Summer Camps Are Filling Up!!

IMG_20150516_155805 Summer is beginning and my heart is overflowing…because that’s exactly what my camps are doing! SO many kiddos signed up to write songs and dig into their authentic creative selves and I can’t wait. I spent the morning wrestling with my new microphones and recording software but I believe I’ve beat them into submission and all will go smoothly during our camp sessions. I imagine these songs like butterflies that are all resting in cocoons till the young songwriters converge and softly (or loudly) coax them out of their shells and into our lives. If you know me, then you might be smiling to yourself as that’s a bit more flowery than is usually my style but seriously. It’s going to be an incredible summer.

So here’s the scoop..  The camp in Austin, TX June 1-4 is FULL.

Twisp, WA is FULL but I hate saying no so if you register soon I’ll probably say yes. It’s being held June 15-19  1-4pm at The Methow Community School. The fee is $155

June 29 – July 3rd – Gabriel’s Art Kids in Bellingham, WA still has 2 spots left!! 9am- 12pm for five days with a CD release concert at The Honeymoon. $135

July 17 – 19th  ORCAS ISLAND!!!! A very gracious person offered their beautiful cottage for us to work out of. Lots of space as this one was just scheduled. Let’s do this!!

For all of you who have signed up… here is some pre-camp homework:)

  1.  Get a journal that you LOVE and decorate the cover with whatever art supplies inspire you most.
  2. Write or draw in it for at least ten minutes every morning about any topic that comes to mind.
  3. Have an impromptu dance party alone or with a close friend at least once this week.
  4. Look in the mirror every day and notice how amazing you are.

P.S. A few weeks ago I had a booth and showcase at The Mini Makers Faire in Austin, TX and met so many creative kids. We wrote a boatload of songs and had a blast. Here’s some pictures!!

Creativity Inspires Leadership


The beautiful thing about my songwriting  workshops is that they take on a life of their own. I barely have to plan because only the slightest nudge is needed for young people to open their hearts and express what is inside. Young Songwriter Rio who is 8 years old has not only written several songs over the past few weeks but has also become a mentor and coach to others who are more introverted. She helps adjust microphones, set up percussion, design posters and offer support and encouragement to those who are recording vocal tracks which requires great vulnerability and courage. Kids like Rio make my job less of a leader and more of an assistant.

Here is what Rio’s mother has to say about her daughter’s experience in the Young Songwriting Workshops. I’m blessed and grateful to receive these words..

“We are so pleased with the work that Havilah has done with our daughter during their songwriting workshops.  Havilah has a great gift and real talent for helping kids express their creativity through songwriting, singing & music.  I have seen my daughter gain confidence and a new love of music while working with Havilah. When they are making music together the flow is incredible to see.  I highly recommend Havilah’s class!”

Letting go and coming alive

IMG_20140218_120440“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Four weeks ago I packed everything I could fit into a 1996 Kia Sportage and left my life in Austin, TX for a valley in the North Cascade mountain range in Washington State. It was a tough decision but in the end there really wasn’t a question. There aren’t many things in this life that I feel sure about. What I am sure of is that singing and writing songs is as much a part of me as breathing. I am sure that being around kids strengthens my soul enough to weather most confrontations I have with adult egos including my own. I am sure that it will always be extremely difficult for me to be anything other than myself. I am sure that if I don’t spend the majority of my time doing something that I enjoy and that I find exciting and purposeful, that I will slowly die.

I made the choice that served every desire (besides money) my heart was longing for. More time singing, more time being creative with kids, more fresh air, less time in traffic, less time recuperating from a job that would deplete my creative energy rather than strengthen it, I got in the car and drove forty hours through the desert and the sunset colored hills of California and through the wet forests of southern Oregon back to my heart so I could BE alive instead of TRYING to be alive. Life has a way of making us think that there is always something more or different that we could be if only we tried harder. I find more and more that by accepting who I am in this moment and embracing it wholly brings me the closest to realizing my full potential.

As many others, I have often made the mistake of comparing my life to other’s, scrutinizing my choices and wondering why “normal” things like family, a steady job and home have never happened. I’m eternally grateful to whatever higher consciousness has helped me to see that our most precious belonging, our greatest treasure is our story. With its beauty and intrigue, heartbreak and strange twists and turns….this what we have to share with each other. When we find a way to share our selves and our most authentic story with the world, whether its through writing, singing, teaching, building a house or bombing down a snowy mountain..this is when we truly come alive and are serving the greater good of humanity.

I have a lot to say these days so stay tuned. I hope to take advantage of these chilly nights and early mornings by writing my story and sharing it with you.

The Adjacent Possible..

“..the adjacent possible defines all those molecular reactions that were directly achievable in the primordial soup. Sunflowers and mosquitoes and brains exist outside that circle of possibility. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”

Johnson, Steven (2010-10-05). Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (p. 31). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Most people I know are building something. Or thinking of a way to build something. Or wondering what they should build. Or wondering what they would build if they had the right skills and talent. Or inspiration. There is an urge in all human beings to make stuff. Whether it is a painting, a relationship, a book, a presidential campaign or a new way to arrange living room furniture, everyone is making something. Or desires to make something if only they had the courage or the skills they assume they lack. In many instances, we yearn to take this to another level, and to make something that no one else has ever made. To make something that others will find useful. To make something that will revolutionize the way of making that thing from this point forward.

We have more than enough materials to make stuff with. We have metal, sun, oxygen, innate talents, education, books, instruments, technology, and on and on … Yet there is a mystery in how to integrate a singular vision with the infinite amount of materials and genres available and to produce something utterly new. Something that holds meaning and allows us to leave an indelible mark on the world long after our inspiration, and eventually our bodies, leave this plane of existence. It is the mystery that forces us to choose between our intuition and our fear and doubt; the trusty followers of those first sparks of inspiration. In order to carry out an idea from the inward to the outward, vulnerability is necessary. A blind step into the unknown must be taken with faith that the inner vision will take form. A hundred places at once, red paint hits canvas, chisels shape wood, fingers hit guitar strings, lips crush against each other and somehow there is a different result every time.

Johnson’s “adjacent possible” speaks to the infinite possibilities that reside outside of the finite amount of energy and resources available at any given moment. There is a mysterious element to creativity, a secret passageway that allows the creation of something new from material that has been used over and over from the beginning of time. I believe that by leaning into the mystery, into the fear, and ultimately the rush a new song, a new love, a new idea brings, we have the ability to discover an authentic  expression of the human experience through creation. In other words, there is never an end to what is possible. And there are few words to explain why this is so, and yet it is.

Where does your “adjacent possible” reside? Just outside of your comfort zone. Go there. Image

The Freedom of Chaos

Yesterday  I got back from an amazing week at Morningstar Farm on Orcas Island where I worked with my good friend Caryn Simmons producing her Song and Dance Camp. Four days with fifteen kids  learning songs, choreographing , designing costumes, exploring the farm, swimming in the pond and performing for parents in a big old barn. As I begin designing a rough outline of what a curriculum based on Darden Smith’s Be An Artist Program might look like, I use the opportunity to observe kids engaging in an activity that is challenging, fun and creative. I keep in mind all that I have been reading about patterns of innovation and characteristics of creativity and am delighted to observe these themes at work. Caryn’s management and organizational style is very different from mine, mostly because of the difference in environment and genres. Hers being a fun summer music camp and mine being a failing public middle school in inner-city Austin. For the sake of research, I imagine superimposing her atmosphere and style into one of my past classrooms. There are costumes, hat stands, sheet music and kids strewn about. The schedule is loose and activities run the gamut from theater games to vocal exercises, group rehearsal, swimming and snack time without much pre planning. The day before the big show many lyrics have yet to be memorized, dance moves to be worked out and costumes to be decided upon. However, the kids have retained a positive, fun attitude all week and seem unconcerned with whether or not they will be able to pull off eleven songs and four costume changes without disentagrating into chaos. I am impressed that Caryn allows the kids to make decisions about what is working and what isn’t and what would be the best use of time.  An extended swimming sessions releases the pent up energy of a two hour rehearsal of the song “Mambo Italiano” and when the kids return for small group and solo rehearsals, they are refreshed, calm and ready to focus. There are absolutely no behavioral issues. One of the younger children has cerebral palsy and she is treated with utmost respect and affection by most of the other kids. So this chaos is actually really beautiful and seems to allow the kids just enough freedom to enjoy themselves with enough challenging activities to keep them busy and engaged. The performance goes off without a hitch, not a single line is dropped and the young girl with cerebral palsy performs a song she has co-written with me center stage, her voice full and confident as can be.

The sense of ownership and co-creation that the kids are allowed in this environment is what I believe makes it so successful. As well, the fluidity and in some ways chaotic nature of the routine and environment also lends itself to the kids tapping into their own abilities to be creative without being stifled by rigidity and silence. Ideas are passed between themselves and the adult facilitator which is what Caryn acts as more than a teacher. In terms of what the kids gain from the experience is huge. Self-esteem, problem-solving, and cooperative learning are all skills that are highly sharpened and put to the test every day. Engaging in five or six different activities a day including music, dance, songwriting, swimming and nature exploration makes this a highly educational experience as well.

On the early morning ferry back to Anacortes Saturday morning, I reflect on how freedom and chaos play a role in my own creative projects. Not having a 9-5 job this past year makes it seem as though I’ve had so much free time and I worry that   I’ve been wasteful. I make mental list of all I have accomplished and the list is longer than I expected. I began the year with a loose idea of the areas I wanted to explore and the things I wanted to accomplish. I’ve accomplished this and more and had more fun than I’ve had in over a decade. So thank you little-bit-o-chaos, for giving my mind and the heart the space to find what they are seeking, and gain even more along the way.

The Nature of Creativity

The more I observe the creative process at work the more I am delighted and amazed. On the surface, inspiration and moments of revelation can seem random and unpredictable but with a closer look it becomes more obvious to me that there are complex patterns and relationships between ideas, environments and the condition of the human mind and body which play a huge role in the ability of intentions to be transformed into reality. For the last three years I’ve been devouring books on the subject and seeking out mentors and teachers who seem to have cracked the code and have adapted their lifestyle to fit the constructs of their own intuitions rather than the dictations of social norms and compartmentalized work situations. To see the nature of creativity at play one needs only to observe a garden, a square yard of forest, a trapeze artist or writer lost in their work, a trail of ants hauling food and building materials to their village. All of these situations carry similar attributes and themes. Fluidity, motion, a detachment from ego, a fierce connection to the present moment and constant interaction with the elements and other beings we share our environments with. As human beings, it is my strong belief that we can allow these patterns of creativity  to re-surface in our lives by allowing ourselves to loosen our grip on outward constructs that seem to provide security, by energizing and opening our hearts,minds and bodies to the notion that there lies an abundance of love, strength and possibilities if only we invite them in, by infusing our interactions with ourselves and others with compassion and empathy. As a songwriter and teacher, I feel that my whole life has been leading up to this moment where I am able to identify these patterns and share them with others. I expect my journey to be lifelong and I am overjoyed at the prospect of discovering other people and environments who are as passionate about creation as I am. My workshops and classes give me the opportunity to exchange what I am learning with others. I hope you will join me for at least a portion of my creative adventures. Namaste..