Notes from the Field

January 2010 / Notes from the Field

“Evoking Beauty—Music in Action”
Transformative Workshops with Jessica Roemischer
by Jessica Roemischer

Jessica Roemischer

Over the past twenty-eight years, I have taught piano to hundreds of students. And yet, what probably comes to mind when you think of “piano lessons,” has little to do with what happens for people when they sit with me at the keyboard.

Imagine yourself discovering that you can create music of disarming beauty—even if you have little or no musical background. Imagine finding a confidence through music that defies any preconceptions you may have about yourself or life. Imagine watching another individual transform before your eyes as original piano music emerges spontaneously from her fingertips. Imagine experiencing reality in a new way as a result of music, where limitation and fear are replaced by positivity and Love.

In my workshops—which consist of solo piano performances, improvised duets with members of the audience, meditation, lecture, dialogue, and videos of great musicians—participants experience all of the above and more.

I am simply transmitting to others what music means to me. From the time I was quite young, improvising endlessly on the blues, or learning by ear my favorite James Taylor chord progression, or playing the most sublime Mozart composition, gave me solace amidst tumultuous circumstances. I was blessed that my family had a beautiful Steinway grand—the same instrument on which I now teach my students. Without fail, each time I would sit at the piano, music magically transmuted the effect of whatever was occurring around me. It made me whole.

In November, I conducted an interactive workshop in New York City sponsored by the Integral New York/Ken Wilber Meet-up Group. This particular event was created in collaboration with music educator, Lesley Stoller, who does groundbreaking work at the Queens Children’s Psychiatric Hospital. During the course of the evening, two participants, Susan Babcock and Jackie Sabin, improvised in duet with me. Although Susan had extensive formal training on piano and harpsichord, she believed herself incapable of improvising her own music. Jackie’s musical background was limited, consisting of trumpet studies in middle school. Despite their trepidation, both took the risk and sat down with me at the keyboard. As you’ll see in this video, the experience awakened each woman to her inherent musical ability!

Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/v/pmD6MjSsGzg&hl=en_US&fs=1&

Indeed, my workshops are intended to effect deep and lasting transformation. Susan later wrote to me, “The most amazing thing happened last night. I practiced some of my classical piano pieces for over three hours and at the end, I decided to go for it. Improvise. Jessica, it was no more ‘accomplished’ than what I did with you in the workshop. But, like that session, it set my heart free. I didn’t do it ‘well.’ I did it. Your workshop has burst a dam that’s been constricting me in my musical and personal expression for my whole life, ever since I learned how to be self-conscious. It’s like you’re saying to all the dark cynics in the world—look at this!! The light of beauty exists inside every single human being!!”

For additional videos and participants’ accounts from Integral New York and Bay Area Integral workshops, as well as performances at the Integral Spiritual Experience conference, visit: http://jessicaroemischer.blogspot.com/

About the Author

Jessica Roemischer is a pianist, lecturer, teacher and a former Senior Editor of What is Enlightenment? Magazine. Since graduating magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1982, she has performed and taught music internationally as well as on the faculty of Middlebury College, VT from 1989-99. Jessica has developed an approach to piano pedagogy based on this core belief: the ability to express beauty through music is our inherent human birthright. Through improvised duets with students, she never fails to awaken the creative impulse in people of all ages and backgrounds, including those with developmental disabilities whom she instructs at Riverbrook Residence for Women in Stockbridge, MA. Jessica’s innovative music program at Riverbrook has received support from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Caroline and James Taylor. For more information, including upcoming events, visit: www.pianobeautiful.com

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