“Playing” music…for free or fee?

Some non-musicians can’t understand that because we “play” music, it’s our livelihood. That we have invested years of decades’ study to finesse our talents. That we still put hours into practice and in many cases into arranging and composing. OK, I’m preaching to the converted. But…

Practice or play?

Why not choose a positive title like “Practice Makes Perfect” someone asked when I published Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.

I’m allergic to the words perfect and practice in the same sentence.

practiceIn it I wrote:

Let me explode a myth.
Practice does not make perfect.
Not exactly. Not always. Hey, not ever. Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect.
Even top performers cannot be perfect. None of us can be a hundred percent perfect. Trying to be so is the biggest single cause of nerves, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem. These can cause even the most capable and talented people to give up.
The whole problem is that “practice makes perfect” has been garbled and used as a whip around our ears. Who coined that phrase, anyway? No one admits to it, but the closest we can get to its origin is that the ancient Greek philosopher Periander said: “Practice is everything.” 

But what to call it? Play?

I wrestled to find another word for “practice”. Play is the closest, implying active, creative engagement. (But we know for some it means –er–lack of focus.)

There’s the pitfall…

Some can’t imagine we should be paid real money for mere PLAY.

I must offer professional fees for live musicians at the book launch.

Thank you to those who’ve supported my crowdfunding campaign.Special mention to Althea O’Dee for her heart-warming email:”Congratulations on your new writing project! You inspire me so much. I am working in China at the moment. I’d like to donate to your fund, but when I open the fund-site, it is all in Chinese. Could I donate into your bank account… and you don’t need to send anything in return? I just want to help you, since I already own a couple of your music books, which have really helped me.

We hit the goal! Now to pay musicians at book launchTwoCovers

When my books are between covers, we’ll raise a glass to my wonderful supporters. With live music of course. These talented musicians deserve REAL fees, not mates’ rates.
With extra funds I’ll book a singer and commission son André to arrange Scandinavian music to perform with his gypsy band Greshka).

Because Words and Music are my fortes

There’s a few days left support my campaign. Do check out my crowdfunding site.

Thanks for your support!

 

Novel way to publish books

How to hook a mainstream publisher? That question keeps authors too busy to write their next book. We spend disheartening time on pitching, proposing, publicity. All writers know the pain of rejection.

• Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling were rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins.

• Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication.

• Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

• To F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you got rid of that Gatsby character.”

TwoCovers

When some publishers are interested and enthusiastic, we’re buoyed and tread on clouds. Until we discover they’re academic or vanity press, offering little recompense for our hard work, intellectual property and writing skills. Even asking us to pay for the privilege of seeing our words between covers. Might as well self-publish.

Last year I swore I wouldn’t indie publish. Even though I have already published books for musicians and teachers through my Words and Music imprint. But I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for the last leg of a long journey.

Even print on demand needs outlay of funds. Thanks to my son Paul Bonetti who helped, having successfully crowd funded his second album. (You can hear my clarinet backing on a few tracks.) I’m encouraged by the successful campaign to reprint Brisbane Art Deco, which includes my contribution about my Granddad’s house in St Lucia, Brisbane. Back House main BCC-B54-1976

Granddad (W.A.Back) was a Finnish Swede who emigrated to Australia to escape conscription into the Russian army. When his black sheep brother fled in 1899, Russian military police searched for him in Suez. He dodged them and found refuge in Australia. But why did he write home to “Burn my letters?” A decade’s research found answers to such questions. 

Letter KJ Back 1899:2

A treasure trove of archival letters

I’m blessed that my relatives gifted me with illuminating archival letters. These helped me piece together the story of my forebears.

What an inspiring, empowering story!

There’s a degree of memoir as the books cover:

  • Growing up in the Australian outback
  • Schooling in Brisbane: at Ironside State School, Somerville House and University of Queensland.
  • (Granddad led a consortium that developed St Lucia)
  • Studies, research and work in London, Sweden, Finland and more during 7 years in Europe.
  • My musical and life journey

My books that tell their stories and my own journey to discover heritage are ready to go. But I need help to afford printing. Please support my crowd funding campaign so I can put my books between covers.

https://pozible.com/burnmyletters
It’s going well, but not quite safe yet!

Many thanks in anticipation!

Inspiring words

My grandfather, W.A.Back (Wilhelm Anders) died on 2 April 1974. He attended my wedding two weeks before, and wrote a personal letter to me that inspired me through our marriage and to write his story.

He wrote:

“As I look back now on our marriage at Mooball on the 4th November 1908, I can remember it as plain as if it were yesterday. The wedding was in our new home that I had finished only a few days before, and the Minister from Byron Bay came by train to perform the ceremony…”

“Just do it!”

Granddad’s advice has helped me keep going to bring his story to publication.  

A man of enterprise

Granddad was an entrepreneur, the Migrant Made Good. So I think he would have approved of my crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to publish my book.

Would you please support it? Click the above link, choose an amount and reward (books or goodies). Your account won’t be accessed until after the campaign.

 

A man of faith

He wrote that he surprised his bride with a gift of a piano—the Hart family were musical. Then they knelt at the bedside and asked God to protect, guide and bless them through their lives.
“We asked for some material blessings that in the eyes of the Lord were very small and he blessed us with very much more than ever we contemplated or asked for. If you take God into your partnership I am sure it will be even better than what you anticipate.”

Good advice, Granddad. I keep faith that this gift for my sons to know their heritage, and for family and the Finnish community, will come to fruition.

Thank you!

Find your voice to speak/write

Voices reveal all. Writers wrestle to ‘find their voice’ and that of characters.

Public pressure may cause speakers to lose resonance, even voice.

  • Tension causes tight timbre. (Tip: Hum into your head, so you feel vibration in your crown. Hum while opening your nostrils and nasal passages; and while accessing the front “mask” area of your face. Keep your throat open and posture upright.)
  • Insecurity causes ‘up talk’ or that recent trend, ‘vocal fry‘.
  • Tip: Before presenting, find your natural range with a conversational ‘aha’)

Edit, edit and more edit!

Whether you write for the ear or the eye, prune excess words and redraft. 

But my coming book cries ‘no more culls!’ But how to choose between fascinating stories? Rather than publish a brick doorstop tome, I opted for two books:

  • Burn My LettersTwoCovers
  • Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

Curb – or censor?

My characters expressed their voices in archival letters and recorded interviews. 

These and my research unearthed answers to why refugee Karl Johan Back wrote in 1899 to ‘Burn My Letters!’ Under Russian occupied Finland his words were censored. Letters that were saved from the fire uncover insights into his story–and his unique voice. 

Will you help me crowd fund the final leg of a decade long journey?
This week I launch a crowdfunding campaign to publish my next two books. I’ll post a link when it goes live. I offer rewards in return for pledges from $7 up. Books, of course. Scandinavian goodies like home-baked Finnish gingerbread. 

I’m excited! It’s countdown to campaign lift off. I hope you will come aboard. 

More on my Facebook page.

Enjoy the journey as I have done with its discovery. 

April opportunity – coaching and presentation NZ, Adelaide

As I fly there for other bookings, I can offer presentations and coaching without usual travel costs. Email for available dates. 

Dare to speak–or write–your truth

What is truth? And what if our idea of truth doesn’t foot the accepted line? We risk offending or being rejected but take heart that some will respect us for speaking out, holding true to our beliefs.  

We are blessed to live in a free country. Cherish that. Challenge it.

Advocacy or Activism?

Disturbed by government funding cuts in my particular fields of words and music, I eyeballed a politician and spoke my mind. He took it with grace, as he touted his party line. I supposed that was the end of it.

> Opportunity

A year later he welcomed me onto a policy sub-committee where I could voice such reservations, written and spoken. They were noted and a slant found its way into draft working paper representations. Even the gratifying word “listen.”
Will it make a difference? Who knows. My words may be edited out in the process.

Rather than whine on the fringe, I’m satisfied that my concerns are heard.

What if people misunderstand?

Or misinterpret?
Letters to newspapers are edited, sometimes giving an emphasis not intended. If I list several names as an example of a group, the editor may choose the one most noteworthy and ignore others that would temper my argument. This may project a more extreme position than the balance I intended.

“I’m amazed to hear you support X!” people exclaim.

Actually, no. The other three names gave a broad perspective.

I cannot recall or fiddle these words above my name.

Avoid a backfire?

I could play safe. But I choose to exercise my freedom for the good I intend. Let’s hope my audience gets it.

Safe speaking

Should political correctness inhibit public speakers? Are you more wary of speaking verbatim, in case your tongue slips into a pitfall? People have lost jobs because their flippant comment on social media went viral, or their emails were dissected for forms of “ism.” Be aware of perils if, like me, you spice your communication with humour.

What price ‘free speech?’

Written and spoken words are my metier, so I’m disturbed by this year’s terrorist attacks. Not just in Paris; I urge you to sign or write petitions to free journalists imprisoned or murdered for doing their job.

All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men [people] to do [say] nothing.

(Attributed to Edmund Burke.)

Are private words safe?

A quick riposte on FaceBook or Twitter is out there, can be read from apposite perspectives. More disturbing is when private email has been hacked and circulated.

Most thinking persons don’t mean to offend others with their words, sounds, images or writing (my tools of trade!). But the devil is in the interpretation of “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”. 

Let’s lighten up

People warm to humour, if well handled. See tips to avoid pitfalls and inject safe humour in my book Speak Out-Don’t Freak Out.

(A quick 90-minute read to pep you before a presentation; it’s available on Amazon.)

Do we need to be funny?

Where relevant, humour can be a big audience winner. Jokes are safest if turned on oneself, perhaps relating a mishap or embarrassing situation. People respond to your openness. Don’t embarrass other people.

Beware especially of racism, profanity, or stamping on religious and political corns. Test those hilarious jokes on the family over breakfast to discover just how effective they are. If you do upset anyone, have the courage and grace to apologise.

Is ‘off the cuff’ off the planet?

You know those network situations where all have a minute to pop up and spruik their business? Usually I speak off the cuff, it feels natural. This week, I crafted and read my words. As the presenter, about to give constructive feedback around the table, I had to set a positive example. It felt stilted. I did a verbatim retake to show the difference.

 But be yourself

If you feel safer with a written text, so be it. Vary content according to audience/situation. Pause to breathe. Look up to include your listeners.

Ruth’s 2016 Diary is open

Email to check available dates for presentations, training and coaching there and elsewhere.

Or writing
You’re articulate… but too busy to condense a lifetime’s expertise into a pithy, witty and life-changing presentation.
Or deadlines loom for media releases, blogs and papers.
Whether you write for the ear or the eye, I can craft your scribbled bullet points into engaging text; edit out words that invite stutters into those that flow off the tongue. And polish your content so it shines!

Dare I say it?

Yes. I wish you God’s blessings, joy and peace for a happy Christmas season. However and whoever you celebrate.

Walk the Talk

How do you prepare a speech? Consider the difference if you write for the ear or the eye; each requires a different mind set and approach. Both need active verbs and vital language to hold attention.

With presentations you engage the audience. Speak naturally.

To prepare a presentation

This works for me to create a natural rather than stilted style:

  • Brainstorm what points I will cover.
  • Walk with my notes as I speak it through (I’m blessed with paths amongst trees and by beaches).
  • Tape on my iPad notes function.
  • Email this as text to my computer, to be edited and polished.
  • With the printout I walk and speak it through to the birds. I discover clunky phrases and words that invite stumbles. As my tongue finds a vivid sentence I talk it into my iPad.
  • I time it on my iPhone as my walking pace matches thoughts and words.
  • Before a big speech I walk the talk to memorise crucial opening and closing senences. (Automaton saved me when an MC skipped my submitted biog and introduced me as ‘Ruth Cracknell.’ Gulp. Que?@#!? But on with the speech.)

Activate both brain hemispheres

Walking is a cross-crawl action, that allows us to unlock brain power and encourages a mix of logical and creative thinking.

‘When we walk, the two halves of our brains converse.’ Julia Cameron Walking in This World.

Follow the paths of pilgrims and philosophers

For philosophers like Kant, Rousseau and Nietzsche walking was daily discipline. Gandhi and Mandela walked with the masses for freedom. Jesus Christ walked as He taught his disciples. For indigenous Aborigines and American Indians their bare foot ‘walkabouts’ made contact with the land.

Walk to focus and problem solve.speakoutmedium

‘It is solved by walking.’ – St Augustine

‘All truly great ideas are conceived while walking’ – Nietzsche

Begin with the Brainstorm

Last week as I coached someone for his presentation skills, I noticed yet again the necessity to help him write his speech before we could solve performance aspects.

We began in relaxed conversation to understand issues he planned to address.

We wrote bullet points on a white board.

As he passed through that initial stumbling exploratory stage and began to fire with enthusiasm, thoughts flowed naturally. At that point I taped him on my iPad, and emailed the file. The content was fresh with flow, focus and passion. He could then edit and polish.

Big speech coming up? 

Email for speechwriting and coaching in presentation skills, training.

But it’s tomorrow!

Download my 90-minute read Speak Out: Don’t Freak Out

Your speaking can flow with ease so your experience, expertise and natural enthusiasm shine through.

 

This year I’ll…

Arg, New Year resolutions! Don’t go there. Under the influence of a glass or three, people make promised they can’t keep. But, bubbling with new impetus–and cold sober–shall l commit? OK. This year I will:

Run on time

Never mind that we’re on a roll with a student, making wonderful progress. If the next one is ready to rock, on time, say ‘See you next week.’ That’s a challenge.

Insist students buy music rather than photocopy

All need a main method or book so they can keep turning pages. Yes, add legit downloads, but resist photocopying. Try Smart Music. CD playalongs. Arrange more.

More practice

soundsandsoulsmedium

…Rather than just getting through the notes in orchestra rehearsals. This year I’ll be upfront again, as co-soloist in Mendelssohn’s Konzertstück with Sian Davis and Noosa Orchestra, on 13 and 20 September. And Brisbane Symphony Orchestra will program Bruckner, Mahler, Beethoven.

More play; Down Time Uplifts

My ‘Me Time’ keeps me sane. I nearly relented and gave it to a student that couldn’t fit elsewhere. But no, my weekly walk on the beach is precious. More swims, also.

What replenishes you that you won’t give up? Mark it in your diary. In 2B pencil.

In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron recommends a weekly ‘artist’s date’ and I can vouch for it. And for other rejuvenation strategies that I’ll share on 28 February at the Music Teachers Association of Tasmania conference. My topics:

• How to Motivate, Retain and Inspire Students
• Techniques to Rejuvenate and Overcome Workplace Challenges
• Empower Students to Shine in Performance

Nowhere near Hobart? The rejuvenation tips are covered in my book and eBook

 Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives.

‘Ruth Bonetti has written a book that not only demonstrates the value of music tuition but offers invaluable advice on how to run a private studio. No matter how long you have been teaching, you will find something in this book that will enhance your experience. Thank you, Ruth, I will always treasure your sage advice.’

-Karen Kelly, Gundagai, NSW

More head stretch; 

I’ll learn Finnish (Scary with all those umlauts!)

More travel

An Adelaide trip is likely this semester, so email me if you’d like to take the opportunity for workshops at minimal travel costs. Or for sessions elsewhere. My diary is open; now that I have finished my next book, I’m more available to present.

More teaching

… I can fit in a few more students. Perhaps a day in a school. Interested, anyone?

Phew! I need a glass to toast to all my resolves.

Safe Humour

As we reel from recent events, wordsmiths and cartoonists wonder at the pitfalls we face. It has become harder to speak out fearlessly and all the more so if, like me, you spice your communication with humour. 

What price ‘free speech?’

As one whose living comes from words, both spoken and written, the terrorist attacks are disturbing. Not just in Paris; there are many journalists imprisoned or murdered for doing their job. Australian Peter Greste is just one who has been incarcerated on flimsy charges. Write letters, sign petitions, pray for his freedom. ‘All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men [people] to do [say] nothing.‘ (Attributed to Edmund Burke.)

 

Are private words safe?

We dash off a comment on FaceBook or Twitter and it’s out there, fair game. But not if a quick, private email might be hacked and circulated. A respected professor of literature Barry Spurr resigned from his job at the University of Sydney because leaked emails (a ‘whimsical game’ with a friend) were dubbed racist. Big Brother won. A growing chorus urges the Australian government to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Under 18C it is unlawful for a person to commit an act, in the form of words, sounds, images or writing, (all part of my tools of trade!) that is “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”. This “offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin” means many of the cartoons Charlie Hebdo freely published in France would fall foul of the law in Australia. Sad.

Let’s lighten up

There’s an old joke: “Do I have to inject humour into a speech?”  “Only if you want to be paid.”  People warm to humour, if well handled. There are pitfalls. Excerpts from my book Speak Out-Don’t Freak Out give tips to add safe humour to presentations.  (A quick 90-minute read to pep you before a presentation; it’s available on Amazon or hard copy. Or email me for training or one-on-one coaching.)

Do we NEED to be funny?

Where relevant, humour can be a big audience winner. Jokes are safest if turned on oneself, perhaps relating a mishap or embarrassing situation. People respond to your openness. Don’t embarrass other people. Beware especially of racism, profanity, or stamping on religious and political corns. Test those hilarious jokes on the family over breakfast to discover just how effective they are. If you do upset anyone, have the courage and grace to apologise. How do we give birth to a healthy joke? First don’t announce it’s on the way! Dress it subtly, let it grow unawares. Curb that expectant grin. Pause for emphasis before the delivery, then wait a moment for listeners to register and laugh. It will be stillborn if you rush on before they have time to react. If a joke does miscarry, carry on regardless.

There is real power in a smile or a laugh.

But be yourself

Opening with a joke, especially if well-chosen and to the point, can be brilliantly effective. However it is not essential, especially if joke-telling is contrary to your personal style. If it crashes like a bombed plane, both speaker and listeners may be tempted to go home early. A self-deprecating anecdote usually is better digested than a canned or ancient, recycled joke. Audiences appreciate original humour directed towards oneself, are repelled when it denigrates a defenceless victim. If your take-off is smooth the rest of the flight usually flows with fewer bumps. Navigate your course with a clear focus on the horizon – your audience – rather than dwell inward on your own queasy stomach and sensitive ego. Most fears are self-centred. Keep looking out! And, in this climate, we can only keep looking up!  

10 tips to perform words or music

speakoutmediumThe moments before a performance are your launch pad. Then, you can make a crucial difference between maintaining calm control or succumbing to blind panic. You need to learn to slow down on your launch pad, to resist the impulse to rush on and tumble headlong into an incoherent performance.

Assemble your own check-list from these suggestions:

1. Sit comfortably, visualise transferring all your nervous energy away from the tense part of your body (e.g. the jaw or fingers) down into your toes. 

2. Think “toes, toes, toes” and your jaw/fingers relax. Give your hands about twenty vigorous shakes.

3. Sip some water or rinse your mouth. 

4. Think “I feel fine, my fingers and shoulders are relaxed, I am in good form. The audience will like me.”

5. Turn down the volume of those nagging voices in your head. Instead, focus on the outcome you desire – to inspire, to entertain, to win.

6. Warm your hands and fingers by relaxed movements, stretching or other gentle exercise. Limber up as athletes do, starting with easy, relaxed actions, then
increase the challenge as your muscles loosen up. Water and heat are excellent therapies.
Cold contracts muscles, causing tension. Remember how reluctantly limbs move when we play in draughty halls in winter?

When performing in northern Sweden, often above the Arctic Circle, I learned to thaw my cold fingers under the dressing-room hot taps, the warmth relaxing my muscles. Alternatively, bring gloves or a hot-water bottle.

7. Turn those fidgets to good use! Waiting backstage, many feel the urge to fidget. Perhaps we should adopt the Mediterranean habit of fiddling with worry beads – a more healthy distraction than a cigarette.

8. Stretch. Stand against a wall to ensure upright posture.

9. Imagine “I am the greatest”. Assume a confident, positive face. Smile.

10. Breathe. Slow down.

                         You’re on. Be the greatest you can. Have fun!

Excerpt from Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out by Ruth Bonetti Available on Kindle