So.... A seven year old kid says to his dad..........





So a seven year old kid says to his dad, “When I grow up, I

want to be a musician.

And the dad says, “I'm sorry – you can't have it both ways.


To be successful at making music you've gotta to get serious about play!

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato

If you have attended any of my workshops, you've probably heard me drilling away at the importance of improvisation. Improvisation, AKA, doodling, experimenting, creating, playing, is the life blood of Art.

Think about the term “play the piano”. You never here anyone say, I went to see this great “piano worker” or “I want to learn how to work at the piano”, or can you “work”Imagine by the Beatles ?

“I never studied technique independent of music” Harold Bauer, Classical Pianist..

Yes technique is important.

Yes reading music is a wonderful skill

Yes ear training is great........ but if there is no music being made

and only the mechanics of music being practiced, the heart is lost.

Getting comfortable with improvising helps bridge the gap between technical practice and making music from the heart. There are millions of remarkable pianist and musicians who can read and play anything put in front of them with astonishing accuracy and technique but have little or no personal expression in their sound, playing a carbon copy of the written music.

The irony of all time is, that most modern day students are trained to focus on attaining, precision, and "perfect"music that was written by composers who where masters of improvisation. It's like there is an unwritten law that says you can play their music, as long as you don't get to know them to well. Imagine a piano lesson with Bach or Chopin. I can't imagine that improvisation wasn't included in their lessons . After all....................................................

* Bach put improvisation skills at the center of his teaching. Most of his instructional manuals are how to books in improvisation. He often wrote out several different versions of his most popular pieces, such as the inventions, to show how a student might improvise on the structure.

* Mozart was most famous in his day, according to scholars, “first as an improviser, then as a composer, then as a pianist”.

* Beethoven became famous in Vienna not as a composer but as an “astounding” improviser. It was a full ten years that he was famous as an improviser in Vienna before he started to become well-known for his compositions.

* Schubert was almost completely unknown as a composer in his day – but he was renowned as an improviser, playing in taverns all night improvising waltzes, dances, character pieces, and drinking songs.

* George Sands, the writer, and girlfriend of Chopin wrote, “Chopin's compositions were but a pale shadow of his improvisations.”

* Handel wrote one treatise on performance – and half of it was devoted to improvising dances and fugues.


Several years ago I was asked to do a presentation on improvisation at the California Music Teachers Association annual convention.

During my demo I asked for a volunteer from the room of mostly piano teachers, to come up and help me demonstrate an idea. A “loud hush”fell over the room as if I were asking them to line up for a firing squad. At that point a kid jumped up from the audience and fearlessly made his way to the stage, with glee in his eyes, ready to help out.

Afterward, in talking to some of the of teachers I learned that this would be the first year that improvisation would be included in the syllabus for piano students working on music degrees etc. I'm thinking, umm, It only took 200 years. Oh well....... better late then never uh ?

So...... as I prescribe to all my students, take 10 or 15 minutes (at least) a day to practice improvising. This is a time to go OUT OF YOUR MIND, out of judgment, out of routine, out of stress and just PLAY!


    If you need any help, find any kid under 10 and ask them what they would do, or give me a call and we will schedule a improvisation session. Mostly just doodle around. If you come onto something you like, fool around with it, see if you can develop it a little. If you don't like something you play, move on. The idea of this time is to practice allowing music into your heart and mind spontaneously. There is no right or wrong. In Art there only is...... Remember, there has never been a statue erected to a critic. This is a time to play whatever you feel and have fun.
























































The Dougy Center

The mission of the Dougy Center is to provide support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.

The Dougy Center, the first center in the United States to provide peer support groups for grieving children, was founded in 1982. A courageous boy named Dougy Turno died of an inoperable brain tumor at the age of 13. In the two months prior to his death, he was a patient at Oregon Health Sciences University, where Beverly Chappell, at the request of Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of death, dying and bereavement, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, supported Dougy and his family during his treatment. Bev quickly observed Dougy’s ability to bond with other teens facing serious medical issues, how he intuitively knew he was dying, and how he helped other kids talk about their fears. 

After his death, Bev envisioned a place where children, teens, and their parents coping with the death of a family member, could share their experience with others who understood, who didn’t tell them to “get over it” or judge how they chose to grieve. The first grief support groups met in Bev’s home and has grown from that grassroots effort to become a sought after resource for children and families who are grieving. It is still the only year-round child-centered program offering peer support groups to grieving families in our community.

Today, The Dougy Center serves around 450 children and their 300 adult family members each month. Our 27, open-ended peer support groups meet every other week and are divided by age, type of death (illness, sudden death, murder, suicide) and who died (parent, sibling). The concurrent 27 adult support groups meet at the same time for the caregiver of the child or teen who is attending group. Since our founding, The Dougy Center has served 30,000 children, teens and their families and has received national and international acclaim for our pioneering peer support model for helping children cope with the death of a family member.

We provide educational materials about children and grief and training opportunities to local and national agencies in need of our expertise. We are widely known for our groundbreaking grief support group model, and our expertise has spread nationally and internationally. Around the world, The Dougy Center’s pioneering model has been replicated through our trainings and the trainings of programs we’ve trained. We now estimate that there are over 500 organizations worldwide that are using our peer support group model and credit the Center with their founding.

The Dougy Center relies on the generosity of individuals, businesses and foundations. We receive no government funding and are supported entirely by private donations and professional training fees. We never charge families for our services. The mission of The Dougy Center is to provide support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.


Chronic Pain: As in Music, so in Health!

As the theme of this blog is creativity, creative potential and staying in tune, I would like to share my experience and hope with you on the topic of chronic pain.

Nothing can discourage your creativity chronic pain. It's difficult to be creative, enjoy life and feel healthy when doing battle with chronic pain. The following is a brief history of my experience with chronic pain and what worked for me.

My story of chronic pain started back in the mid-eighties. I was unhappily married, financially depleted and angry at the world. I was working in a high-stress commission sales job and spent hours a day battling the freeways of Los Angeles.

One day, I noticed that my back seemed unusually tight. The tightness turned into a mild spasm and eventually the pain moved in permanently. What ensued was a fifteen-year engagement with daily back pain. 

Several years into my plight, life presented me with an opportunity to leave Los Angeles and move to a smaller city in central California. Then my six-year marriage dissolved and my life took a radical turn. I moved to a small resort town in Arizona.      

Even though many positive changes were happening, my back pain followed me like a shadow. It was always there in the background, annoying and constant. 

I sought  the help of a chiropractor. I remembered the protocol from when I was a teenager and my mom took me to see a chiropractor: first the x-rays and then the diagnosis. I was told, “One leg is shorter than the other causing pinched nerves and undue pressure on your hips from the shortened leg, resulting in chronic pain." After several months of adjustments, I had a few brief intervals of relief but the pain always returned. 

I later heard of a chiropractor who adjusted discs, something no one else was doing. Of course, he convinced me that the problem was discs, that somehow they get out of alignment and therein lay the answer to my chronic pain. After several months, no improvement. 

On to Rolfing. “Ah ha!” the practitioner announced. “Your pain is because of your structural misalignment.” I was out of there in less than a month, feeling no better. 

Next stop, yoga classes for back pain.  After a few weeks of this, I can honestly say I felt as bad, if not worse, than when I started. 

I finally went to see a medical doctor who could find nothing wrong and suggested visualization. “Visualize the pain moving out of your body and send it into that mountain,” he instructed, pointing out the window. Somehow the energy of the mountain would absorb the pain. (“That will be $100, please.”) 

Next up, an osteopathic examination ($130), which concluded with no explanation of the pain, just the suggestion to come back for further tests (which I never did). 

At this point, I had become constantly on edge with the pain, always unsure of what the day would bring. Maybe a full-blown spasm or perhaps the “normal” annoying tightness would follow. In any case, I was frustrated, scared and angry. In addition to the stress of the pain itself there was worry over the amount of money I was spending (no insurance). There were times when I felt that at the age of thirty-five, I might have seen my best years of my life and would need to accept a lifestyle of limited physical activity. For me, that was just shy of a death sentence. 

I remember one day driving home from a chiropractic visit, I was writhing in pain. I pulled my car over and burst into tears. I felt like I couldn't take anymore. Here I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world on an adventure of a lifetime, but everything was being filtered through the pain. It was always a consideration, a daily nuisance. 

One day a friend of mine who was going out of town asked if I would take care of the house. I was checking out his bookshelf to see if anything looked interesting. A little paperback fell off the shelf and landed at my feet. The title. . .Mind Over Back Pain, by  John Sarno, M.D. 

I remember sitting down at the dining room table and reading the whole book. My story was on every page—my personality traits, perfectionism, my trying to please the world. . .I was blown away! I had never heard of anything remotely resembling the words in this little book. 

As a medical doctor, Dr. Sarno had examined thousands of patients over several decades. He started noticing something very interesting going on. After years of examining a wide range of patients and using MRI's, CT scans and X-rays, he noticed that many patients that came to see him for reasons other than back pain had pinched nerves, scoliosis and herniated discs.

What was going on? Everything that caused chronic back and neck pain according to the medical community was present, yet there was no pain in these areas. He went on to describe the profile of a person with particular traits that consistently aligned with those experiencing back, shoulder and neck pain. All were high achievers, perfectionists; all were “Goodists” (people with a need to be recognized as good, doing good, being good and performing good acts.)

He said that as a result of this self-imposed pressure and the pressure of our daily lives in general, large amounts of internal rage build up and manifest as a condition he called TMS or Tension Myositis Syndrome. TMS is a condition where blood flow is cut off from any group of muscles, tendons or ligaments. This reduction in blood flow creates what is termed ischemia, an extremely painful condition. 

But here’s the turning point: Even though the pain is undeniably physical (resulting in spasms, etc.), it is actually caused by repressed emotions, tension and rage. He makes an interesting observation that we rarely hear of ulcers anymore yet it was commonly agreed upon that ulcers were caused by stress and worry. Sarno makes the point that we have simply replaced ulcers with the new “in vogue” epidemic of back pain. It seems that everyone has had some experience with back pain. Billions of dollars a year are spent on Workers’ Compensation claims and absenteeism from work, due to back pain. 

Dr. Sarno goes on to explain that the purpose the pain is serving is to keep our attention focused on the physical and divert us from feeling the deep emotions (such as inner rage) that are rumbling around inside of us. The short of it is, he says, the cure is in the acceptance of this diagnosis and the immediate repudiation of all physical treatment. 

That's what I did and that’s what did it for me. The first thing I did was to resume all physical activity. This was extremely difficult at the beginning because of the conditioning around my pain. The common treatment prescribed by many professionals was to “back off” physical activity so as not to aggravate the problem, which no one was really clear on. 

Whenever the pain would show up I would ignore it. I didn't need to know the “why” of everything. I wasn't aware of the rage or deep-seated resentments, etc., but I didn't have to be; I only needed to accept the fact that nothing was physically wrong with me and get on with my life. 

It took about six weeks for the shift to occur in my consciousness and I was free from years of pain. Over the following years, I would have recurrences of pain. I learned to immediately look at what was going on emotionally rather than the old habit of seeking pain relief on the physical level. Sure enough; with practice, I could track down an event that upset me or threw me into anger, redirect my thoughts from the physical to the emotional and feel better within an hour. 

Using this incredible information to transform and probably save my life, I continue to feel immense gratitude for the work of John Sarno and all health practitioners who demonstrate that physical symptoms are only barometers of our emotions. 

I believe all chronic pain starts as a vibration, a discordant thought that manifests in the physical body. We can then make a choice to jump on the treadmill of seeking a physical remedy or check into where we might be emotionally out of tune.


For specific guidelines and treatment of TMS, I highly recommend Dr. Sarnos’ book, The MindBody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain.



The Vibration of Success


Like most people I was taught that the common success principles of hard work, tenacity, focus, and consistent action  would eventually lead me to the “Pot Of Gold.”

Of course these are admirable and noble traits, but they also need to be tempered with faith, surrender, self appreciation and wisdom.

What I have learned is that there is a vast difference between effort and struggle. Some might say I looked successful, externally, but the truth is that I was chronically worried about keeping what I had or chasing after more of what I thought I wanted. I wasn't at peace. Nor did I have a concept that there was a much easier formula. I believe effort can defiantly include hard work, tenacity and focus. Struggle on the other hand is laced with emotion . When I'm struggling my actions are usually driven by the fear of failure which usually expresses itself with frustration, anger, pity, and a host of negative emotions.

Until I changed my mind and the negative patterns that I practiced for most of my adult life, I achieved mediocre results, at best. I had gotten by and had experienced waves of physical success (the mantra of my upbringing was, "He'll survive"). The problem is that I have never wanted to just get by. I have wanted huge, first class--not from ego but from the desire to experience my full potential, my best self.

Several years ago I started to study The Law of Attraction and to practice it in my own life. The Law is pretty simple. It says “Whatever is observed and focused on multiplies.” I can attract more ease, freedom, love etc. or more confusion, doubt and fear. To move onto Easy Street, I have to accept that life can be easy. I am not meant to be condemned to a life of hard work and struggle. So many people who finally “arrive” at so-called success are too tired and sick to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. They made a sacrifice (more like a deal with the Devil) to give up their health, relationships, family and serenity for their “piece of the pie.”

What I continue to learn is that there is an art to allowing life to bring me what I want without my having to chase, plot and compete for it. A lighthouse doesn't run up and down the beach looking for ships it can help. Instead, it holds fast in one place, projecting a strong, steady beam of light and it attracts those that it can help. It fulfills its purpose simply by being what it is.

In the same way, if we want more clients, better relationships, more money, we need to stand strong in those things that represent our true nature and give us happiness.

I love the Law Of Attraction. It's a lot like music. A sad song makes me feel sad. A happy song makes me feel happy. I always have a choice about which vibration I want to experience.

The Law of Attraction is a paradox: to attract the things we want, we have to “have” them first – internally. The bait we need to catch our desire is the feeling we want to have from whatever we are asking for. For example, I think money will give me freedom, security, and power. To attract money I must somehow find feelings of freedom, security and power in my present experience regardless of what my bank account says. I've got to find the feeling of security, power and freedom through my connection with the universe, God, Higher Power, or whatever you choose to call it. The irony is that when the money shows up, it feels natural and easy, not something for which I had to struggle.

The practice that will change everything is to find those feelings wherever you are right now. By doing this consistently, you change your vibration to match the outcome you want. Because the Law of Attraction and the laws of physics demonstrate that like attracts like, what I focus on will eventually show up.

The first evidence that things are getting better is that I start to feel better. When I start to feel better I have less resistance to what I am asking for. It feels closer, more real. Eventually, by staying with the “good vibes,” not constantly “counting down” and anxiously looking over my shoulder for the "stuff" to show up, it actually does show up on its own. My job is just to keep reaching for thoughts that feel good and keep me inspired, and to do things that turn me on, constantly reminding myself that what I want is attracted to me by the good vibes I'm putting out, the thoughts I am thinking and the inspired actions I take. Money, great relationships, great health, fulfilling work, all love a good party!

The trick is to throw a good party, play more music, find a way to be a little happier today, a little more appreciative today, and money, relationships, improved health and fulfilling work will all want to come around and join in the fun!


Life Is Like Jazz

Life is a lot like jazz. . .it's best when you improvise.”
~George Gershwin

I have found through the years of teaching piano (improvisation, jazz, blues, etc.) that the biggest problem most people have is the ability to break away from the traditional rules they were taught about playing the piano.

Many students that come to me from prior lessons have a list a mile long of things to accomplish before they can enjoy playing music. They have been taught that scales, reading, technique, etc., are mandatory skills they must master to play music “correctly.” All these things are good in their place but actually destructive when emphasized over creativity. It is the creative impulse itself that needs to be the impetus to learn the linear skills of playing music and life.

It's ironic that most great composers of the last 300 years were known in their time as great improvisers before they were acknowledged as great composers. What's interesting is we will never hear the spontaneous music of Bach, Chopin, Handel, Scarlatti and others who came from the tradition of piano improvisation.

George Sands. the novelist and girlfriend of Chopin said, “His compositions paled beside his improvisations.” Isn't it noteworthy that traditional piano lessons emphasize learning the music of the great masters yet somehow usually neglect any attention of their skills as improvisers, the very essence of their creative spirit?

In writing about the top most successful companies in the U.S. and what makes them great, Jim Collins—in his book Good to Great—makes the point that it is more important to get the right people on the bus than it is to know where the bus is going. In other words, people who are creative, spontaneous and who can improvise are a successful company’s most valuable asset. In my book Fearless Public Speaking,  I mention that if there is anything to prepare in giving a great speaking performance, it is the preparation to improvise.

As of this writing I'm helping a friend build a beautiful deck on our house. We have decided that rather than plan out everything in detail, we’ll proceed only with materials that are immediately available, without having to buy anything additional, and work only with a basic plan drawn on a napkin.

Unforeseen possibilities have shown up everywhere, resulting in a deck more structurally sound and aesthetically appealing than imagined at the beginning. Because we are not glued to a definite outcome and by leaving room for the creative process to take place, we are witnesses to something more original and beautiful than initially planned. As in music, speaking, business and building, so in life. . .


With layoffs, economic craziness, global “weirding,” raising children (not to mention raising ourselves), it's crazy to live by the rules. Many people are waking up to the fact that the rules they were taught about success, relationships and health are not working to bring them a happy life.

The improvised life is about living from  power, from your idea of what makes you happy. Improvisation is not about throwing out all the rules and rebelling against of the established order, however. It is about expanding the rules and regulations. It is about going outside of the perimeters of set ways. It complements structure by redefining it in the moment. It is about taking your base of knowledge and surrendering it to a higher power so something can be created with it. It is about you and what you want to create.

Much Success..................


The Gift of Creativity

Creativity is a habit, a behavior--a choice with which everyone is born. The gift of creativity is either developed or lost through neglect. Unfortunately in many cases, we are lured away from our gift by our educational systems and even well-meaning parents and friends. However, there are those who receive the encouragement or circumstances to pursue a life of creativity or at least to allow it into some part of their lives.

In his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Ken Robinson tells the story of a mother who was concerned that her daughter had ADHD. She was unable to sit still in class and focus on her studies. The mother took her to see a psychologist. After talking to the child for a bit, the doctor asked the mother to join him outside the room and on the way out he flipped on the radio. He asked the mother to look through the opened door of the room. Her daughter was dancing and jumping up and down to the music. The doctor, in his wisdom, turned to the woman and said,”There is nothing wrong with your daughter. She is a dancer; give her dance lessons!"

This was the beginning of an incredible career for world renowned dancer and choreographer, Gillian Lynne (later known as Dame Gillian Lynne). Fortunately there were those in her life early on that understood her potential and were able to offer the direction and encouragement that ignited a spark into a flame of creativity.

There are volumes of stories about those who succeeded in breaking through to their creative lives by ignoring circumstances and living them anyway. As a failing student with no thought of acting as a career, Dustin Hoffman took his first drama class only because a friend told him no one ever gets an F in drama. As a teenager, Paul McCartney was told by the Liverpool Boys' Choir director that his voice wouldn't fit in and dismissed him. Many creative careers were started by those cast out by the traditional system. So many times the creative spark is camouflaged in the jungle of status quo. It's no wonder so many are in fear of treading the creative path, to any degree.

I believe that anyone who is willing to take the first steps toward living a more creative life will be blessed with childlike enthusiasm and joy.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

You don't have to be Paul McCartney, Gillian Lynne, Dustin Hoffman or even a Picasso to pursue creativity professionally. All the benefits of Living The Creative Life are available to you by just getting in the game. Doing something creative every day gives you a greater sense of well-being and peace. It will add color and fulfillment to all other aspects of your life.

In their book, Ask and It Is Given,  Esther and Jerry Hicks teach that the fastest way to manifest anything that you desire is to match the vibration of the desire. E.g., the match for more money would be the vibration of freedom, security and well being. The match for a loving, committed relationship would be much the same as money, as well as the vibration of fun and intimacy.

Establishing a creative practice is one of the easiest and most fun ways of setting up a vibrational field to attract our desires. There are no negative side effects to creativity. Creative pursuits stimulate new growth in the cells of our body, reactivate childhood passions, reduce stress, and add purpose and direction to our lives.

We are all born with the seeds of genius. The definition of genius is “a particular, distinctive, or identifying character of spirit.” We are all distinctive; we all have our original ways of demonstrating spirit.

The definition of creative is “marked by the ability or power to create; having the quality of something created rather then imitated.” We all have the ability to create something original. It just gets down to a choice to live more creatively, to find things in each day to appreciate and to do what turns us on--to be the creative geniuses we are!!

Mozart summed it up this way......

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both
together go to the making of genius. Love, Love, Love - that is the Soul of Genius.”

There it is! Love what you do, focus your attention on it, get lost in doing it and genius will find you.

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter
do good things.”

Edgar Degas

Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (New York:Penguin Books, 2009)
Esther and Jerry Hicks, Ask and It Is Given (California: Hay House, 2004)