A Reminder of Truth & Beauty

I received a beautiful poem in my inbox this morning. The poem was Seamus Heaney’s “From the Republic of Conscience.”

As I am nearing the end of my pregnancy, this poem struck a deep chord within me. The past few weeks, I luxuriously read and write poems every day. In between hearing all the discomforting news, lyrical words of wisdom bring me peace; a source for a sense of decency in humanity; and contemplation for a better world.

The poet wishes for leaders to take their responsibilities to heart and soul, in representing all of us to our highest human potential and our capacity to live harmoniously together. Heaney writes: “At their inauguration, public leaders / must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep / to atone for their presumption to hold office”.

How glorious it would be if we had leaders who didn’t assume they were above all powers of karma, laws of God or natural physics of the Universe!

I watched Young Frankenstein last night, the Mel Brooks spoof of Mary Shelley’s classic thriller. It was nice to laugh! I want to be able to laugh at the severity of what is culminating in the world right now, but it is all too serious to brush off. Which part of what is broken in us should I focus on?

Mary Shelley was married to the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Poets keep us in check, not elected officials. Whenever there’s a poet running for office: vote for her. Poems remind us that humanity is an experience of truth and beauty. Poets expose lies and the people saying them.

Let’s not allow for fear, anguish and anger to block our vibrancy. Its time to shine a light on what is blocking us. Heaney’s poem is a reminder of the great importance for truth and beauty to live vibrantly in the world. Let us continue to let it flow through us.

10

10 2017

Autumn Harp News

Autumn is upon us! This summer was HOT and BUSY. Now, I’m taking time to SLOW DOWN and enjoy some of the work I did over the last few months.

For a review of this past spring/summer, I playing something like:
– 15 wedding ceremonies
– 7 public concerts
– 3 corporate parties
– 1 poetry reading
– 65 harp therapy sessions!
– Who knows how many hours in the recording studio working on The Daphnes album?

Speaking of which: THE DAPHNES ALBUM: BRAIDS OF KABUYA is currently being mixed and mastered!!!! I am SO VERY EXCITED to get this music into the ears of the people. We finished up recording this summer, and since WE are doing most of this work on a small budget (aka ourselves) … things move slowly… ALSO, I am 36weeks pregnant!!!

Current practice is that of humility. I thought I could pump out TWO BABIES this year: one album; one human. Between playing many shows and growing a person, my body has set some limitations… and here we are: mid-production. I feel more comfortable with no deadlines at the moment, but I will keep you posted… and as ever… I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOUR INTEREST AND SUPPORT!

Baby is due mid-October. Now, I am wrapping up all work and will be taking a maternity leave from Oct 1 – until December(ish). I may take a few last-minute holiday gigs… Feel free to ask me after Thanksgiving.

Lastly, I wanted to share some “freshie” songs with you:

These were recorded live by Haley Freelund at Couth Buzzard on July 28 (2017) for the posthumous book release event of my mentor and friend, Crysta Casey. She was a painter and poet – this particular HOT NIGHT brought together a LOVELY COMMUNITY. Disclaimer: You can hear fans running… it was sweltering! The ambient sounds will take you back to the heat of July/August.

 

26

09 2017

Poetry on Buses

I am grateful once again to have a poem published on the King County Metro, through Poetry on Buses. This is a great public arts project in the Seattle metro area, keeping bus riders amused and inspired.

My poem, was originally published in Poetry on Buses, July 26, 2017.  You can read it and many other poems for the year on the website, or here it is below:

Body of Truth

Admitting the truth can be as difficult as
         the sea breaking its back…You can
Ruin a bike chain in that sort of weather
          cruising so close to the edge…
When the tide rises, pools beneath your eyes

Carkeek Park 

 

02

08 2017

Sigourney Speaks

This was previously published in Harp Therapy Journal vol. 22, No. 2 and appears here with the author’s kind permission.

I leave my house with a small 22-string harp. It fits into a soft travel case that I sling over my shoulder. I lay it flat in the trunk of my car easily. I had two pegs drilled into the instrument – one at the neck and one at the base – so I can attach a guitar strap around me when I play, giving me better control and back support. If need be, I can also play standing up for short periods of time. I drive off to see a client in Kenmore who lives about 30 minutes from my house. She is on hospice, but still lives at home.

Some of my patients can’t see. Some of them could see if they were able to open their eyes. Some of them can’t talk. Some compulsively sleep. Some are in wheelchairs. Some talk to me, but their words makes no sense. Some are coherent and can have a discussion with me about a song, a hiking trail or a regional meal, but then next time I visit, it will be as if they never saw be before. Laura is a hospice patient who doesn’t look like she is dying. On my visits, she is alert, engaging and even enthusiastic.

When I get to the door, Laura’s daughter Beatrice answers. “They are waiting for you,” she says.

“They” is Honey, the dog, Laura’s husband Greg, and three of their closest friends, who have card playing friends with for 30 years. I get the back story of who is who as I set up, taking my instrument from its case, and settling into a small couch near Laura. Laura herself, sits in a recliner with her wrapped legs propped up. Other than those bandages and an assortment of pill bottles on the TV tray next to her, there’s no indication that she’s unhealthy. Greg is next to her in his own matching recliner (he has cancer, and like his wife, isn’t a complainer).

“Therapeutic music played live isn’t really a concert,” I say at our first visit.

I say this because everyone is sitting in an arc around me, quietly whispering as if the living room were a theater. I don’t mind that my client has invited friends to be present – these visits are 100% about what they want and what makes them comfortable. I just want to let Laura know that she needn’t feel like this is a performance. She can fall asleep if she wants to while I’m playing, or listen intently, or daydream. Its all good.

Playing for a Regular Hospice Client

Therapeutic music is stylized to the heart’s rate (60-80 bpm) and there are certain intervals and scales that are particularly more relaxing than others. The songs I play vary per individual and situation. In general, therapeutic music is music played live in response to a patient’s needs in the moment. For Laura, who is alert when I see her, I play songs in major keys, both familiar and unfamiliar tunes. I weave them together, so the music is a continuous flow, almost a meandering of musical thoughts with some improvisation.

If the phone rings, or there is a clanging in the kitchen, or a monitor beeps, I meet that tempo, assimilating to my surroundings momentarily, and then either staying at that beat or moving to a more soothing tempo. This is called entrainment. In biology, entrainment is the alignment of one organism’s circadian rhythm to synch up with that of an external rhythm in their environment. When the phone rings for a few pulses, I play the beat gently with my left hand on the bass strings, before Laura’s husband silences the phone. Then, seamlessly, I return to what I was originally playing.

Entrainment was discovered 1665, by a Dutch physicist named Christian Huygens. He made a breakthrough in the field of physics. As he was studying a revolutionizing way of keeping time (the creation of pendulum clocks), he noticed that when two clocks were near to each other on a wall, even if the pendulums swung at different rates, they would eventually synch up swinging at the exact same rate!

If inanimate objects can vibrate together, then of course our bodies are in tune with our surroundings! Entrainment is a sort of vibratory harmonization, and when your body is ailing (or dying) adapting soothing music to the environment of the individual can have incredibly positive side effects.

Harp music has been used therapeutically for centuries.  In the past few decades, there has been acknowledgement from Western medical institutions in recognizing therapeutic music benefits, and since the 1990’s there have been a growing number of therapeutic musicians working in healthcare as well as the creation of educational programs offering certifications to musicians. In the United States, the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Music (NSBTM) currently accredits three programs. Under the program, Harp for Healing, I became a Certified Clinical Musician, and I am grateful to now be contracted with a hospice organization in Seattle, Washington.

By my second visit, Honey the dog, has decided she likes me very much. As soon as I sit down on the love seat, she’s resting at my feet.

Laura is generally quiet when I play harp for her. On my third visit, about about 15 minutes into my playing, she speaks up. Astonished, she says, “the pain in my leg went away.”

Like other visits, Laura is on her recliner with her left leg propped up. She has a tumor in that leg she’s named after Sigourney Weaver in Alien. Standing next to her is Beatrice, who says with a wry smile, “Sigourney sleeps.”

Everyone kind of chuckles. I say, “That would make a great song title!”

So, as we talk more about that, I realize I’ve just commissioned myself to write Laura a new piece for our last session. The healthcare provider I work with, gives four sessions of complimentary therapy to hospice patients. Sometimes my clients die before I have a chance to complete our visits, but with Laura, I have the hopeful feeling she’ll be living longer. She seems to have a lot of life in her yet, but I also know better. I have seen many times that death is very unpredictable and someone’s health can decline quickly after just one minor incident. For now, Sigourney is sleeping, so I play only one or two more songs for Laura, since she is pain-free and is in a better place than when I arrived – this is the best that I can hope for her.

Therapeutic Harp at the Bedside

Music is a natural analgesic. There are literally no negative side effects to receiving too much therapeutic music. Medical doctors, social workers and nurses are also beginning to see first hand this benefit. Music offers a personal touch and can add considerable peace to a dying person’s quality of life.

It should be noted (no pun intended) that all music is not the same for this work. Ex: complex chords (jazz); loud guitar noodling (rock) or multi-layered polyphony (orchestral) would be poor fits for the simplistic nature that therapeutic music calls for. That said some classical instrumental music does work, particularly of the Impressionistic Era (if its arranged simply for solo or duo), because of the chordal structures and scales of the pieces. Ex: Debussy and Satie wrote music based upon whole tones scales, which can be very therapeutic, because they touch upon the essence of Western music’s earliest sounds. The whole tone scale is related the Pentatonic Scale (only five notes), invented by the Greek scholar Pythagorus, who in essence invented Western scales (and likely had a hand in the harp’s invention).

With this in mind, therapeutic music must be applied with simplicity of sound, and the intent to improve the condition of another human being. Like any caregiver, it is best to leave a situation as good as, if not better than the way you found it.

The family friends have been resting with their eyes closed, occasionally talking. One person is drawing, another knitting. When I stop playing, people open their eyes and give me soft blissed-out smiles. Honey, the dog, is sad to see me put the harp back in its case. Its time for me to go. For the moment, I can tell my work is done.

About the author:

Monica Schley, CCM, works with Providence Hospice as a Certified Clinical Musician.  She is a harpist, poet, mother, songwriter, wedding musician, harp instructor Dusty Strings, bandleader of The Daphnes, and touring artist. As a classically-trained harpist, she has played with jazz luminaries, indie rockers and pop stars. Some of her other writing can be found at www.pyragraph.com. Her personal website is www.monicaschley.com

05

07 2017

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
(click)

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.

19

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

25

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

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
7pm

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