Piano As Therapy- Interview With Tyler Wilson

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How long have you been playing piano, and what is your preferred genre to play?

I’ve been playing piano now for about 18 years, ever since I was 6. After a few too many times banging on the keys of my grandma’s old upright, she sat me down and began teaching me classically, initially. This built a good technical foundation, but as I got older, I started getting into playing pop music. Eventually, I found my passion in jazz, specifically the old standards and swing!

I find sometimes it can be difficult to follow your artistic passion as an adult, especially with certain societal or cultural pressures to pursue something more “practical.”  Did you find those around you encouraging your music pursuits?

Luckily, the stigma against following the arts as a career path doesn’t seem as prominent in my generation. The rise of the entrepreneur/side gigs among millennials has made for a relatively accepting environment for people that are pursing their own path. But I would definitely agree that culture, upbringing, and environment have a heavy impact on people actually pursuing music and the arts as a sole source of income.

You mentioned your grandma playing piano. Would you say you came from a musical family? Were there other musical role models in your family as well?

My Grandmother was really the main reason I ended up choosing piano initially. She lived about five hours away in Wyoming, and we’d go up there every summer break. She played for her church, and I always thought it was one of the coolest things seeing her up there.  That was what really first sparked my interest in the instrument. It wasn’t until years later that it became more of a passion, as I saw the little joy it would bring to people’s faces to hear a familiar tune or resonate with a bluesy chord.

I was really very fortunate that I grew up in a home and with parents that really instilled confidence in me and my siblings. While my mom had played piano as a child and my dad had dabbled in saxophone in high school, I can’t say my family was musically geared, by any means. I think the biggest factor that allowed me to pursue music and have a continued passion was not exposure to the arts as much as it was the support and mindset of believing in and valuing my self. That really taught me to pursue anything that I wanted, and as long as I would try my best, I would be supported in any endeavor.  I’m really grateful for that.

Beautifully put. All children should grow up with that kind of mindset and support.

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I find one of the hardest parts of pursuing a passion, especially an artistic one, is being able to confidently call yourself an artist, whatever it may be. Saying I am a writer, or painter, or singer, or musician or dancer I think can be challenging. We compare ourselves to others and are not sure when it is “okay” for us to really deem ourselves worthy of the title.

When did you first consider yourself a musician? Do you have any words of wisdom about this to others wanting to pursue an artistic field?

My grandmother would play for churches and nursing homes.  So virtually from my first weeks of playing,  she would put me up in front of these very gracious, sweet, and, luckily for them, mostly deaf older people to play songs. So really, from the start, my grandma had helped build my confidence to play in front of others. This meant I never really saw playing piano or “pianist” as some great title to be earned. In reality, it just kind of became another part of who I was: I could catch grasshoppers, name any plane in the sky, eat fifteen cookies in a sitting, and play piano… it’s just who I was.

Haha! I love that.  

For me personally, I still don’t really call myself by my professions/hobbies/passions.  Instead, I’ve always viewed myself as simply, Tyler. Piano, volleyball, business banking, etc. are all things that I do. But no one of them “is” me. I don’t know that I have, or ever will, consider myself a musician. But it’s certainly something that I enjoy and do for my own pleasure and passion, which is more important, I think.

I agree. I often try to avoid asking people what they do for a living, and prefer to say, “What do you LIKE to do?” Then you learn what drives the person. What they get excited about. What makes them feel alive, without labeling them as just being that one title.

Probably the best way I’ve found to identify myself has been to see how the people that know me introduce me to others and the stories they tell about me. It is important to understand how those who matter to you perceive you. So, if you don’t like be introduced as “Gary, the guy who always passes out at parties,” then you know that you need to lay off the tequila a bit next time.

Haha! You’re hilarious. 

(smiles)You should control your actions to match the image you want to have internally and externally.  Don’t let others decide it for you, but you can use them to gauge where you’re at.

For me, I think what has helped me in my own confidence in playing as not a benchmark of skill, but instead, being absolutely fascinated and appreciative of those who have even more passion or skill than myself. I would say, whether in an artistic field or not, humility and willingness to get around people who have succeeded in areas you would like to, is the best way to grow in your own endeavors.

That is great advice! Definitely something I admire in others- that idea of learning from others rather than making it only about competition. Making sure the sharing and enjoyment of what you are pursuing is never lost.

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I thought your singing was awesome, and it was interesting when you said that though you don’t sing a lot, you have a good ear because of your training as a musician. 

Thank you! I’m glad that the Michael Bublé impression didn’t fall on deaf ears (Pun absolutely intended)!

Haha! Well, your comment was a good reminder of how each little skill that we build from one art to another can help influence and further develop another skill, or even other aspects of our lives, without us knowing it.

I completely agree, and several studies have shown the correlations between excelling in “practical” skill sets when individuals also pursue art in one form or another.

I find that really interesting.  So how has music training impacted other areas of your life, or how have other areas of your life impacted your music playing? 

For me, playing piano and music is therapeutic. Personally, I tend to be very extroverted and spend little time alone as I thrive in more social environments.  But piano is one way that really helps me reflect and be in an almost meditative state. When I need to relax or search for a moment of clarity, I have found no better remedy than sitting down on an old woodmen bench and just beginning to play.

The profound impact piano has had just from a personally restorative place for me is beyond measure. It’s built dexterity in sports, coordination, and posture. It’s led to numerous social interactions and wonderful relationships that have blossomed far beyond the sonata or ballad that started them.

Aww… that is lovely.  I am going to be reading and rereading that last line especially many times.  You captured the beauty of music in a nutshell there. 

If you had to describe yourself as a musical instrument, which instrument would you be and why?

I would be a tenor sax in the hands of a bluesy New Orleans style jazz band! Maybe it’s just because the last week has had me listening to a lot of upbeat jazz, mixed with rainy rhythms from Coltrane.  But the versatility of a saxophone is something I strive to personify.

Seems very fitting. I can totally picture it.

Thank you so much for your witty and thoughtful responses.

 

 

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Awakening to Your Dreams

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For the past few nights, I have fallen asleep with my guitar.

“Wait, you play the guitar?” those of you who know me might be asking.  Others of you might be thinking, “I think she needs a man.”  Yeah, that’s a topic for a whole other blog post.

But yes, I actually own three guitars now.   But I rarely play them. I thought I just couldn’t figure out HOW to. I would try every once in awhile, take a couple of lessons, but nothing would stick. If any of you have tried playing the guitar, especially as an adult, you know it’s not that easy.  Getting your fingers to coordinate and stretch enough but also be delicate enough to get right into the exact spots on the frets is pretty tricky stuff.

Each time I would pick up the guitar again, I would get frustrated and think that this whole guitar thing is so far from… well, who I am.  So I would give up.

But the universe has this way of bringing you back to something that you might need to give another chance to. Plus, there are guitars all around me- from the guitar paintings I did years ago, still hanging on my wall, to the guitar piggy bank I have in my kitchen, to the little guitar decoration on my bookshelf. Oh, and what about that guitar keychain I owned for a few years? Not to mention that one of the most inspiring and life changing movies I have ever seen is also, quite frankly, called The Guitar.

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Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar

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Where do you live and what styles of dance do you dance?

I live in Mumbai and I dance Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba

What got you into dance?

Dancing was my hobby since childhood, but I never knew I would end up as a full time dancer, teacher and performer.

I remember being asked why, if I’m Indian, I dance Latin dances instead of Indian dance. I I love Indian dance, but it just wasn’t what I gravitated to. And I thought it was a bit of an ignorant question at the time. Haha. But now, here I am, asking you the same question (laughs). Since you are in India and Indian, what made you choose Latin dances instead of Indian dances?  Continue reading

Interview With Sia Kaskas- Revolutionizing Aging

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I really admire you for your strength and agility as a kickboxer, but also for being in a field that traditionally might have been thought more ‘suitable’ for men.  

Did you find it hard to work your way up in kickboxing, especially as a female, in terms of having support and being taken seriously?

Staying at Champions Martial Arts Academy for all the years that I did- from being a novice student to becoming an instructor and employee- had its challenges. I would say it made it easier having female role models around me- such as Master Ingrid Katzberg and Sensei Anita Katzberg. These two sisters own and run the school (along with Master Farid Dordar). Their strength was so inspiring and motivating for me and thousands of other female students in the city.

Yes. I remember them being highly regarded throughout the school and community. 

Yes, and Master Ingrid and Master Farid welcomed all genders to train and compete. I never felt any judgement from either one of them. The only challenges I encountered were from a minority of younger males who felt uncomfortable around me. I competed early on in my training years in eight tournaments and in five ring-fights and I was always the oldest female among the fight team. So that was tough in terms of judgment. And I later faced another challenge when I began instructing. Once again, some males found it difficult to be instructed by a female. This led me to train harder and to show them I am not as limited as they think. Of course now, after fifteen years of instructing, one builds a reputation and I have not had any issues with this in a long time.

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Dancing’s Appeal to the Senses- Interview With Danielle Felices

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I know you dance a few different styles of dance, but … is Zouk your favorite (smiles)? 

Oooh that is a loaded question! Currently, yes, Zouk is my favourite. I guess that is pretty clear to people who have met me. (smiles)

 What it is about Zouk that draws you to it?

When I think about what draws me to Zouk, I think first about what draws me to dance in general, and a few things come to mind. To me, dance is about passion, connection, emotion and technique. I was drawn to Zouk because it really resonated with me in those three areas which are important to me. I have found a new level of passion in myself and my dance through my journey so far in Zouk. I am passionate about the music, my personal development, the growth of the Zouk community, and I love learning more about myself and others through this dance. Continue reading

Strength in Diversity- Interview with Gabriel El Huracán- Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview- “Why Tango?” Gabriel El Huracán  discusses what it was about Tango that drew him into the dance so deeply.   I have begun this second half of the interview with some of the words Gabriel left us off with at the end of Part 1. They just seemed so fitting to the theme of Part 2 of this interview:  celebrating the beauty of differences, the strength of diversity.

Gabriel:   In tango, you’ll have a kid who is twenty years old who is still in college or university and he’s beginning his life. And in the same room, you will have this older tanguero who might be eighty years old, dancing right next to him.

And you might meet a lawyer and a plumber and a stay at home mom all in the same room doing the same dance, sharing the same passion. You have people from all social classes in the same space. You have people from all ages, and people of all different cultures connecting through this common passion.

Tango allows me to make these unlikely encounters that I never would have made in my daily life otherwise. Continue reading

Why Tango?- Interview with Gabriel El Huracan- Part 1

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I am really impressed at how quickly it seems you have picked up tango and to such a high level. Do you feel that there is something about your life before tango which contributed to this?

For as long as I can remember, I was always more of a physical person.  I was into basketball and into movement in general.  I think if you’re an active person and just more physical in your life in general, you’re used to telling your body to move in certain ways.  You’re used to isolating certain parts of your body and just having more body awareness.  And this is really important, especially in tango.  So perhaps that gave me an ‘advantage’ in terms of learning tango quicker.

And you used to be a bartender before, right?  I think bartending is an art in itself.  A bartender friend of mine even described her job as a dance on some nights.  Do you see any parallels between your life as a bartender and the way you teach or dance now?

I never thought about it before, but probably the social skills I developed while being a bartender helped me with my teaching in some ways.   I mean, I was already used to expressing myself around many people, through bartending.  I was already dealing with so many different types of personalities on a daily basis and in a very busy environment. And I was used to keeping people entertained with humor and stories, and learning how to read what people wanted. It also got me into the habit of navigating around a room full of people. Continue reading

Our Perception of What We Can Do

“Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a Ashley4- by Daudimovement. 

But we have all been there!

So, as a teacher, I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible.

The frustration can start to limit our perception of what we can do.

Dance is supposed to make you feel good, at the end of the day.  So I want THAT to be the strongest take- home feeling for my students.”

                 ~Ashley Rhianne

 

 

 

A Heart to Heart With Charles Ogar

charles10“Dancing with the heart” is a phrase that has been so overused that I think it had lost the depth of its meaning for me over time, until… people like Charles Ogar came along. Charles not only reminded me of the true meaning and feeling behind those words, by the connection he creates in his dancing, but he also put a whole other twist to it as he opens up about matters of the heart in this interview.  After learning about some of the journey Charles’ heart has been taken on, – from having faith in his passions, to leaving his old career behind, to enduring heart surgery, and following a new path by trusting in where the universe is taking him- I have  a whole new appreciation for the power of the heart. Thank you Charles Ogar for opening up with such honesty and authenticity in this interview and allowing us to know a little more about the heart that lies within you as a dancer and teacher.

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Lights. Camera. … DAUDI!

Lights, Camera, DAUDI! That’s how I think the saying should go sometimes. If you’ve ever worked with this extraordinary photographer featured here, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It seems only natural to think about Daudi, the creator of Daudi X Photography, when talking about camera and light. Daudi is extremely creative with both. For him, photography is not just a job.  It is his art, it his passion.  He not only expresses the way he sees the world through this art, but he also brings pieces of it to us, capturing special moments and bringing out what is unique in each of his subjects. Daudi covers a range of photo types but his greatest fascination is with people.  He is probably best known for his work in the dance community. His professionalism and attention to detail in his work is impressive, as is his friendly, charismatic nature. While Daudi has spent much of his time showcasing the talent and beauty of the artists that he photographs, it is my pleasure to finally celebrate Daudi’s talent and inspiring story with all of you. Thank you Daudi for your enthusiastic and thoughtful responses.daudi

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