A Celebration of Poet Crysta Casey

I met Crysta Casey in 2002 at Red Sky Poetry Theatre (a long-standing open mic on Seattle’s Capitol Hill). It was held at poet Robin Schultz’s Globe Cafe for many years. I remember that Crysta and I talked on the street after the reading for a long time. We realized we shared some of the same favorite poetic influences (Anne Sexton and Sharon Olds). We exchanged contacts to meet up and share poems. What started as frequent cafe meet-ups to read/critique each other’s work, eventually turned into a weekly date in Crysta’s Belltown apartment with wine and food and an exchange of books and literary magazines.

In addition to new poems, Crysta and I shared creative ideas, opinions and educational riffs on art (Crysta was also a painter) and music (though I wasn’t playing out at the time, I was still practicing harp). Sometimes her friend George Stamas, who lived upstairs, would go out to dinner with us or want to show us a new painting he’d been working on.

painting of Monica Schley by Crysta Casey (2006?)

At the time, I was working on 3rd and Cedar St, only blocks away from her apartment, so it was easy for me to pop in for a quick hello, even if I couldn’t stay long. Over a couple of years, Crysta became a dear friend. She kept me company through a lonely and difficult breakup. It was only after her death, did I realize she was also my mentor and my artistic advisor – she had a terrific honest sense with her critiques of my work, and I think she really helped me to grow as a young poet/musician. She even helped find me an editor for my chapbook, Black Eden, but she didn’t live to see it published in 2009.

Crysta took herself quite seriously as a poet and lived an artistic lifestyle that I admired. She had a little studio apartment with bookshelves constantly overflowing with new and old books – a subscription to The New Yorker, literary magazines she’d recently been published in or that an editor friend had given her. Though she was continuously in motion with ideas, crafting poems, reworking them and writing in her journal, she was somewhat of a hermit. She would order her poetry from local bookstores Elliott Bay or Open Books (one out of only two all-poetry bookstores in America), where owners John and Christine knew her well. A photo of Crysta and her beloved crotchety cat Varmint hung on the cork board near the register until new ownership took over recently.

Crysta was somewhat of a miracle, like her cat, lucky to be alive. She had endured several abusive situations, cancer, schizophrenia, and a decade in the military as a journalist during the Vietnam Era. But when cancer came back, she couldn’t kick it a second time.

Cigarettes and rocking back and forth – this is the motion in which I remember Crysta moving. Her sound was a smoker’s laugh. She had to tried quit smoking many times, but I understood that the cigarettes and rocking were a medicine for her. Not a healthy one that would ultimately save her, but a love salve of daily coping. One that allowed her leave the apartment. One that soothed her discomforts from the past as well as the sometimes nasty voices in her head. Being a smoker brought her closer to many others who experienced turmoil like her. She would meet people on smoke breaks and write down their stories through narrative poetry – poems about outsiders, the downtrodden, veterans, handicapped, addicts, the under serviced, and unloved people in society. She gave their stories a place to live alongside her own.

She died in the spring of 2008. She was hospitalized at the VA and couldn’t come to my wedding (which I knew she probably wouldn’t have come to anyway). I found her present to be a hilarious phone message that I saved for a long time, her sound in a capsule of time for me to take whenever I wanted to hear her voice, soothing my feeling of sorrow.
She said, “God bless you both… Even though I don’t believe in all that… ha ha ha…”
cough… cough

A Celebration of Crysta Casey’s posthumous book, Rules for Walking Out, 
Friday, July 28
at Couth Buzzard
8310 Greenwood Ave N Seattle WA
There will be readings of Crysta’s poems, music and poetry by yours truly, capped off by an Open Mic.


06 2017

A Month In Reverse

No matter what my aspirations are, my blog continually only gets monthly posting. So, what have I been doing this past May? A month in the life of a mama musician looks something like this:

Friday – Played for hospice clients in North Seattle. Came home for lunch, did reports and corresponding before getting daughter from school. A lovely day, we took our time walking back home.
Thursday – Kind of a mix-up with childcare, but otherwise a very good day.
Wednesday – Great gig with my band, The Daphnes, at Stone Way Cafe. You can catch us there again on Fri. June 23 at 7pm.

The Daphnes

Tuesday – My motivated high school student came at 8am for her lesson so she can get orchestra credit! Home cleaning and organizing, then teaching more students in the afternoon.
Monday – Memorial Day! Enjoyed a hot holiday off with my family at Folklife Festival and got to hear a few friends playing music.
Sunday – Not one, but TWO last minute gigs! I had gotten a call on Friday to play a wedding that another musician cancelled on. Then, at 7:30 am I got a call from a church choral leader in Ballard to sub on keyboard. I ended up doing both performances and had a fabulous, positively fun day. Also last minute: neighbor friends came over for dessert in the backyard.
Saturday – Very hot day. My kiddo was moving quite slowly and no one wanted to go to Folklife Festival that day with me, so we took a walk to Open Books on 45th where I got to nerd out about poetry with staff. Ice cream! Then, Jeppa, Eli and Lutra came over for a backyard picnic dinner.
Friday – Evening recording session for my album with awesome accordionist, Scott Adams!

Scott Adams (accordion) in the studio

Thursday – I have no idea what I did this day.
Wednesday – Wed. Sing! Nate Omdal and I play two sets of bass/harp duets for a cocktail party/art opening in Issaquah.
Tuesday – Played harp for hospice clients and taught students at home studio.
Monday – Went to Bellevue to play two client patient visits as therapeutic musician (one for Providence Hospice, another for Family Best Care)
Sunday – Flew a butterfly-shaped kite with the family at Gasworks Park. A solo eagle soared with it! Mostly a day off, then recorded violin tracks with Julie in the evening.
Saturday – Violin/Harp duets with Janet for a wedding on the MV Skansonia Ferry after going to the 125th Anniversary Carnival for BF Day Elementary School (Seattle’s oldest school) and teaching a morning lesson at Dusty Strings.

on the Skansonia w/Janet

Friday – Content writing and editing for the new Musicians’ Union website.
Thursday – Played a terrific concert at The Neptune Theater with Evan Flory-Barnes’ large ensemble. I love his projects.

Neptune soundcheck

Wednesday – I slept so poorly the night before and had insomnia. I felt like a zombie most of the day, but did some parent volunteering at my daughter’s school anyway, met with her teacher and did some teaching of my own at home studio.
Tuesday – Teaching. Parenting. Rehearsing at Cornish for the Thursday concert.
Monday – Writers In The Schools (WITS) is a wonderful program through Seattle Public Schools. My daughter has learned how to read and write poetry from talented professionals and tonight was the end of year K-3 poetry reading, which couldn’t have been more adorably heartwarming.
Sunday – Mother’s Day. I got some new stylin’ sunglasses because a particular young person always breaks mine.
Saturday – Gamelan Pacific Concert at The Chapel. A positively uplifting event, listening to Indonesian music and featuring a tribute to composer Lou Harrison.
Friday – I had a funeral to play for one of my past hospice clients, at a Catholic ceremony in Bellevue.
Thursday – Chaperoned for my kindergartener’s field trip to Seward Park. It started raining when we got there and never stopped.
Wednesday – Morning hospice clients and afternoon harp students.
Tuesday – Rehearsal with Janet on violin for wedding in a week, picked up my kiddo from school and came straight home to teach students.
Monday – Office day. I usually start off the week with a chunk of time corresponding from the home office, scheduling, and decompressing from weekend gigs.
Sunday – Harp Recital Day! Hosted my first ever harp recital for students with great success.

Harp Recital (2017)

Saturday – A nice hot spring day. Took daughter to a birthday party. I tried to practice but felt so distracted. A semi-productive day.
Friday – After working on various projects from home, went with the family to a friend’s art opening in Columbia City and I also picked up some money from my last gig at Columbia City Theater.
Thursday – Doctor’s appointment in the morning, and in between parent pick up at school, I taught five students at Dusty Strings.

Wednesday Sing!

Every Wednesday Dusty Strings Music Store hosts a singing session. Starting next month, I’ll be taking over leading the session! This is a casual group of all ages, mostly people on their lunch breaks and we sing songs from the Great American Songbook, folk traditions, popular favorites from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the occasional show tune.

Wednesday Sing is from 12:00-1pm every week. I’ll be leading on harp. $5 donation. See you there!

Monica Schley, CCM


04 2017

Teaching at Dusty Strings Music Store and More

This new year has made a lot of noise so far, off to a gallop and a cock-a-doodle-doo, both globally and personally. My most recent news: I am teaching at Dusty Strings Music Store!

Two years ago, I set off to adopt a five-fold business plan that addressed these areas of work: performing; recording; weddings & private events; teaching; and healing. All five areas of my business plan are in full swing.

Performing – This winter I am performing these concerts in Seattle:

FEB. 3 @ The Skylark Cafe
Solo Harp+Voice – 9pm
FEB. 17 @ University of Maryland (tour to Baltimore/D.C. area)
with Ahamefule Oluo’s critically acclaimed show, “Now I’m Fine”
FEB 24 @ Seattle City Hall
Healing Harp Tones – 12:00pm – 1:00pm (lunchtime concert)
FEB 24 @ Olympic Sculpture Park
Art Encounter w/Paige Barnes – 7pm
MAR 15 @ Stone Way Cafe
w/ The Daphnes – 6-8pm

Recording- Working on mixing the last tracks of my upcoming album, Braids of Kabuya, and ideas like this keep coming:

Teaching- I am SUPER pleased to announce that I am now teaching private harp lessons at Dusty Strings Music Store in Seattle (Fremont). Not only does Dusty Strings make the finest lever harps in North America, but they have a newly renovated music school. Its pretty awesome and inspiring. People who work there are nice. Please check it out! I teach on Thursdays.

Healing- This month, I celebrated my 1st year anniversary playing therapeutic harp music for Providence Hospice patients. It is a gift to play music for people who are so appreciative.

…and now… back to work!

Five-Step Pep Talk

This post was originally published at Pyragraph and is reposted here with kind permission.

Half of success is attitude, right? You’ve got your skills honed, now how about addressing that glass-is-half-empty perspective? You know it’s not going to get you anywhere. This here is your five-step pep talk to get the jobs done—and get more jobs too.

1. Have self-confidence and follow through.

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. Do your work with conviction and authenticity, and what is more, be true to your word. You don’t have to be a perfectionist, you just have to do what you say you are going to do. As Thom Yorke sings, “You can try the best you can. The best you can is good enough.”

2. Flexibility.

Stretch your skill set out. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If someone asks you to do work at a thing you’re not really proficient at, just let them know that this is new, but you are willing to try. If it’s paid work, let your client know, and perhaps offer them a discount. It generally makes people happy to know they are saving money. You may find yourself using this new skill again.

3. Diversity.

Break through old patterns. Get a piece of paper and two different colored pens. Write down a list of all of the types of venues you are playing at (or jobs you have, or galleries you’re showing at, or what have you). Then, with another color pen, write down the “dream” gigs you want. Research whom to contact at those “dream” places and do that outreach. Introduce and market yourself,  even if it seems like a total stretch. You wrote it down on your list, didn’t you? If you’re not prepared for this step, do what it takes to get ready first, and then make contact. Use your skill from #1 and just do it.

4. Keep it fresh.

Don’t get stuck doing the same old tricks. Learn new tunes; write new pieces; make new products that veer away from your familiar styles. Try this: Think ahead for a target season or theme and create new work with a subject in mind. Give yourself an assignment, like: I must write a waltz.

5. Have patience and diligence.

Take time to put your name/product/work out there. Persevere. Just one or two times may not get the attention of the person you are trying to reach. Follow up (and perhaps find another name at the same venue). Be patient with the outcome, but also persistent, and don’t worry about if you fail or not.

“I think you have to try and fail, because failure gets you closer to what you’re good at.” —Louis C.K.

Stay strong. Carry a BrusselSword.

Stay strong. Carry a BrusselSword.


12 2016

Christmas Harp Music

‘Tis the Season! I have Christmas harp music for sale, my CD Harp Carols.

Album Cover design by Luara Moore

Album Cover design by Luara Moore


“Harp Carols” is a collection of ancient noels on solo harp and features clarinetist Rosalyn DeRoos on the last song. Except for two pieces, all songs are traditional Christmas carols. “Harp Carols” celebrates Europe’s music of 15th Century – 19th Century holiday season and will transport you to a place of Old World calm during this winter’s busiest month. Also included are an improvisation on Gabriel Faure’s “Pavane,” and “Journey to the Magi,” an original tune a la Alice Coltrane with influence by the T.S. Eliot poem.

I will be playing a seasonal concert in Seattle area this year! The concert will be one of healing and meditation featuring harp solos and duets, honoring the quietude of the winter solstice and the light within each one of us during this dark season.

I’ll be performing live December 23rd, 2016 at:
Healing Harp Tones, a harp concert in duet with Monica Schley & Motter Snell.
Interfaith Community Sanctuary
1763 NW 62nd St
Seattle, WA 98107

Download “Harp Carols” here for $7 or purchase the disc for $12 on Bandcamp.

Here I am, playing ‘Carol of the Bells,’ a Ukrainian folk song, circa 15th Century

Special Request Wedding Songs

I like learning new songs. Many brides request special songs for their ceremony and I’m always happy to accommodate.

That said, I have a pretty large repertoire already, with songs that are tested and true. You can read my most popularly played wedding songs here: Music Songlist. Its a good place to start from if you’re not sure what kind of music you’d like to have at your wedding.


In general, I would say that a wedding ceremony has three main songs, in addition to prelude and postlude music. There are some variations:

– Processional
– Interlude (optional)
– Recessional

– Processional
– Bridal Entrance
– Interlude (optional)
– Recessional

…and for the very simple event:
– Processional
– Recessional

If a couple has special requests, I do my best to make that happen. Here’s an example of some songs I’ve learned particular situations, like weddings and holiday parties:

A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
Falling Slowly – from the movie, Once (Glen Hansard)
Flower Duet – Leo Delibes
Hotel California – The Eagles
In My Life – The Beatles
Lovesong – The Cure
No Surprises – Radiohead
Skinny Love – Bon Iver
Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N’Roses
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Annie Lennox
Take On Me – Aha
Witchy Woman – The Eagles
When You Wish Upon A Star – Disney

harp + violin duets

harp + violin duets


11 2016

Poetry & Essay Bibliography

Autumn means organization, or at least to some people it does! My harp students know that when they come over to my studio, they will invariably see piles of yellow legal pads, music books, sheets of poems, pencils, postcards, to-do lists, headphones, and manila legal files stuffed with more of the same on and surrounding my desk. New studies show, though, that might not be such a bad thing for a creative type like me.

Virtually, things are much cleaner for me. I’ve just compiled a concise bibliography of selected publications and posted them to my website (Recordings & Writing). Its an organized list of selected poems and essays I’ve written, available in one easy to find place – imagine that!

on a clean day, you can see forever

on a clean day, you can see forever


09 2016

The Daphnes EP

My trio, The Daphnes, has just released a self-titled EP on Bandcamp. Please listen. Its cheap to buy!


This summer, we have played at Seattle’s hippest historic hotel, The Sorrento; and the modern glass exhibit at Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden & Glass.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @MonicaSchley and come hear our next live show!

The Daphnes @Chihuly Garden & Glass

The Daphnes @Chihuly Garden & Glass


I Quit My Day Job A Year Ago

This post was originally published at Pyragraph and is reposted here with kind permission.


Backstage in NYC

A year ago I quit my day job. It was easy to make the announcement and write the first part of my story, because I was excited! However, writing this follow-up has been a lot more challenging.

A little background: The day-job I quit was part-time. It was secure and it complimented my creative career as a musician and poet. So, I was conflicted about leaving. However, I knew that if I stayed any longer, I would never take the chance to see what was behind the other door—the door that led to working on music and writing exclusively, the door that led to me working as a freelancer and calling my own shots. I was miserable with the thought of never knowing what that would feel like.

For various reasons, the clock was ticking. If I was going to jump, it had to be now.

How did I prepare for this? I talked to other full-time musicians and I crafted a business plan. Then, I seriously talked my five-fold business plan over with at least a dozen people, as well as a representative at Seattle Small Business Association. I got green lights. I created an active teaching studio. Also, I became a Certified Clinical Musician (someone who plays particular therapeutic styles of music at the bedside of the sick and dying). The plan was that the day job hours would be taken over by therapeutic work, more or less. Since putting my plan into practice, I still think it’s solid in theory, but several factors beyond my control caused a certain amount of failure.

An important nuance I’ve had to take note of is seasonal fluctuations in work. I have wedding gigs in the summer, but not many students. This past year has shown moments of good fortune—touring with amazing musicians to New York with the successful show, Now I’m Fine—contrasted by disappointments when efforts don’t pay off—I did an intense two-day trade show for state healthcare workers expecting to drum up new clinical music work, but got empty leads, which left me physically and mentally drained.

There have been lots of challenges this first year on my own, but they’ve only pushed me to try something new and get comfortable with making mistakes when they happen.

New things I’ve tried this year and succeeded at:

  • Recording original tunes in studio and at home (in progress)
  • Making a music video
  • Bartered harp lessons for other needed services
  • Led healing harp tones guided meditation workshop

Fallen short:

  • Getting 3-5 therapeutic music accounts (I’ve succeeded so far at only gaining two)
  • Rejected grants

Future goals:

  • Skype harp lessons
  • Self-publishing a multi-instrument album
  • Leading more group workshops
  • More therapeutic music accounts

In one year’s time, I’d say I’m not as rosey-eyed, that is, I may not have taken into account how the highs and lows are much more extreme, which can be more exciting and more scary. Yet still, I’m optimistic by nature, so I always have that working to my advantage. I am very comfortable with turning down offers that are not respectable or reciprocal. I also happen to live in a wealthy city, where there are many resources for artists and people who will pay for artistic services.

My choice to work freelance has really been about my need to fulfill a dream. In his poem, “Harlem,” Langston Hughes asks:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?

I knew my dreams would lose their strength, or worse yet, cease to exist, if I didn’t answer to their calling. That is what this career choice has been about, because working in the arts is more than just “making a living,” it’s a lifestyle. I like seeing where the mystery unfolds, even if it’s a little terrifying. It’s my path and I own it.