In Praise of the Expected


I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up in an almost surreal musical environment where everyone was good. Like, really good. As a group of young musicians, we were almost absurdly good. The bar was high, and in our own individual ways, we all met it.

It’s funny, though, that always being a pack of talented, high-achieving musicians, meant that nobody ever made much of a fuss about any of us. I don’t really remember anyone ever coming out and saying–wow, you’re a great cellist. I mean, I won competitions, and auditions, and was given tons of great opportunities, and scholarships. People would say “nicely done.” or “ good job” about a particular performance or audition, but I cannot remember a single instance where people randomly, out of the blue, said “you’re such a great player!” or “I just love listening to you play!” It was just about doing what needed to be done that day and then practicing for the next thing. 

We did it because we loved it, we didn’t necessarily need or look for that praise, and it wasn’t until recently that it even occurred to me that it was absent.



It was only when I decided to retire from my performance life that people freaked out– “but you can’t!” they said. “But you’re too good a musician!”  “But I love hearing and seeing you perform!” But, but, but.  

That’s when it occurred to me––I had never heard those words. Not from a teacher, a friend, a colleague, or a conductor. No one. Okay, probably my Dad.  But let’s be real. I could have walked on stage with a broken, out-of-tune cello with 2 strings missing and he would have said I was the best one there. (Get yourself a dad like that, friends!)

So it baffles me whenever I write something, and people send over positive comments and beaming praise. “You’re such a good writer!” “I LOVE reading your blog posts”  “That was the first draft? Holy crap!” 


Photo by Nick Morrison for


Have you noticed that too? You make a pie, and the crust is burnt, and the pieces fall apart on the plate into a pile of goop, but OMYGODYOUMADETHIS? That pie (and your role as the maker of said pie)  is the star of the show. But if you were a pastry chef? It would just be “oh, and Jessica made the pies, of course,” Expected. 


Taken for granted. 


I suspect that if I were to join an MFA program or a writer’s group, the comments would stop. I would be identified as a writer, maybe even at that point, as a serious writer, and the focus would shift from what I could do well (a little), to what I needed to work on (a lot!). It would be about the critique Writing at a certain level would be the expectation, and the praise would cease. 

So the writing done by a cellist is unexpected and worthy of praise and encouragement. But the writing done by a writer is just a job. 

And the art made by an amateur is unexpected and worthy of praise and encouragement, but the art made by an artist is just their job. 



Let’s take notice today, of people doing what is expected of them, and let them know that they’re good at it. That you are impressed. Whether it’s the barista crafting your morning coffee–just the way you like it each day, or your colleague sitting next to you in the pit this evening. What would happen if you looked over and said “you know, you’re a great player-I really enjoy sitting with you!”

And while you’re at it, remind yourself, that you, too, are worthy of a bit of praise. I see you there, day after day, teaching, playing, writing, whatever it is you’re doing, you’re doing it damn well.  

We know it’s not easy. It always requires the kind of thought and focus and skills you were trained in. It’s truly remarkable how consistent artists are when it comes to putting out high-quality “product.”


Let’s all celebrate each other, and the beauty in doing the expected really, really, well. 




P.S. I still have a few available spots for a 1:1 Strategy Session, I’m opening up my calendar between now and January 7th, and offering them to you at a pretty steep discount. Normally, a session like this costs $250, but I’m offering these 1-off 2023 Strategy Sessions to you this month (December) for $149. You can book one right here. (Only 2 rules: 1 session per person, and they must be completed before January 7th, 2023.)

How to Plan For the New Year in an Age of Uncertainty


All of us planners out there in the world learned an important lesson in 2020. You can make all the plans you want, but…

You know how that one ends. 

And it’s true, we only have so much control over how things will go for us. Or for the world.  

Some will tell you that the lesson here is to only plan one quarter–3 months–at a time. That way, if something comes up–a medical emergency, a death in the family, a global pandemic, and a worldwide shutdown–you only need to adjust those 3 months. Others will go so far as to say it’s not worth it to plan at all. 

I disagree with both. I think it IS possible to make a plan for the year ahead in a way that allows for the details to be adjusted. 

Back in December 2019, I was making big plans for my 2020. Did the year look ANYTHING like what I thought it would? No. Obviously not. And yet, I still achieved (and even surpassed) my goals. 


Every Single One of Them


Photo by Cristian Escobar for


The execution looked different. The details looked different. I created things that didn’t even exist in December 2019, but they were all a part of my yearly plan anyway. 

Because there is no way we can know all of the details that will come our way in a 12-month period, but we can get clear on how we want our life to move forward. 

Here’s how I do it: 

1. Start with your values

What are the big-picture things that are important to you this year? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Travel more? Perform more? Make more money? Volunteer more? 

2. Add in your long-term goals

This might look like planning a large-scale family reunion, going backpacking around Southeast Asia, winning an orchestra or an academic job, writing a book, etc.  

3. Determine your “Why” for each (tie it to #1 above)

Here’s where things get interesting: Why do you want to plan that family reunion? Is it to have a deeper connection with the various generations? To learn the stories, to develop some new traditions, or celebrate old ones? The trip to SE Asia–is that about a desire for more adventure in your life? To experience different cultures? Or to challenge yourself physically? And the jobs–is it about the love of the repertoire? Wanting the financial security (because that wasn’t looking so secure there for a while!) Or wanting to be around other, more intellectually-minded artists, to help shape the futures of the next generation? 

4. Toss in a few habits to build or break

What little habits could you incorporate this year that would help you get closer to your goals? Maybe that’s a family zoom call every month, or just checking in with some cousins by text more often. Maybe it’s doing one new and slightly adventurous thing each week, maybe it’s getting to know (like, REALLY getting to know) a new opera each week, or working on your resume every month. 

5. Create a tracking system

Whether you prefer digital or paper, find a way to keep track of your progress throughout the year. Building the mailing list for your ensemble? Do you know how many new names you’re adding each month? Track it. 

6. Have confidence in your ability to adapt

It IS true that anything can happen at any time, but if your goals are aligned with your values, then you’ll always be able to adapt to your circumstances. Goal to Run a marathon get thwarted by a broken leg? Not if the goal was tied to the value-based desire to get fitter. There are other ways to do that. Is it a pivot? Yes, but you still meet the overriding goal. 


Photo by Green Chameleon for


January is a weird time for artists and musicians. On one hand, it’s the middle of the season–we live more on an academic calendar than most people. And yet, we still feel the opportunity for a fresh start, a blank page, a brand new year that holds magic in its newness. 

It’s also a great time to start thinking about summer work. Do you want to perform? Teach? A bit of each? Or would you like to create something brand new? And what about next fall? Once everyone is scattered about over the summer months it’s hard to get things pinned down for September, but you can work on putting things into place now. As everyone is just enjoying the groove of the “2nd” half of the season, we start to dream about what comes next. 


Now’s your chance. 


I love doing strategy sessions with my clients and will be meeting with each of them this month to go through this process. This is where the magic happens. We get laser-focused on their goals, see what various timelines look like, figure out what people and things are needed, and start to get things into place. 

If you’d like to experience the power of one of these Strategy Sessions, I’m opening up my calendar between now and January 1st, and offering them to you at a pretty steep discount.

Normally, a session like this costs $250, but I’m offering these 1-off 2023 Strategy Sessions to you this month (December) for $149. 

You can book one right here. (Only 2 rules: 1 session per person, and they must be completed before January 7th, 2023.)

I have seen, over and over, the powerful transformation that happens when an artist decides to take their career (and their life) back into their own hands, instead of waiting for “others” to grant them things. They start creating opportunities for themselves that allow them to do exactly what they want to be doing artistically, bring in more money each month, and have the freedom to schedule their lives as they wish.

AND, they are improving their industries with performances, student offerings, mentorships, recording anthologies, research, you name it. 


I achieved that for myself, and I have watched as my clients achieve it for themselves, and I’d love to see you achieve it too. 


Try out the 6-step process above, or you can book a session with me and I’ll take you through it in the exact way I do with my clients. Helping you to get past the surface-level to-do list, and into the nitty-gritty of your true values & goals, what you’ll really need to get there, and how to put those things in place. This is also a great (and inexpensive) way to see how it feels to experience working with a coach in this way.





Inappropriate Clothing


I grew up just outside of Chicago, and for the first 18 years of my life, I HATED winter. So, instead of going to sunny California for college as was the plan, I turned down USC and headed to Boston instead. 

Because I am a masochist. 

So let me rephrase that. For the first 22 years of my life, I hated winter. By the time I graduated from college, I had had enough and moved to Miami. 

When after 3 years of sun and surf, I made the decision to return to Boston for work, I knew I needed to figure a few things out. 

It’s funny, the difference between Chicagoans and New Englanders. No matter where they are, Chicagoans dress like they are in the city. Sleek, fashionable boots, streamlined coats, etc. And in Boston? They could be walking into a Symphony Hall Gala, and they’ll be wearing a down parka and full-on snow boots over their black-tie attire. 

I realized I had a thing or two to learn from this hardy bunch. 


Photo by Jonny McNee for Unsplash


Here is where I stood on winter: 
  • It’s cold. I’m always so cold. There is no end to the coldness. 
  • It’s icy and falling on my bum hurts. A lot.  (all those years of training as a figure skater down the drain–I am hopeless unless I am standing on thin blades of metal)
  • It’s so dark. Dark when I wake up, dark when I am teaching. Cold and Dark. 
  • The constant battle between snow, ice, and unburying your vehicle in time to get to rehearsal is soul-destroying. 


I started to address them one by one

Cold? I remembered what my college roommate’s mom (a lifelong Mainer) said to me once: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” And it was true, my winter gear was crap. 

I needed to get myself a good hat, gloves that didn’t have holes in them, wool socks, long underwear to wear under my concert clothes, an actual winter coat, and actual, snow-be-damned boots–complete with Yak Traks to keep me from slipping and falling on the ice (again). And I bought myself one of those rubber boot holders so that I didn’t trash my floors when I came in the house. 

The Battle with the car? Gear. A better scraper, a rag to wipe the windows and mirrors, and I learned how fun it can be when the entire block came out at once after a snowstorm and we dug the entire street out. Someone would always bring out cookies, and someone else would blast some tunes.

And the Darkness? I got my cozy on. I made a list of all of the things that you got to have in winter that you couldn’t have at other times of the year–hot chocolate, soup, mulled cider, Christmas tree lights, thick stews, and tagines, and I relished it. I started to see how beautiful it was to drive around at 5:00 pm in the dark, and see the houses all lit up, get home, light a candle, plug in the tree, and settle in with a hot bowl of soup. I even started to daydream about those moments from the heat of July and August. 


Photo by Alisa Anton for Unsplash


Why am I telling you all of this? I mean, it IS mid-November, so it’s a good time to re-assess your winter preparedness plans, but I live in Bermuda now, where “winter gear” means shoes that aren’t flip flops, and putting a sweater on at night. 

The thing is, the concept of “There is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices” is a universal truth right? Whatever you are dreading, or feeling frustrated with, it’s all about these three things: 

1. Get the Right Tools in Place. 

Once I had my cute AND warm knit hat covering my ears and had waterproof boots pulled over my wool socks, I wasn’t afraid of going outside. It was fine. I felt protected. I felt like I could just get on with things. Life became less HARD again.  

What tools do you need to get in place? Do you need new strings? A new art studio? A coach? A course? A class? Do you need to get your laptop cleaned so that it runs faster? Do the things that will make life feel less hard. It is worth it! 


2. Embrace a Sense of Community

No one is in this alone. Everyone in Boston knew it was kind of a pain in the ass to constantly dig your car out of the snow every week for 3 months. But doing it together was fun. And one guy had a snowblower and would do everyone’s sidewalk while someone else helped his kids make a snowman. It was great! 

Where can you lean into your community more? Do you want to play more chamber music? Then host a freaking chamber music party at your house. Make it a potluck. Everyone brings something to eat and something to play. Feel like you’re writing in a bubble? Find a group that you can read excerpts out to, and listen to what they are working on. 


3. Look for the Beauty Around You

One can’t simultaneously be looking at pretty twinkling lights AND be grumpy and tired because it’s dark so early. It’s the dark that makes the lights so beautiful. And leaning into what the season wanted me to do: eat warm soups, relax more, curl up with blankets and a good book. Make my house smell like cloves and orange peels with a simmering pot on the stove. 

Maybe the season you’re in is “mom of little ones who need more of my time right now” or “empty nester who suddenly has the opportunity to focus on themself again” I have clients in both camps, and once they saw the beauty in those situations for what they are, their work came alive. 


Photo by Alex Padurariu for Unsplash


What is your “Winter” right now? What is something that you are dreading, frustrated with, or hesitating on, that could be made to feel so much easier if only you had these 3 things in place? 

Is there a tool you can add to your life? Is there a sense of community you can lean into to make it more fun? Is there anything beautiful or meaningful about it? 

Let us know in the comments. 



P.S. Interested in a 2nd weekly dose of creative motivation and inspiration? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” and sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List. See you soon!

The One Question to Ask When Things Go Wrong


I was talking to 2 different friends this week about 2 completely different situations: 1 had some important recording sessions that had been in the books for months get postponed for weeks due to the recording engineer getting sick, and the other had come back from having dinner with friends and was feeling bad about not being “the fun friend.” 

One situation was caused by external forces, and the other was an internal force. 

But I had the same thought about both of them: 

What if it’s a gift? 




I’m sure you’ve found yourself in that kind of moment, when all of your hard work, planning, practicing, scheduling, etc. gets thwarted by something out of your control. The venue floods, the engineer gets sick, there’s a blizzard that night, or the world shuts down because of a global pandemic. 

We’ve all been there. 

“Oh no!” is our first thought. We feel demoralized. Like all of our hard work has just been flushed down the drain. It’s just so unfair! 

Somehow, we always focus on what was lost. The plan, the date, the expected outcome. We become so attached to them that we feel the loss deeply, and wonder how to move forward. Surely, we had set out the best possible plan, and, well, now what? Any other plan will be subpar, right? 


But what if it’s a gift? 

I asked my client how this delay in her recording sessions could actually benefit her, and she was able to list 1 good thing. Then another, and another. Soon, she had a list of about 6 reasons it was better to do the sessions later and was convinced this new plan was far superior to the old one.  


Photo by Brooke Lark by


As for my “unfun” friend? I actually laughed when she said it. This friend of mine is warm, generous, funny, kind, and loyal. Even though she is far away, I know I can depend on her, and she is my go-to person for bouncing ideas off of. 

I have other friends who I would describe as our “fun friends” and they serve other purposes. I go to them when I want to get out of my world and have an adventure, laugh, and forget my worries. Not be serious. 

But I wouldn’t necessarily think to go to them with a problem I was trying to work through. 

So I posed the question to my friend:

“What if the fact that you’re not super fun is your biggest gift?”



Her serious nature makes her calm, focused, and able to read people. She excels at one-on-one conversations, making the other person feel completely heard, understood, and appreciated. 

We all need a healthy mix of all kinds of friends: fun ones, serious ones, ones who know about the hip new wine bar that just opened, and ones who know how to keep a houseplant alive. 

We can’t as individuals be all of those things to all people, all the time. 

Instead of seeing a perceived lack as a flaw, what if we saw it as a gift? 



Are you “overly sensitive”? How can the fact that you are extremely sensitive be the most wonderful thing? Can you read people better than others, and pick up on subtle nuances in their moods?

Are you a terrible cook? How might that be the most wonderful thing? Are you the go-to expert on all of the best restaurants and food trucks in town?

Even “failures” can be a gift. Knowing what doesn’t work can be just as important as knowing what does, and you probably made new friends and contacts along the way that you can continue to partner with in other ways down the line. 

So my friend, the next time circumstances SEEM less than ideal–whether because of a perceived failure, an external smash-up of your well-laid plan, or something you see as a character flaw, ask yourself that one little question: 

“How might this be the most amazing gift?” 



P.S. Interested in a 2nd weekly dose of creative motivation and inspiration? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” and sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List. See you soon!

Can Stoicism Stave Off Your Impending Burnout?


Back in my Boston freelance days––you know, the days of feeling both constantly busy and yet hopelessly broke–I experienced something that has stayed with me all these years. It’s something that I keep coming back to again and again whenever things start to feel burdensome or overwhelming. 

I had a rehearsal downtown and parked at a meter a few blocks away. I only had enough quarters to cover 2 hours of the 5+hr rehearsal day, but I was close enough to move it to the school lot next door to the venue during the break. It would be after-school hours and open for public parking by then. No problem. 

Of course, I got distracted during the break–probably chatting with friends, or off to the coffee shop–whatever it was, I forgot to move my car. 

Rehearsal ended and, walking to my car, I could see it from about a block away–that scuffed-up yellow metal boot firmly attached to my back wheel. 


Photo by Caspar Rae for


But here’s where it got strange. I didn’t react. I didn’t feel shocked (driving in the city means a fair share of parking tickets are inevitable, and working 24/7 means not remembering to pay them is also a thing) I didn’t get upset. I didn’t panic about the costs or the time it would take to deal with it all (even though I had a student arriving at my house in 30 minutes for a lesson and a recording session in Worcester the next day at noon, and then needed to teach 45-minutes NORTH of Boston after that. And it was not going to be cheap. 

I remember calmly walking past my car without even looking at it and just kept walking until I got to the T station. I rode to my neighborhood, walked to my place, went inside, and waited for my first student to arrive. 

The next morning I woke up early and walked to the tow lot (It’s not close, nor is it accessible by public transportation) I waited for them to open, paid my tickets, got my receipt, and was told the truck would be notified to come by to take the boot off the car. 

From there, I walked the 2.5 miles to my car–which happened to be parked in front of a Starbucks–grabbed a seat by the window, and did some work while I kept an eye out for the boot man. 

He rolled up about 90 minutes later, took the boot off, and drove off. I finished up what I was working on, walked to my car, got in, and drove away. I stopped back at my place to shower and grab my cello, and made it to Worcester in plenty of time. 


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash


A few privilege checks here: 
  1. I had the money to pay off the tickets and the boot fee-or I at least had a credit card that could cover it until my next check arrived. 
  2. I had access to public transportation to get me home. I wasn’t stranded in the middle of nowhere.
  3. I had a plan B–if time was getting close, I knew I could get a ride to the recording session from a colleague, and worst case scenario, I could reschedule my students. 


But that is kind of the point. 


There are moments in life that are worthy of concern, stress, and even panic. When tragedy strikes, or if you are in truly serious trouble. We know these moments when they arrive as the ones that make everything else seem inconsequential. 

What stayed with me about this experience was that I was somehow able to skip over the personal drama of “oh my god! Oh shit! What do I do? I NEED MY CAR! I have to get to Worcester tomorrow–oh crap, oh god, arrghhhh!” and I just did what I needed to do. 

I went home. Taught my lessons. Checked my bank balance and looked up where the tow lot was, what time it opened, and what the process was for getting the car freed. I set my alarm, woke up, got my car, and got on with my life. In the process, the next day, I had a nice long walk and spent the morning working from a coffee shop. 

Most importantly, I somehow avoided the self-hatred that normally would have accompanied such a moment. The “you’re such an idiot! Why didn’t you just move your car? Why can’t you remember to pay a stupid parking ticket? You’re terrible at this adulting thing!” 

Is this what Ryan Holiday means when he quotes Marcus Aurelius as the definition of Stoicism? 

“Objective judgment now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance- now, at this very moment-of all external events.”


Photo by Jodie Cook for



I’m the first to admit, I have my moments where I feel overwhelmed by what I have going on–when things end up piling on top of one another, it can feel stressful. But what I find in these moments, is that it’s the internal narrative I’m telling myself that is stressing me out. It’s the judgment I am assigning to it that makes it feel so burdensome.

It’s the obsessing over that internal narrative that is ACTUALLY taking up my time. Not the tasks themselves. 

When I have a full workday ahead of me and find that my husband hasn’t finished the laundry, or that he has left tools and clothes out everywhere and we have guests coming over later. I feel like I am going to burst if I have to add one more thing to my plate. my inner narrative starts going on about how “it ALWAYS falls to the woman to take care of the house. It’s not fair–doesn’t he realize my work is important too?” 

My inner narrative will go full-tilt, off the rails about the patriarchy if I let it. 

But actually, if I just walked to the laundry room and put the clothes into the dryer, and then came into the house and picked up the stray items, it would take me less than 5 minutes. 5 minutes that I absolutely had available to me even in my busy schedule. 

The truth? My husband is THE biggest supporter of my work, and he does a TON around the house. (Also the truth? I *occasionally* leave stuff around the house, and he has to do his fair share of picking up after me, too.) 

Life is so much easier when we take the emotional stress out of situations that don’t call for it. You go to the store for something and they are out, so you have to drive to a different store? What if we just did that? Without the drama. 

Don’t feel like practicing, but you have a lesson/rehearsal/performance tomorrow? And you’re SO TIRED? What if you just practiced? Tired and everything. Just did it. Relax and unwind afterward, but what would happen if we all started calmly doing whatever it is that needs to get done?

Then, as we learn, we can adjust. Like how I downloaded the new parking app on my phone while I was waiting for the boot to be taken off my car so that I wouldn’t get caught without enough coins for the meter again. 


Photo by Max DiCapua for



But honestly, I channel that moment often. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by a situation, I go back in time and see myself walking calmly by my car and getting on the T that chilly fall evening in Boston all those years ago. I didn’t know what it was at the time, and I had no idea what a life-saver it would be. I hope it can help you too. 



P.S. Interested in a 2nd weekly dose of creative motivation and inspiration? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” and sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List. See you soon!

An Artist’s Struggle for Balance

There’s been an interesting transformation over the last decade or so between what is now known as “Hustle Culture” (complete with those horrid rose gold embossed “Boss Babe” mugs—cringe) and today’s current “Self-Care or Bust” mentality.

Don’t get me wrong–we need to take care of ourselves, and thank god the pendulum swung away from the self-inflicted punishment of the 2010s, but I wonder if the pendulum has veered too far in the other direction.

I wrote about how I think the “Self-Care” movement is costing us in more ways than money a while ago, but today I want to view this struggle for balance through the lens of being an artist–and particularly a classical musician, for which a certain amount of discipline is (sorry!) needed in order to play at a high level.

There has been an influx of musician + wellness accounts over on social media lately–talking about everything from mental health to physical health. Exercise for musicians, Nutrition for musicians, and I am here for all of it! Because you WILL perform better at the audition if you have fueled your body the right way, you’re feeling great physically, and have built the mental stamina to push through the stress of these situations.

But I’m also seeing and hearing from people who are feeling torn between the artistic work they know they need to do, and the self-care they are being told to perform on an alarmingly constant basis. Colleagues are seeing it with their students–canceling lessons last minute because they didn’t get enough sleep the night before and they’re tired, and–wait, this one killed me–my friend had a student ask to reschedule a COLLEGE LESSON 10 minutes before it was supposed to start because they had had a late brunch and needed more time to digest “because gut health = brain health” and they didn’t feel their brain would be able to focus for at least another couple of hours. OMG.

On the one hand, students know they need to get their concerto learned for their jury/audition/competition/performance, and on the other, they’re being told they *shouldn’t* practice more than a couple of hours a day, and that they’ll get more accomplished if they sleep more (and, apparently, properly digest their eggs benedict.)

So the question remains: Where is the healthy medium between pushing ourselves past our capacity to learn and function and then burning out; vs. using every tiny thing as a sign that we need to rest and, well, being kinda lazy?


The truth is that those who show up and do the work will be the ones who find success. 
The truth is also that those who are suffering physically and/or mentally without respite will eventually fail, no matter how many hours of work they put in.



How can we manage both? How can we show up in a disciplined way, work toward our goals, and find artistic fulfillment in our achievements while ALSO taking care of our physical and mental states? Here are a few things that can help.


1. Get Honest With Yourself:

We need to get familiar with what is an excuse, and what is a problem. The problems need to be addressed as soon as possible, and the rest are just excuses. Take a moment and think about your current working/practicing environment: 

  • Are you uncomfortable when you work? Do you need a different shoulder rest? (These are gorgeous, btw) Do you sit? How is your chair height feeling?
  • Is there something else that makes you find excuses not to practice? Are you afraid of disturbing your neighbors or housemates? Do your usual evening practice hours get thwarted every time your friends want to go out? Are you feeling light-headed because you haven’t eaten all day?

In other words, take the time to make your workspace as optimal as possible so that you are comfortable, and set up to work well and undisturbed. 

Once that is in place…

2. Have an arsenal of work methods

Look, we ALL have “days”. It’s part of being human. We are not all functioning at our best 365 days a week. I have a client, in fact, who, due to some extenuating circumstances has more “bad” days than most, and she worried they were holding her back. 

Together, we came up with a list of tasks she could do even when she was feeling crappy. Some of them were longer, but super easy (like organizing a music cabinet) and some of them were shorter, but more intense (like working on a tough passage, but only for 10 minutes) 

  • Shoulder bothering you? Do some mental practice, what can you work on that doesn’t involve that shoulder? (also do your PT exercises or get a massage, or whatever you need to do to fix that, so that you can get back to your instrument.
  • Feeling emotionally drained, or physically exhausted? Do some slow work–intonation? Bowing exercises? Breathing exercises? What kind of practicing can you do that doesn’t require as much energy? Do that, and then take a nap.
  • Away from your instrument? Listen to recordings of the pieces you’re working on. Read about the composer or about that period of time in history, send an email to a former teacher or mentor, connect with someone you’d like to collaborate with, book a performance somewhere, do some short or long-term goal setting.

Make a deal with yourself that on any given day (aside from the days you have purposely set aside as non-working days) you will make SOME progress on your work. Promise yourself that every day, something about it will be better. 

3. Hold yourself accountable and look for patterns

Keep a simple log (and keep it near you) to track how much you’re actually working. We musicians tend to have a number in mind (I practice 3-4 hours a day!) but if we tracked it, we’d see that one day we stopped early, the next day we started late, the third day we spent the middle hour scrolling TikTok videos, and the 4th day we bailed completely. 

  • Are you regularly skipping your morning session because you stayed out until 1 am? Either go to bed earlier or move your practicing to a later slot in the day.
  • Are you constantly getting distracted by that charming little notification bell? PUT YOUR PHONE IN THE OTHER ROOM, or just put it on airplane mode so you can still record/use your practicing apps, etc.
  • Do you keep running out of time each day? With the best of intentions, suddenly it’s midnight and you haven’t practiced? Maybe build a habit to start first thing in the morning (see above—whenever “first thing” is for you)

Personally, I am so glad to see that things in the arts industry are changing. The increased mental health support we are seeing across the board has been long overdue and will save many careers, and more importantly, many lives. I’m glad that the overly-romanticized version of the starving artist who needs nothing but their art, and does nothing but practice their craft 24/7 has been stuffed in the trash and set on fire.

But being an artist DOES require us to show up, do the work, and be disciplined about it (and yes–that means different things for different people.) The more we as a collective can learn to combine the two. To take care of ourselves in such a way that we CAN show up and do the work, and not simply use the need for care as an excuse not to do it. 

I believe that the two are NOT mutually exclusive. That balance point is there, we just need to get honest with ourselves, put some tools, support, and accountability in place, and figure it out. 

Imagine what kinds of glorious art could happen then! 



P.S. Interested in a 2nd weekly dose of creative motivation and inspiration? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” and sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List. See you soon!

Finding Inspiration Where You Least Expect It.


A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a cozy farm in Canada for a 3-day Creativity retreat with my mastermind group. This trip had been on the books for months, and it was scheduled to coincide with the end of 3 big launches. My Creatives Leadership Academy, The start of the Bermuda Philharmonic season, and the beginning of the new chamber music program I’m starting here. I was looking forward to having the time and the brain space to dedicate to my book. 

Except that it didn’t quite work out that way (it never does, does it?)

First, over the summer, there was a delay with my new work permit, and I couldn’t legally launch the chamber music program until I had that in hand. I finally had it in hand a week before the classes were supposed to start, which put me about a month behind schedule. 

Then, there was a hurricane–a small one, but enough to shut things down for a couple of days here–everyone gets let out of work and school to prepare, then everyone is hunkered down, and THEN life goes back to normal unless you lose power…which we did. Right in the middle of my online workshop. 

And then Queen Elizabeth II passed away, which meant that there was another day off on the day of her funeral. Bermudians take their holidays VERY seriously–Zero work gets done. They all have a DAY OFF. No one replies to your emails. 

And then Hurricane Fiona hit, and she was going to be bad, so more time off to prepare, a day of weathering the storm, and then 5 days without power, internet, or running water. 


Photo by Elisa Ventur for


And that’s where I found myself on September 26th. The day before I left for my trip. I still had about 10 people waiting to talk to me about CLA, the cat-herding of putting chamber groups together was still in progress, and I was still desperately trying to hunt down contact information for some of the potential Philharmonic players. 

Far from having all of my boxes checked and tied up with string, it had become, quite possibly, the ABSOLUTE WORST time to be leaving town and locking myself away without access to my email and phone for several days. 

But writing my book is important to me, and I had stalled out on it–the format and outline were eluding me, and I was eager to move through that block. This retreat itself was important to me too. It’s not like I could simply put it off until I was ready. It was happening that week. With or without me.


I decided to trust that things would, in fact, all work out one way or another, and off I went. 


Photo by Mark Duffel for



On the drive up, I listened to an audiobook that I found so inspiring, I listened to it again as soon as it finished. I was pumped to spend days at this farm with other brilliant creatives, sinking into my book-writing goals, and having time and space to work. 


The reality was that I spent very little time working on my book. Like, maybe 90 minutes total.  On Days 1 and 2 there were a lot of amazing Farm-to-Table (or would it be Table-at-a-Farm?) meals, and in between those meals, there were group sessions, writing prompts, a lot of sharing, and a lot of time spent riding on the hotel shuttle bus and bonding with the rest of the cohort. 

I went to bed feeling conflicted. It had been a great day, but I also wondered if I had made a very big (and very expensive and time-consuming) mistake. 

Day 3’s schedule consisted of various “surprise sessions.” The first thing we did was go for a long walk around the property, which was gorgeous. I was itching to work, but along the way, I had some beautiful conversations with people. 

Then came surprise #2:

The door opened, and we were face to face with a fiddler doing his thing, beckoning us to follow him to another barn, where the rest of the musicians were set up. Square dancing? Are you KIDDING ME? I had only 3 rules of adulthood: 1) I didn’t date other cellists, 2) I didn’t go bowling, and 3) I didn’t square dance. But I didn’t want to be THAT person, so I went along with it. Was it fun? Yeah, kinda. But that nagging feeling of “are you seriously neglecting your responsibilities to SQUARE DANCE?” was hard to shake. 

The rest of the day and evening went along the same lines. There was some crafting, some food stalls, some haunted hay-rides, and, of course, it wouldn’t be a creativity retreat without a few chainsaw-wielding zombies, right? 


Photo by Aneta Pawlik for


But something happened in the afternoon of that 3rd day. We had a few hours to just chill. Either continue to work on our crafting project, go back to the hotel to rest, or wander around on our own. I elected to stay, and had brought my laptop and “work” things with me on purpose. I found a picnic table in a sunny spot and logged into my email accounts. Bracing myself for mass carnage and a gazillion fires that needed to be put out, there were approximately 5 emails. 

One from someone confirming their enrollment in CLA, one from a mom submitting her child’s availability for chamber music, and a few other non-urgent things. 

Everything was fine. The world didn’t blow up in my absence. 

And then? I shut my laptop and opened up my writing notebook and I started to write. 

And write. 

And write. 

And a better format for my book suddenly became so clear. 

And I started writing a basic outline to match. 

And I wrote. 

And wrote. 

And it was different. It was my voice but changed in a way. More open. More…something. I don’t know, really, but I think it was the…square dancing? 


Here are a few takeaways: 


1 Somehow, by doing activities that are so far out from my everyday experience, I got my brain out of its everyday thought patterns. It’s as if the square dancing shook things up, and the arts & crafts put them back in a different order. 


2. The act of sharing my thoughts, goals, and plans out loud to the group solidified them in an important way. Several of the things that came out of my mouth shocked me. They sounded like someone else’s voice, but my gut, my intuition, and my soul claimed them as my truth in a very profound way. 


3. The point is that we were ALL out of our comfort zones. I can pretty much guarantee these NYC creatives are not seasoned line dancers! The activities, meals, walks, shuttle bus rides, and session shares bonded us all and allowed us to get to know each other in a deeper and more meaningful way. Learning each other’s strengths and needs, desires, and fears, we could exchange resources, names, tips–whatever might be helpful. It was the creative equivalent of “Hey, I’m new in town, and I need the name of a great plumber” only insert “literary agent”, “producer”, or “amazing video editor.”  


Photo by Tegan Mierle for


By getting outside of our usual routines, and by asking out loud for what we need, we can reach previously closed-off areas of our minds. Like the way you are overcome with new ideas while you’re soaking up the sun on a beach vacation, or the solution to a problem comes to you while you’re on a hike, or how you feel inspired and invigorated after meeting an interesting new-to-you person at a dinner party. 


How can you step out of your usual routine in small, medium, or big ways this week? 


Can you step into a new store? Walk the dog in a new park? Rearrange the bedroom furniture? Even taking a different route to work can yield interesting new thoughts and ideas. 

On the homefront, all is well. The chamber groups have started up, the Philharmonic had its first rehearsal last week, and CLA is set to start up next week with the most spectacular humans. Who knew that taking myself out of it, and surrounding myself with nature and these incredibly talented and accomplished creative humans, getting chased by mutant zombie pig-people with hatchets and chainsaws would be just the inspiration I needed to make it all happen? 



P.S. This is your last week to get in on the amazing Creatives Leadership Academy. This 9-month group coaching/mastermind group won’t launch again until NEXT fall, so don’t miss your chance! You can schedule a quick and painless (I swear! lol) call with me by clicking THIS LINK, and we can discuss whether this is the right kind of program for you. More information about the program itself can be found HERE

Why It’s So Hard for Artists to Believe in Themselves

I can remember it so clearly. It was a gorgeous spring day—the kind you look forward to for months when you’re living in New England. The kind that puts everyone in a good mood.

And I was in a great mood for other reasons too. My teacher had been out of town performing for weeks, and I had worked my butt off practicing in his absence. I wanted to impress him at my lesson that day, and I had never been so proud of my playing. I had made breakthroughs in so many ways, incorporating many of the things we had been talking about in previous lessons. Having that large chunk of time to let things settle had been a gift, and I was so ready.

He opened the door with his huge signature grin, happy to see me, and yep—in a great mood. Phew! This was going to go well.

Except that it didn’t. It quickly spiraled downward and the smile drained from his exasperated face. Nope. Not right. Nope– poor phrasing choices. The sound isn’t big enough, or small enough. Or “Enough” enough. Didn’t I practice AT ALL while he was away?




He wasn’t unkind. He wasn’t being a monster. He was trying to help me, and he did. But from that moment, it became hard for me to trust that what I thought was good, truly was. Because one person could say it wasn’t, and that would be that.

From what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one in the arts who has had an experience like this. Whether it was a private lesson teacher, an art teacher, a director, an editor, or a critic, as artists, we come to the table with all of our vulnerabilities laid right out there.

It’s so incredibly brave what we do.

And I get why it becomes really difficult to trust our own ideas. Whether it’s about our work, or about our visions for a better future. Our entire training was based upon getting the approval of someone else. Being anointed as


I’ll admit, one’s confidence is boosted tremendously when a chorus of people tell you that what you’re doing is good. It was a hell of a lot easier for me to launch the Creatives Leadership Academy after seeing the successes my clients have had while working with me, and the fact that they keep coming back for more, but these days I’ve learned to trust the process, rather than shrink away from my ideas out of fear they’ll be laughed at.



I left the freelance world to pursue playing more of the solo repertoire that made my heart sing–blocking out the horrible and nasty things my brain was trying to convince me people would be saying about me.

I started an online music festival at the beginning of the pandemic even though people actually DID try to tell me it was a dumb idea. (Narrator: It was NOT, in fact, a dumb idea after all).

But here’s the thing—it was a narrow (and ironic) escape.

You see, I had the festival all planned out on paper, and I had my list of heavy-hitter cellists I wanted to invite all ready. Literally shaking, I sent the first email to my old teacher—the one from the story above—and told myself that if HE thought it was dumb, I would reconsider.

Two things happened: :

  • He took forever to reply, and I was on a tight deadline, so I and went ahead and emailed everyone else anyway.
  • He thought it was “f-ing brilliant”

That experience showed me the difference between the two mindsets. Part of me waiting on the approval of “the master” and the other part of me trusting my instincts and leaning into my support network. My coaching group at the time was an important part of that process. Without offering judgment of “good” or “bad,” they simply said “trust yourself and keep going. Don’t give up!” And that was exactly what I needed to hear.

It’s what we ALL need to hear.

Because our work might not be perfect. In fact, it probably isn’t. There’s always something that could be improved. But if we allow our fear of possible judgment to get in the way, we’ll never launch important projects. We’ll never start initiatives. We’ll stop asking “what if we did it a different way?”

So in case you happen to need to hear it today, I offer you this:

Trust Yourself. And Keep Going.

And if you’d like some help along the way, if you’d like to be part of an incredible group of encouraging and supportive creatives like yourself, all showing up and stepping up to make the arts world a better place, there are still spots available in Creatives Leadership Academy,  my new group program. I’d love to chat with you about how we can help you achieve your dreams faster and with fewer obstacles, less grit, and a hell of a lot more fun. You can do that HERE.




What it Really Takes to “Up-Level” Your Career

As I’ve been promoting my upcoming masterclass (Choosing the Legacy Path: How to Up-level Your Career and Make a Greater Impact) this week, I’ve been getting a lot of great questions via emails, DM’s, and social media comments. Two, in particular, popped up a few times, and I thought they were the kind of questions that would be best answered right here. I bet quite a few of you are wondering the same things. 

1) Isn’t one’s Legacy something that happens after the fact? How can we have any control over how people remember us–or even if they will or not?

2) Do we actually have any say in what level work we do? I can’t just call up the New York Phil and tell them I’d like to “up-level” to soloist. 

Raise your hand if you’ve had similar thoughts. Yeah…thought so.



So here we go: 

• Legacy: “A gift by will, especially of money or other personal property” 


In its most basic definition, a Legacy is a gift we leave to the next generation. As artists, that legacy can be The Physical Archive of our work–recordings, videos, compositions, films, etc. 

It could be A Philosophical Paradigm Shift–like a new style of pedagogy, a new and unique take on how things are done in your industry. 

Or it could be A Way of Being. Yannick Nezet-Seguin is leaving many legacies as a conductor, but one important one is that of a Music Director of a Major Symphony treating the players as musical equals–always having their backs, socializing with them, befriending them, and breaking down that concrete barrier between Maestro and Orchestra. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him too. The difference in rehearsal vibe is palpable. 



And who is in charge of whether there is a Physical Archive of your work? You are. As a writer, you just need to hit publish on a blog or self-publish a book (or go the traditional publisher route if you want!) Musicians? Make a CD! Dancers, hire a videographer. 

Getting that archive in front of the eyes of millions requires a certain strategy (that’s where career coaches come in) but in terms of there being a physical archive, that is all in your capable hands. 

The Paradigm Shift is also within your control. How do you do things? Do you think they should be done differently? Have you tried it? If you’ve tried it and had success with it, have you talked about, written about, or otherwise sung about it from the highest rooftops about why others should try it too? 

Because one person doing something in a weird/new/unique way is just quirky. But if that person starts to influence others to try it, and they also have success with it, and it starts to spread? That’s a legacy.

When it comes to A Way of Being, it simply goes without saying that it’s 100% on you. What kind of colleague are you? What kind of colleague do you want to be? Do you want to be the Diva that everyone is in awe of? Do you want to be “The Nicest Guy in the Room”? Elegant? Dingy? The graffiti artist who always shows up in a suit? The violin soloist who walks out on stage in ripped denim? Are you an inspiring mentor, like Jesse Norman? Or are you selfish, neurotic and paranoid–the tortured artist causing everyone around you to feel like they’re walking on eggshells? 

Because both will leave a legacy for it. 

So to answer the original question? Yes–your legacy is how others will remember you. And while you can’t control the actions, thoughts, or memories of other people, you can definitely lead them in the right direction. 


Photo by Pooja Chudhary for Unsplash


2. Up-Leveling: to thrive, advance, expand, beef up, or transform.


I have written before about how the way we are brought up as young artists doesn’t always serve us well as professionals. In fact, one of the habits in my “10 Habits of Successful Artists Workbook I offer (it’s free–grab it here if you want to check it out) centers around this principle. 

Because as young musicians, artists, dancers, and actors, everything hinges on the praise of our teachers and mentors. It’s also more of a zero-sum game in that there might be only one winner for the art show, or only 10 people get picked for the top dance group. Your work could be just as good as theirs, but the judges have to choose. 

As adults, that’s not always the case. Now I understand perfectly, that an actor still has to audition and be chosen for a role, an orchestral musician has to win the job, and the composer has to be awarded the fellowship. But there are many cases where artists are either limiting their options or aren’t putting the right things in place to achieve what they want. 

Are you a freelance musician who wants to uplevel to a job in a major orchestra? I mean, I could go on and on about figuring out what, exactly, it is you’re after and then see how else you could get it. Maybe what you’d really love is to start your own large ensemble (I promise you, you could do that.)  But if the New York Phil is really what you want, have you invested in the right kind of work? I could name 6 brilliant coaches who specialize in helping people win auditions. They all have their own style and specialty and they get serious results for their clients. 

Do you want to show your art in a particular museum? Watch as your film debuts at a more prestigious film festival? Have you leveraged your network? Have you researched what the committee is looking for? Have you created a good media buzz around you and your work to make having you there more advantageous for them? I’m not saying this is all easy work, but the difficulty is mostly in the mindset than the actual tasks. 



In working with my clients, whether 1:1 or in a group program, these are probably the two biggest areas we focus on, and we answer the following questions:

  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave
  • What is your dream work/life scenario? 
  • Are there other options, opportunities, or possibilities that you’re not seeing yet? 
  • What tools and skills do you need to achieve these goals? 
  • What is your strategy for this?  
  • What kind of goalposts should you put along the way? 


There are many of you out there who love what you do, love the balance you have between your work and your life, and want for nothing to change. 

I think that is fantastic, and I’m genuinely happy for you.  

But there are also a lot of artists out there who finished school and started working as a professional (isn’t it so exciting to get those first checks for doing what you did for free the first 15 years of your life?) and you just kept going. 

For a lot of you, the pandemic gave you the chance to take a moment and assess where you were, what you were doing, and what you really WANTED to be doing, and found that those things did not align. 

You swore to yourself that when the world opened up again, things were going to be different. 

You weren’t going to take the lame gig that didn’t pay. You weren’t going to put up with that a-hole director anymore. You weren’t going to give your art away for peanuts. 

This season is the first in 3 years that marks a return to normalcy. The world is open again. 

This is your chance to make sure it’s different. 


If you’d like to take a deeper dive into these questions and ideas, I invite you to come to this week’s workshop. Either Wednesday, 9/7 at 9:00am ET, Thursday, 9/8 @ 7:30 ET, or Saturday, 9/10 @ 3:00pm ET. (all will be between 75-90 minutes depending on questions) 

We’ll be doing a few exercises, talking through different strategies, and I’ll tell you the 3 key areas to focus on this year as you move through this transformative year. 

And it’s FREE. Consider it a “back to school” gift. Because it’s all about leaving nice gifts. 

Register for whichever day works best for you. I’ll send you the link to the replay as well as a nifty pdf to help you start that leveling up/legacy leaving work, so even if you can’t make any of the sessions live, register anyway, and you’ll still get the goods. But, if you CAN show up live, your name will be entered into a drawing to win one of my “can’t live without” tools: An Ink & Volt planner. I’ll be giving away 1 for each session!




P.S. I have only two open 1:1 spots left for a mid-September or October start. Working with me 1:1 also includes a weekly “study hall” session that is open to all of my amazing clients. It’s a great place to meet your fellow artist-travelers, get some work done, ask questions, get feedback, and do a little organic networking. If you’re interested in what this kind of coaching support looks like, and how it might help you reach your goals this year, go ahead and book a free and casual discovery call. We’ll chat for about 30 minutes and see if it’s mutually a good fit.

Which Path Are You On?


Of all of the fun, awesome, “pinch me moment” kind of things I have done in my career–exotic travel, fancy-pants concert halls, getting to meet and hang out with top performers, composers, and conductors, running chamber music programs, and having recordings I was a part of win Grammys–the thing I am most proud of is the contribution I have made to the online music teaching spaces. 

It was terrifying to put myself out there so visibly (and at such a vulnerable time when tensions were HIGH due to Covid). I was putting my professional reputation at stake when I launched the first completely online international festival (The Virtual Summer Cello Festival) and then I created Bridge–an online cello studio for advanced students. 

Until then, online learning was for amateurs and people who were just dabbling. They didn’t want to commit to ‘actual lessons” so they bought a cheap and simple pre-recorded online course that would teach beginners how to be Horowitz in 6 months. 

Due to the pandemic, online programs became the only way forward. Dozens of colleagues asked me to help them get set up to teach their lessons online, and the texts they would send after they successfully got through their very first zoom lesson made me so happy. I felt like I was using my actual skills and experience to help my industry cope a little bit better. 

That little hint of “well, I did that thing and went alright” is what gave me the confidence to go bigger with the festival, and then to go long-term, with Bridge. 



Even though life has now returned us all to IRL events, students are still loving the options that online lessons afford them. I have a former student in London who still plays for me over zoom before big auditions or competitions, and I have students in Spain, South Africa, Venezuela, Indonesia, and all over the US in my Bridge Online Cello Studio. 

They love that they get to know each other in this way too. 

And teachers like it as well. Even my colleagues who have local, in-person studios are thrilled at the ease of having an online lesson if they have to be out of town for a gig, or if one of them isn’t feeling 100%, or if “car is in the shop” and the student can’t get to their lesson. The teachers are needing to reschedule fewer lessons, the students are missing fewer lessons, and everyone is thriving. 

(6 years ago, when I was teaching my students over skype whenever I was out of town, those same colleagues thought I was CRAZY and wondered how that would ever work! Oh, I laugh…)

But I’m not saying all of this to brag. My point of all of this is to tell you: 


It was the thing that felt SO hard, SO vulnerable, and SO risky that led to my biggest and most fulfilling contribution. 


In getting over my own fears, in answering the “what will people think?” question with “Who cares?” in pushing past the hesitation to hit “send” on that first VSCF announcement email (and I can thank my coach for the needed encouragement at that moment!) I was allowing myself to contribute something unique. 

At a time when we were all standing around asking what the hell we were supposed to do as artists when the world was shutting down, I chose to raise my hand and say (meekly at first, and then a bit louder)


“Um…I have an idea…” 


Photo by Daniel Hooper for Unsplash


I bet you have an idea or two yourself. And I bet you’ve had several over the years. And I would also bet that, like me, you have felt a bit too terrified to raise your hand, put your professional reputation on the line and speak up. 

But what if you did? What if you decided to stop playing it safe, stop selling yourself short, and stop playing small? 

What if you found the inspiration, the confidence, and the tools to allow your unique voice to be heard? To do something small, or biggish, or maybe even enormous that would have ripple effects on your industry for years to come. 

What if, by taking a small risk, you ended up making a major contribution to your colleagues and to future generations? What if you ended up leaving an important artistic legacy? 



If you’re reading this post in real(ish) time–Late August/Early September of 2022, I invite you to join me for a free masterclass that I’m doing on September 7th, 8th, and 10th that will address how to do this. 

It’s called “Choosing the Legacy Path” and it’s part of the other contribution I aim to make in my little corner of the world: Helping other artists and creatives do what I did–raise their hand, take a risk, and allow their voice to be heard. 

It’s for Musicians, Dancers, Visual Artists, Actors….Creatives of ALL colors and fashions. Because can you even imagine what this world would look like if all of the smart, talented creative people out there stopped waiting to be called on to lead the way, and just stood up? 


What’s your legacy going to be? What will your contribution look like? 


Come to the Masterclass and we can figure it out together. It’s free, and it might just be one of the most important hours of your career

Wednesday, September 7th at 9:00 am ET 

Thursday, September 8th at 7:30 pm ET

Saturday, September 10th at 3:00 pm ET




P.S. Interested in a 2nd weekly dose of creative motivation and inspiration? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” and sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List