‘Tis A Gift

large ashokan

All the beautiful photos in this post are by Stewart Dean, imagovitae.org, CR 2015

“And when we find ourselves in a place just right….”

ashokan stage teaching

I believe in the power of art to improve lives- music, dance, performance arts, visual arts… all forms of art are humanity’s conduit of connection, and every person has the need and ability to express through art. Stepping away from entertainment into engagement is the most healing thing I know.

Although it seems like a lifetime ago, just last month I was upstate New York at Ashokan Center teaching at their ukulele camp.  A balm to the soul: beautiful place, beautiful people, beautiful music.

It always starts from the top down- Jay Ungar is a most welcoming host.  Playing with him and Molly was a privelege.

It always starts from the top- Jay Ungar is a most gracious host. Playing with him and Molly was a privilege.

This time around I taught a class in overcoming stage fright through improvisation. Beginning improvisation is about getting out of your own way- letting go of the idea that you need to be funnier or smarter, thinner or younger, betterer. We focused on freeing ourselves from judgment and shame, knowing that we are all good enough as we are, giving ourselves permission to fail and to not waste time worrying about what other people might think. I believe I have earned an honorary Doctorate on this subject.

improv ashokan

Newly fearless and completely shameless!

Working alongside people you love, and people who love you is a reward of it’s own.

I esteem and revere Gerald Ross and Marcy Marxer

Gerald Ross and Marcy Marxer- beautiful musicians!

Old pal Joel Ekhaus and new friend Ruthy Ungar

Old pal Joel Ekhaus and new friend Ruthy Ungar

From left: Paul Hemmings, Marcy Marxer, Gaku Takanashi, Yours Truly, Joel Ekhaus, Gerald Ross, Ben Hassinger, Ruthy Ungar

From left: Paul Hemmings, Marcy Marxer, Gaku Takanashi, Yours Truly, Joel Ekhaus, Gerald Ross, Ben Hassinger, Ruthy Ungar

This past week was more than a bit surreal. Returning to Hollywood from the sheltering paradise of Ashokan was abrupt and rude. I have an even greater perspective of how fortunate I am to be in a place where I am confident, happy and valued and I am thrilled to be doing work I consider meaningful and necessary.

I sang “Simple Gifts” a few days ago at one of the pre-schools where I do a music program. Wise, beautiful “Q”, a boy of 5, commented “Valley of delight?  We don’t need to find somewhere else- we are already there!”

Yes, we are.

(Thank you for the images, Stewart Dean, imagovitae.org, CR 2015)

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