Art of Improvisation 2020

Workshop Sessions

Each Day 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Teaching Block Sessions with Ensemble Breakouts - 2 Levels Available
Learn about Music for People's techniques and approach to music improvisation. Simple/profound techniques to find our way in musical conversations, solos, small ensembles, silence and unplanned creative expressions.
Level 1 - MFP Basics: Recommended for those who are new to Music for People.
Sunday: Mary Knysh & Irene Feher
Monday: Mary Knysh & Clíodhna Ní Aodáin
Tuesday: Irene Feher & Alison Weiner
Wednesday: Mary Knysh & Irene Feher

Level 2 - MFP Experienced: Recommended for those who have already attended MFP workshops and experienced improvisers.
Sunday: David Rudge, Alison Weiner & Alina Plourde
Monday: David Rudge, Alison Weiner & Alina Plourde
Tuesday: David Rudge
Wednesday: David Rudge with Bernard Maurer & Christoph Wiesmann

Tuesday - Special Session: Music Education Demo with Mary Knysh & Alina Plourde
Each Day 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Community Sessions: A time for the entire community to gather and explore fundamental aspects of MfP’s philosophy.
Sunday: Open Up with Your Voice with Irene Feher
Monday: Mindfulness with Christoph Wiesmann
Tuesday: Movement and Sound: Inspirations from NIA and Gabrielle Roth’s “The Wave” with Mary Knysh
Wednesday: Celebrating our International community – How music connects us!

Dance & Movement

Each Day at 9:30 AM
Qi Gong with Terry Beck
For the past few years, everyone has loved starting each day of the workshop with Qi Gong sessions led by Terry Beck -- initiating a mindfulness in movement that leads to mindfulness in music.
Sunday at 4:00 PM
Motion on Voice with Elaine Lemieux
Merging voice improvisation and body movement is something I like to explore personally. In this elective, I invite you to do just that. As a start, we will play with the idea of traveling between our inner spaces to our outer spaces. We will explore breath, one phrase at a time in a constant and progressive path. Be prepared for vocal warm-up through breathing, resonance, and anchoring our voice with ease of expression. Through vocal and body exploration, we will discover the possibilities of solo form with our voice and the connection with movement. We will create a virtual voicing chain that will travel time and space.
Monday at 7:00 PM
About Group Motion Dance Ritual:
The Group Motion Workshop offers a space for interactivity and communication which is spontaneous, deep, and direct, allowing for new channels of creative potential to open. It serves as a resource for creative and authentic expression through movement and sound and can be utilized as a creative practice for all levels and is accessible to people of all ages (dancers and non-dancers alike). The movement structures are practiced in ways of playing, discovering, and experiencing individually and collectively.
For MORE ABOUT Group Motion:
We are a non-profit arts organization which functions on donations and meets every Friday night on Zoom. Please go to:
Tuesday at 1:00 PM
Nia Raw/The Wave with Mary Knysh
Movement and sound: Inspirations from NIA and Gabrielle Roth’s “The Wave”

Making Music

Monday at 1:30 PM
Small Ensemble Play with Alina Plourde
Let’s explore the possibilities of playing in trios over Zoom. With just a little bit of planning, and some help from other art forms such as storytelling, poetry, and movement, we will create small ensemble pieces that have a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. We can connect and be inspired by each other’s playing as we make music in small groups.  
Tuesday, Aug 4th - 1:30 PM
Emergent Poiesis through Musicking and Word in a Zoomified Field of Play with Harold McKinney and Guest Poet Sally Atkins
The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.
When I read these words, I have no words with which to respond. It’s my musicking self that wants to come forward with aesthetic reply. And yet sometimes when my listening self is shaken by a new music, I may have no music with which to sing back and it’s my poet self that cries out in aesthetic response; words bringing music and music bringing words to create a field of play.
Never mind that we may "no longer know what to do" our real work has come. And never mind that "we no longer know which way to go, we have come to our real journey." Indeed our minds are baffled. Employ them and more, surely we must.
Please bring your instruments pen, paper, voices, poems, stories and favorite words. Looking forward to what these "Zoomafied" streams might bring.  
Tuesday, Aug 4th - 4:00 PM
Shape to Sound: Creating and Performing from Graphic Scores with Jessica King
Graphic scores can be inspirational starting points for our improvisations. In this elective we will learn about the musical parameters of pitch, volume, rhythm, and texture and how to apply them when performing from a graphical score. Finally, we will create our own graphical scores and perform from them.  

Music Education

Tuesday, Aug 4th - 9:30 AM
Music Education Demo
A small group of children aged 7-12 from the MfP-Syracuse lab teaching groups will join us as Mary Knysh demonstrates some of her favorite Zoom-friendly ways to help children create their own music.

The demo class will run from 9:30-10:10, then we will debrief after, and give the group a chance to share and brainstorm best practices for improv with children and for online music-making.
Wednesday, Aug 5th - 1:30 PM
Improvisation on the line with Jim Oshinsky
As instruction moved online this past spring, our improvisation training was put to the test. How can we adapt our instruction, maintain connections in a virtual environment, and make great music online? Jim Oshinsky has been teaching improvisation at Adelphi University for the past 10 years, drawing on Music for People, Drum Circle Facilitation, CircleSong, and lessons from Victor Wooten.
Jim’s session at AOI 2020 will present the activities that worked best, the challenges of making group music online, a small amount of tech info for Zoom classes, and some experiments using Zoom for video and telephone for sound. Please have headphones handy and your instruments of choice!
Wednesday, Aug 5th - 4:00 PM
EXUBERANT PLAY! Improvising with 5-17 year olds with Sarah Tenney
Bring that fresh and innovative inner child,  breathe in the moment, listen to/feel what is deep within you, and let the soundscape rise up to express YOU, NOW!
Sarah will share simple improvisation ideas that her students, ages 5-17 have enjoyed. While these young musicians play written pieces beautifully, they are happiest and most vibrant when playfully creating their own music, inspired by their own explorations. Read the article or watch the video about Sarah's Marimba Magic program for children.
Come delight in free improvising. as you embody your musical expression.

Musicianship & Leadership Track

Each Day at 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Musicianship & Leadership Track
Attended by participants in MfP’s Musicianship & Leadership Program, these sessions are open to anyone interested in experiencing our training. If you ever imagined yourself facilitating transformative music workshops, these sessions are for you. Music For People graduates worldwide are facilitating music improvisation in classrooms, music camps, health clinics, community centers, senior centers, and on the stage!
In the Musicianship sessions, we'll focus on in depth exploration of spontaneous communication, musical forms, harmony, mixed media, extreme expression, modes and moods.

Sunday: Musicianship Session with David Rudge
Monday: Leadership Session with Mary Knysh & Irene Feher
Tuesday: Musicianship Session with David Rudge
Wednesday: Leadership Session with Mary Knysh & Irene Feher


Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 PM
AOI Community Recording Project with Todd Rogers & Alina Plourde
The Art of Improvisation (AOI) Community Recording Project, an experimental, creative space to build recordings with your fellow participants.  We will be using Bandlab, a free, online platform to create pieces together.  While the platform doesn’t allow us to play together in real time, we can collaborate and build pieces together in real time or on our own time.
The intent is primarily to provide a space to explore, experiment and create for those of all musical abilities and all levels of technical, recording expertise (including novice!).  We will be offering up ‘foundation tracks’ for each other to work with and taking a ‘yes, and…’ attitude.  It’s a place both for beginners to try out something new with lots of support provided, and for experienced players to create polished pieces.  In short it is an expression of the community we create during the Virtual AOI.

Sunday: Orientation Session - Please Attend If You Want to Participate in Recording
An intro session on Sunday evening 8/2 at 7 PM EDT will include a discussion on hardware and recording technique, as well as an experiential session where you will test drive the basics of using Bandlab. 
Monday and Tuesday: Time to Record and/or Listen to Tracks

    Read more about the AOI Community Recording Project including links to tutorials and the necessary tech requirements.
Monday, August 3rd - 4:00 PM
Recording in the Clouds with Jonathan Best
We will break into small groups and make use of the online recording program Bandlab to collaborate on one of a kind pieces of music. Silence will become our most cherished friend in this process as we find ways to create space for each other’s genius.
Having an audio interface or USB mic and a pair of headphones will be very helpful but not required. You can even use your phone or tablet if you don’t have a computer.
It starts with the first person recording a track while the others look on with curiosity and awe. Then the next person adds something that feels right for them in that moment inspired partly by the faces on their screen. There might be as many as five people having their chance to add something. At that point, we can decide whether we want to go around again.
If you’ve ever improvised with a musical ensemble, this might feel familiar except that time becomes a five dimensional Mobius strip that gets peeled open so you can slide your music inside. Well, not that exactly. It’s really beyond words.
After we’re done, we can mix it down, which can be an improvisation itself. You can make a copy and play around with that. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Styles Track

Sunday, Aug 2nd - 1:30 PM
10 Fingers Off the Page: An Elective for Experienced Pianists with Sharon Little
Experienced pianists! Learn several ‘keyboard specific’ Music for People games and techniques to help you grow your improv chops. Pianists have the gift of having 10 fingers able to play 10 (or more!) different notes at one time. It’s a gift and a challenge. The piano can be a dominating force in a small group. How can we be supportive and fully expressive? How can we get our fingers out of the same old sequences and patterns we’ve developed over years of practice? How can we use those patterns in new ways? From One Quality Sound to Playing as You Sing; from Arpeggiation to Old Things in New Places—you’ll leave this elective with ways to explore on your own and in your improvs with others.
(Session offered in English & French)
Sunday, Aug 2nd - 2:45 PM
African Drumming and Rhythms with Kofi Donkor
Monday, Aug 3rd - 1:30 PM
Learn to Play the Native American Style Flute with Ami Sarasvati
No musical experience necessary! The Native American style flute is a musical instrument that is easy to learn to play. Discover yourself as an intuitive musician, a spiritual song teller, a deep and conscious breathing life source. In this workshop, you will learn the basics of playing the NAF. Join Ami for a fun, relaxed, and inspiring workshop! She will be using an A minor flute in this workshop.  
Monday, Aug 3rd - 2:45 PM
Releasing Your Blues Self (Dancing with those Flatted 5ths) with Alison Weiner
So many stories to tell. Sometimes so very sad. Sometimes not! During the 1800’s, itinerant African-American folks shared their stories, accompanying themselves on guitar. The blues song form emerged, and its simplicity has made it accessible for use with many styles of music for over a century. Using voices and instruments, we’ll explore the form and discover our inner blues personas!  
Tuesday, Aug 4th - 2:45 PM
Indian Music with Shahzad James

Ukulele Track

Sunday, Aug 2nd - 4:00 PM
Ukulele Basics ~ MfP Style with Mary Knysh
This is a great session for beginners. Mary introduces those new to ukulele in a fun, easy and uniquely engaging way! You will learn simples strategies for joining into musical play immediately. No prior ukulele skills needed.
Monday, Aug 3rd - 4:00 PM
Getting Your Ukulele Groove ON! with Mary Knysh and Irene Feher
With five easy ukulele chords, we will relax into improvising in styles from 50s doo-wop, to roots rock & roll, hard rock and folk. It’s an opportunity to dive in and explore groove, feel, and texture.
Tuesday, Aug 4th - 4:00 PM
Easy Pathways to Ukulele Improvisation ~ C Slack Key Tuning with Mary Knysh
Mary has been including ukulele in drum and music circles for years. This accessible and fun uke tuning opens up an exciting world of easy improvisation on your ukulele that can be used in all kinds of community music making settings!
Wednesday, Aug 5th - 2:45 PM
Wednesday, Aug 5th - 4:00 PM
Improvisation Concepts for Ukulele with Stu Fuchs
Part 1 and Part 2
Ukulele master Stu Fuchs will take a deeper dive into improvising on the ukulele.
NOTE: You must attend both sessions.

Vocal Track

Hosted by Irene Feher

“The voice is a genius!” (Mary Knysh)

“As living, breathing beings, our voice is what is closest to our inner source of musical expression.” (Jim Oshinsky)

If you can talk – you can sing! Every human voice has something beautiful and meaningful to express and share. It all begins with a ONE Quality Sound... Know that you are an amazing musical instrument! As we trust and listen, a unique inspiration comes with each breath, rhythm comes alive in our bodies and melody soars from our souls. We will play with our voices using MfP techniques in guided large and small ensembles so you can explore your most flexible (and portable) instrument of musical expression. Join us as we explore the expressive power of the voice, and learn a variety of techniques, activities and applications that you can enjoy on your own or share with others.

Irene Feher is super excited to be hosting Vocal Track for AOI Online. This year’s sessions will feature a lineup of very special guests:

Sunday, Aug 2nd - 2:45 PM
HeArtful Singing Using a Mindful Approach with Joëlle Danant
"Relax into Your Beauty..." as David Darling, Music for People co-founder and original teacher, would say. Tap into your inner Well of Inspiration; uncover the creative power of starting from Nothing, using a mindful healing approach. Explore and express authentically the natural flow of music wanting to come through Unique You, moment by moment, by delving into the connections between Music, Silence, the Heart’s Feelings, Breath, Body, Soul, Space, and your Fellow Travelers on the Creative Journey. Experiential activities include guided meditation, intention setting & releasing, warm-ups, movement, and a Heart-Centered approach to vocal improvisation. Solos and ensemble work. No prior experience necessary. Read about Joelle's session on our blog at:
Monday, Aug 3nd - 2:45 PM
Exploring Vocal Improvisation While Staying at Home with Jan Hittle
Join this session to discover ways to explore vocal improvisation even if you have to be at home right now. We’ll have the chance to make music together, experiment in duets and trios, discuss the roles in a Vocal Orchestra, listen to some pre-recorded CircleSongs and learn about apps and exercises for vocal improvisation.
Tuesday, Aug 4th - 2:45 PM
From Fear to Joy: Discover Your Inner Singer! with Nancy Salwen
Singing is the birthright of every person and yet so many people are afraid to sing! Most of us recognize that singing can be a great source of joy, both to us as individuals and as part of shared community experience. But because singing is so primal and meaningful, when we are discouraged, we are often discouraged to the core. Our confidence and self-esteem are affected. Join Nancy Salwen, author of the Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program®, for an exploration of your own voice, the fears and barriers that hold you back — and take away some tools to help you discover or rediscover the joy of singing. Unlock some of the mystery around this invisible instrument that lives inside all of us, and most importantly, spend some time having fun with singing in a supportive, and non-judgmental atmosphere! For “non-singers,” beginners, or anyone who wants to be more comfortable and expressive with their voice. Also great for teachers and facilitators who work with timid singers.
Wednesday, Aug 5th - 2:45 PM
Vocal Expressions with Dawn Tyler Watson
This play-shop will be an interactive exploration and discovery of the voice as an instrument. Through a variety of exercises using rhythm, harmony, tone, and imagination we will investigate how sound is made and the emotional connection to the voice as the ultimate instrument. Read more about Dawn Tyler Watson on our blog at: