An all-star faculty will headline the virtual series, designed to foster creativity, self-renewal and a sense of community
Musicians of all ages and skill levels are invited to register for “Art of Improvisation” (AOI), a series of Music for People (MfP) workshops, running August 2-5.
Broadcast live on Zoom, AOI uses “musicking”—the process of creating, performing and listening to all types of music—to foster creativity, self-renewal and a sense of community. At the heart of musicking is free improvisation, devoid of many of the traditional rules of music theory and composition.
“Free improvisation is a simple and direct way to make music, where there are no wrong notes,” says Todd Rogers, president of MfP’s Board of Directors. “We create a warm, nurturing environment for you to explore your own self-expression and, in the process, make music come alive. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional musician, the experience can be liberating and empowering.”
A global leader in inclusive, experiential education, MfP usually offers AOI every summer at the State University of New York at Fredonia. This year, AOI will be presented online at a reduced price, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attendees include teachers, composers, performers and healthcare providers as well as many students and retirees.
Each day of AOI features small- and large-group activities, including Tai Chi; a teaching block devoted to music improvisation techniques; a leading lab for current or aspiring MfP facilitators; and the choice of a vocal, performance or ukulele track. (Schedule at: https://www.musicforpeople.org/wp/art-of-improvisation-2020-schedule/)
People also may participate in a collaborative recording project in real time or on their own time.
“It’s the highlight of my year,” says Knysh, MfP’s program director, who also is a globe-trotting performer, teacher and drum circle facilitator. “You learn how to create music in the moment, a process inspiring skill and confidence. Everyone—singers and instrumentalists alike—has something to offer the group.”
Knysh will co-facilitate AOI with two other MfP teacher-trainers: violinist David Rudge, a SUNY Fredonia professor who is music director and conductor of the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra in Charlotte, South Carolina, and mezzo-soprano Irene Feher, a Montreal native who teaches voice at McGill and Concordia universities.
The trio will oversee the four-day program, featuring a spate of international presenters (in alphabetical order):
Terry Beck: An international award-winning choreographer and dancer, who teaches Tai Chi and other movements based on improvisation techniques;
Joëlle Danant: An accomplished singer, keyboardist and flutist, who also is a licensed minister, certified yogi and published author;
Kofi Donkor: A Ghana-born master drummer, who leads the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble and plays in the Bridges of Peace and Hope ensemble in Upstate New York;Stu Fuchs: A Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist, recording artist and sound healer, known for his popular online “Ukulele Zen” workshops;
Jan Hittle: A sought-after improvisational singer and CircleSong leader, who has worked with Grammy-winning cellist David Darling and studied with vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Rhiannon;
Bernhard Maurer: An early music specialist who conducts and performs throughout Europe and teaches cello at the Köniz Music School in Switzerland;Clíodhna Ní Aodáin: An Irish-born cellist, conductor, composer and teacher living in Switzerland, revered for her “Celtic Cello” recordings;
Nancy Salwen: An acclaimed singing teacher, workshop leader and founder of The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program, based on her 2016 book by the same name;
Ami Sarasvati: A multi-instrumentalist, healing arts practitioner and author of “Learn to Play the Native American Style Flute: Discover Your Heartsong” (CreateSpace, 2015);Dawn Tyler Watson: A Montreal-based singer-songwriter and 2020 Juno Award winner, fluent in blues, jazz, soul, rock and gospel; and
Christoph Weismann: A Swiss-based woodwind player, known for integrating movement and meditation into his jazz- and classical-influenced playing.
“Regardless of your musical or technological skill, this is a chance to experience what MfP is all about,” says Rudge, who directs SUNY Fredonia’s orchestras, opera and improv collective. “It’s also a chance to connect with many like-minded people during an otherwise very disconnected time.”
Feher, who oversees MfP’s satellite program in Montreal, agrees: “The human experience of creating music together—‘musicking’—is incredibly enrichening. Every time I improvise with someone, I learn something about myself and how I interact with others. It makes me a better person.”
Since Darling co-founded MfP in 1986, the organization’s humanistic approach has struck a chord with musicians of all stripes. MfP tools and techniques are used in schools, hospitals and healthcare clinics worldwide.
MfP participants run the gamut, from those who cannot read music to others who are classically trained but want to learn how to improvise in other genres.
“We take a mindful approach to music-making,” explains Rogers, a Brooklyn-based fiddler and MfP facilitator. “It begins with deep listening—connecting with ourselves, so that we may connect with others.”
Registration is $50 on or before Wednesday, July 15. Afterward, the cost is $30 a day or $100 for all four and includes audio recordings of the sessions. People unable to attend AOI may purchase a recording of the entire program for $50.