space.

I am also trying to be a positive light for my family. There is no doubt that this can be a challenging time for parents who are suddenly thrown into homeschooling while working from home. There are some moments where I feel extreme sadness for my children. I feel sad for their loss of time with friends, missing out on after school activities, and don’t even get me started about how I feel seeing the playgrounds covered in yellow caution tape, or seeing their teachers wearing masks and gloves while handing me school work. Through this sadness and frustration, I am trying to keep our home life as positive as possible.

These are simple examples of how I choose to serve- through my expressive teaching, my inspiring compositions for students, choosing to parent in a positive way (when I’m able to control my reactions), and through my uplifting (hopefully) performances. I am grateful that I am able to do all of this, from the comfort of my home. I know many people are not as fortunate to be able to continue their work, and my heart goes out to them.

Serve, Appreciate, Share your Gifts, Repeat

I truly feel that we will all emerge from this with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, as well as a renewed, energized passion for sharing our unique gifts. If you feel comfortable, please share how you have been of service, even on the simplest level, and how this unusual time has shaped your perspective. Here is a “Musical Meditation” to *hopefully* bring you a few minutes of calm and peace.

Resiliency

Resiliency

Lewis Carol

The struggle

I have a confession to make- I struggled with correctly spelling the word ‘Resiliency’ (twice). But, I paused, thought about it, course corrected, and moved on. I believe we are constantly being tested and our resiliency will make us or break us, in life and in music making. By the way, I am happy to report that by the third time I wrote the word ‘resiliency’, I had no troubles.

At the turn of the new year, I was *so* pumped to roll into 2020 like never before. I could not wait to see what this year has in store. I don’t know if it’s the start of a new decade, or simply that it is the year 2020 (how cool is that!?). I mean, how lucky are we to get to witness a year that functions as an expression and as an eyesight prescription! The number 2020 has so many meanings, and is so perfectly patterned. In 2020, I have multiple presentations for piano teachers scheduled, a family trip to Mexico, concerts of my original music booked, my album launch, local concerts performing in musicals, dance performances in Miami and Chicago choreographed to my original music, a yoga retreat in Hawaii with my lifelong bestie, family visits, and the list goes on. What could be better?

But! Within the first week of 2020, I have been hit with some very minor whammies. Within one week, the School of Rock musical I was scheduled to play for weeks in May did not get its’ rights approved, so it’s a no-go. Then, the director from the theater in the park show I was excited to play for this summer told me she would find someone else for various reasons, after I may or may not have changed my San Francisco solo concert that fell on the same weekend, and now the venue is completely booked in 2020. Yikes. Sadly, the church I adored playing for once a month last year suddenly doesn’t need me until April. My beloved long time student who is pure joy to work with decided she is taking a break until spring (hopefully), and the list continues. The biggest whammy came when I blocked out my schedule for three months after being hired for a very exciting musical theater production in town. I was excited to play that particular music, to work with the fun new director, and most importantly, to feel personally and musically connected in my new community. Out of nowhere, the gig was offered to someone else. I think you get the point….

The perspective

Each of these tiny tidbits of bad news feels like a little punch in the gut. I sit with the uncomfortable sensations in my body. I say to myself that these opportunities were not meant for me. I try to move forward with as much grace and humility as I can muster. I realize these are not life altering events. The international piano teaching community has been hit very hard with life changing events in the last few months and my heart aches for some inspiring teachers around the globe. This story is completely unrelated and simply shines a light on coping with mild set backs, not life altering traumatic events.

Some people might take all of these little set backs as a sign to throw in the towel. I see them as par for the course. I am realizing that I am an eternal optimist. My gut reaction often says, “Of course this will work! Of course they will say yes. Of course this new product launch will be wanted by all!” Then, if it doesn’t go as planned and hoped for (my product release, my grant application, my concert pitch, etc.), I am continually surprised. I think this optimistic (or is it delusional!?) outlook serves me well.

I am about to pitch my multi-media concert idea to presenters, knowing full well that in my industry, it is common to get 90-95% rejections, or even worse, you might never get a response at all. Regardless, I follow full steam ahead, heart fully engaged, hopes held high, clearly knowing that these are my odds. If I were constantly shutting things down before they had a chance, there would be a 100% guarantee of failure, rather than a 90-95% chance of rejection. Somehow, the 5-10% success rate keeps me believing that I have a massive chance of achieving all that I strive for. As the band Journey likes to say, Don’t Stop Believing!

Music making teaches us

The pursuit of music mastery mirrors life in so many ways and instills wonderful inner strength building qualities. In all phases of music learning, we must constantly keep an open and curious mind. We have to have a love of learning and an appreciation for the process. Those who expect quick miracles and rapid improvement are usually disappointed. We must have patience for ourselves and patience for the process. We must trust and accept ourselves where we are. Each day that we work on mastering a skill, we improve bit by bit, or sometimes not at all. Some skills take months (or longer!) to master, until we finally feel like we have reached a new plateau. Over time, we are able to make huge strides with proper guidance and support.

In music, things don’t always go as planned. Performances might not always go as well as we dream they will. Learning new music or foreign skills might first involve feelings of frustration or disappointment while we try, fail, repeat, and finally succeed. Someone else, at some point, is bound to land the audition. We don’t always score high on our performance exam, or win first prize in the competition, or get chosen by that prestigious artist management company. Sometimes we will fall, but if that spark and the desire are there for what we want to achieve, we must always get up, and try, try again. Because when we finally achieve our little dreams and goals, it feels so sweet. Until, the next setback! Not to worry. It is all a part of the process of growing as a musician, and as a human being.

What’s your take on going out on a limb and putting yourself out there? What have you done recently that required bravery and perseverance?

How do you teach resiliency to your students?

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretsky

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