Musicianship and Leadership Program

Musicianship and Leadership Program to Make Online Debut Sept. 14

In Music Improvisation by jan_mfp

Music for People’s signature training program fosters self-expression, creativity and community

Musicians of all levels wanting to improve their improvisation and group facilitation skills are invited to register for Music for People (MfP)’s popular Musicianship and Leadership Program (MLP).

Available online for the first time, MLP is a three-level, multiyear program focusing on aspects of musical development that seldom receive much attention in traditional training: spontaneous composition, deep listening, communication and individual expression.

Starting Sept. 14, MLP sessions will occur two to three times a month until June 21 and include three “Adventures in Improvisation” weekends. Sessions will be co-facilitated by multi-instrumentalist Mary Knysh, MfP’s program director; mezzo-soprano Irene Feher, who teaches voice at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada; oboist Alina Plourde, a music instructor at Syracuse University; and violinist/conductor David Rudge, a music professor at State University of New York at Fredonia.

MLP is open to musicians of all skill levels and is recommended for students, teachers, performers, composers, songwriters, music therapists, community music facilitators and healing arts practitioners. For more information, contact

“We use a systematic method of music improvisation to develop deep listening, mindfulness and creativity. In the process, participants receive personalized training with expert mentors and have access to a global community of like-minded musicians,” says Knysh, an internationally renowned educator, performer and workshop facilitator.

MLP features three distinct levels, each taking a year to complete. Participants begin with Level 1 (Improviser), where they become acquainted with MfP’s philosophy and techniques. Their facilitation and musicianship skills deepen during Level 2 (Apprentice), which is followed by more specialized instruction in Level 3 (Leader). During Level 3, participants also choose to focus on musicianship (i.e., music creation and performance) or leadership (i.e., music improvisation facilitation).

MLP Apprentice Nick Abelgore credits MLP for connecting him with brilliant and dedicated innovators. “As a new music educator, I gravitate toward MfP’s philosophy because of its lightness, authenticity and creative approach to tackling serious problems, such as the variety we find ourselves in now,” says the jazz pianist, music educator and yoga teacher. “Through video conferencing, MfP continues to impart its training in improvisation, non-attachment and communication that humanity is currently floundering without.”

Fellow MLP Apprentices Donna Dallal-Ferne and Steve Button echo his sentiments, citing the creative benefits of MLP. “I’m more at ease with my musicianship—comfortable with it as well as comforted by it,” says Dallal-Ferne, a certified therapist and self-taught Native American style flutist. “MLP is a beautiful reminder that regardless of one’s training, music has a home inside each of us.

Adds Button, a music teacher and professional trombonist: “MLP’s principles of openness, humility and genuine, authentic self-expression are powerful and life-affirming.”

MLP graduates include Hollywood composer Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli and Grammy-nominated instrumentalists Stu Fuchs and Neil Tatar.

Since cellist David Darling and flutist Bonnie Insull co-founded MfP in 1986, the organization’s humanistic approach to authentic music-making has garnered a large and diverse following. MfP tools and techniques are used in schools, hospitals and healthcare clinics by MLP graduates worldwide.

Darling co-created MLP with a team of experts, including Knysh, Julie Weber and Jim Oshinsky (author of the seminal MfP book, “Return to Child Music for People’s Guide to Music Improvisation and Group Facilitation”), as a way for advanced musicians to mentor less experienced ones. “MLP combines music, movement and creative play to create numinous experiences,” Knysh adds.

Timely and relevant experiences, too. Writing in “Postdigital Science and Education” (Springer, 2020), Mara Sapon-Shevin, an MLP attendee who is an inclusive education professor at Syracuse University, recalls: “We engage in activities in which one person makes a movement and others repeat it, or one person makes a sound and others echo it. Despite the limitations of a screen, we see and interact with others’ bodies. … It can feel very ‘close’ and intimate.”

Feher also applauds MfP’s embrace of video conferencing, noting how online gatherings make her and others feel as “uplifted and energized” as in-person workshops. “The way we engage and communicate with each other in musical play creates this feeling of human connection. It’s something we need during these exceptional times.”

More information about MLP and MfP is available at