Blog: The Truth About … Home Sweet Home

Blog: The Truth About … Home Sweet Home

November 1, 2013

Wow … I’ve realized something big, I think.

My personal life just got dragged through the gutter. Not my family … everything is okay there, but I just sold a house. A BIG house. An amazing work of art house. A beloved place of many years filled with love, laughter, friends and family. Big celebrations occurred there, dozens and dozens of concerts in the home and hundreds of ensemble rehearsals and private lessons, not to mention the music that was birthed and created there. Music reverberates throughout this house, the walls vibrate, the air vibrates and the neighbors are probably vibrating too! Every conceivable instrument has been played in this house. Besides all sizes of harps, my husband’s Baldwin Concert grand piano, cellos, violas, violins, lot’s and lot’s of flutes, basses, drums, all woodwinds, and even shakuhachi, bandoneon, vibraphone, all kinds of drums and percussion instruments and even singing bowls, bells, trombones, saxophones, French horns and trumpets. Then of course I can’t leave out the singers … soprano, alto, tenor and bass, singing art songs, classical and baroque, opera, pop and jazz. I mean, really, this house is so connected to the universe it’s floating!

So imagine, when I go to sell it, people come out of the atmosphere all wanting a piece of it somehow. We had many offers, too many signed purchase agreements, and much bad advice. Mean advice. So there was suddenly dis-chord, arguments and harsh words about us, our home and even about who we were as people. It got ugly. Not the pleasant harmony of music making that had been here for 22 years. How gut wrenching, disappointing and extremely upsetting.

Still, in the middle of all of that I tried to maintain two things, my personal practice of both harp and yoga, and my personal relationship with my husband. Both crucial when going through such angst-ridden days. Everyday, we asked ourselves, why. What happened, what did we do wrong? I still am not sure, but one lesson learned is a lesson of the heart. We did not follow our hearts, we did not follow what we felt to be our truth. We allowed ourselves to be swayed and talked into things by others, that at a gut level we knew weren’t right. We weren’t sure of ourselves, our path and so thought what we were doing was the correct thing, only to find out in almost every case, it was wrong. What we had felt, we did not follow.

But this is hard to do when emotions are high and one has attachments. Exactly the thing yoga tells us to avoid. So the message of the heart is lost and difficult to hear. The vibrations are distant and sometimes not there at all. But practicing and teaching everyday, both harp and yoga kept me on track. Having to dig deep to continue to teach daily while all around was chaos allowed me to find the ultimate message of the heart. When all else falls away, there is only one message, one truth. It is me … I am the truth. It resides within me and I can access it through experience and seeking. Life itself is the practice. I actually did nothing wrong in this situation … it was still me doing the best that I knew how and who knows, without the many teachings of yoga and the depth of my musical practice during this time, it might have been a lot worse.

And the best part of all of this … ?

I get to walk away from all the trappings a big beautiful home brings with it … the attachments of things, of owning stuff, and maintaining stuff … as I move to a small apartment in another beautiful neighborhood with nature all around me.

And the real truth? The big realization? It’s that the music goes with me, is still in me and will vibrate as me forever …

Yoga Class Schedule

Yoga Class Schedule

Basic Yoga Class: Tuesdays, 7:45–8:45 p.m.

Yoga Planet
3062 Walton Blvd.
Rochester Hills, MI 48309

I am now on the teaching staff of Yoga Planet in Rochester Hills. More Information:

Slow Flow 2: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:30 a.m.
Ashtanga Yoga: Fridays, 7:30 a.m.
Fit For Life Yoga: Fridays, 9:00–10:15 a.m.

Oakland University Recreation Center
2200 N. Squirrel Road
Rochester, MI 48309

I teach this schedule at the Oakland University Recreation Center which is open to the greater community. More Information:

Blog: The Creative Harp Collective International is coming to Tobermory July 16th–20th

Blog: The Creative Harp Collective International is coming to Tobermory July 16th–20th

June 2013

The Creative Harp Collective International 2013 (CHCI) comes to Tobermory, Ontario, Canada July 16th–20th. Last year, it started. This year it begins its evolution.

After an amazing inaugural year in 2012, my co-founder Anita Leshied and myself are so excited to be planning another fantastic Collective. We’ve got one under our belts and so are expanding classes and events that explore, even more deeply, our relationships to our music making, our harps—the medium of creativity, our abilities to heal each other and our selves. We are deepening our commitment to bring a truly musically unique experience to all ages and levels.

Special Guest Performers

Our special guest performers this year will kick off the grand opening of the Creative Harp Collective InternationalThe Orchid Trail Quartet, Michael Grace, bass; Meryl Gillmore, flute; Kerstin Allvin, harp; and Steve Wood, drums are a fantastic musical combination of varying styles. We begin the CHCI with a aural journey of jazz, classical, blues, improvisation … you name it! The concert is Tuesday at 7:30 pm at the Tobermory United Church, our venue for all events.

Creative Harp Collective International Activities

We’ve added another day to the activities of the Creative Harp Collective International so there is now more time for practice, private lessons and group explorations. It’s here that we talk and learn about technique and how the body can relax and express itself. Two yoga class offerings a day allow for a choice of energetic practice and/or restorative practice. Group classes offer chances to experiment with improvisation and composition and to really tap in to our instrument as a healing medium.

For those on the path of harp performance, private lesson opportunities, repertoire coaching, both orchestral and solo, harp ensemble and chamber music all culminate in a final casual public concert performance in which all can participate.

We have invited back our dear friends who make up the drum circle called the Drumtellers. We will have two sessions experimenting with rhythm and movement in pieces that we create and prepare. We will showcase them in our final concert/jam session.

There will be more rooms available for places to practice and for lessons/classes. There is also a community meeting place for after hours to talk and hang.

How can we express ourselves more fully, engage others more directly, come up with new creative musical ideas daily and keep our own focus and concentration flowing? At the same time, how can we continue to service others and stay fresh and inspirational? Many times we can get bogged down and trapped in our own self talk, losing heart, becoming bored or worse yet, dis-heartened so completely that we quit, forgetting our original purpose for playing. This happens to beginners and seasoned performers. So this year, the Collective will focus on the following topics and begin to draw us into ways of exploring and creating in total freedom with no distractions in gorgeous, natural, inspirational surroundings.

Here are some of our class offerings. Keep checking the website event page for a more detailed schedule.

  • A Simple Path to Mindful Creativity - Kerstin
  • Harp Therapy – Connecting to Self – Connecting to Patients – Anita
  • Basic Musicianship – Necessities to Performance - James Hartway – Guest Lecturer
  • Improvisation – Following the Light and Falling into Black Holes - Michael Grace – Guest Lecturer
  • Compose Yourself - James Hartway/Kerstin Allvin
  • Easy Does It – Performing in the Moment - Anita
  • Harp Hands – Harp Bodies – Kerstin/Anita

And finally, after exploring the creative juices and realizing our music, we’ll take a boat excursion exploring the Bruce Peninsula and Flower Pot Island, enjoying the great natural surroundings and becoming inspired to stay connected to our rich abundance of life giving energy all around us. Come explore Tobermory, the Bruce Peninsula, your beautiful musical harp and yourself. Learn, Grow and Be.

Our Mission: Facilitate all harpists in realizing their fullest potential to make music. Stimulate creativity. Provide tools to enhance performance skills. Explore the healing potential of harp music, using the harp to balance the health and well-being of the patient, the harpist and the listener. Engage you in your life’s true journey.

c. 2013, Kerstin Allvin & Anita Leschied

We want our Creative Harp Collective International to continue to evolve and morph. Our ideas and discussions are accessible to those that may want to follow us, join and share in our new Facebook Group. Like my page, Kerstin Allvin, on Facebook to stay up to date on events, blog postings and creative thoughts.

Creative Harp Collective International 2013

Join just for the 2nd Annual Creative Harp Collective International 2013 Harp Workshop on July 16 – 20, 2013 in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada. Event Details >

Blog: “We Sing of Spring Sing Joy Spring … ”

Blog: “We Sing of Spring Sing Joy Spring … ”

May 2013

It was such a gorgeous day today, the first warm day since last fall, that I was inspired to write on my blog … the first since February.

I am amazed what has happened in the short 6 weeks since my previous post … but mostly I am relieved that it is spring! Every year at this time I do 2 things, watch the movie “Enchanted April” and listen to the Manhattan Transfer sing their arrangement of Clifford Brown’s tune, “Joy Spring.” Both are my favorites in their respective categories and both await me every April as a celebratory passage of winter.

Enchanted April is a beautiful story of the cleansing, healing power of Spring in a bucolic setting in Italy. Four war weary, exhausted women living in London just after the First World War decide to rent a villa in Italy for the month of April. What happens in that sun drenched villa draws light, life and love to each of them in different ways.

The lyrics to “Joy Spring” are long and complex, written by Jon Hendricks matching the solos of the original instrumental of saxophonist Harold Land and trumpeter Clifford Brown. I have posted it at the end of the blog. But basically it speaks of the well of joy that we each contain within us. That Source of spiritual joy, of deep remembering, laughter and love.

Typically spring is a time of cleaning out the garage, the closets or maybe the waistline. These are signs of renewal and rebirth. Thankfully we have these four seasons that mark shifting and changing in our yearly journey of life. It’s such a relief to clean out the heaviness of winter and open to the lightness of Spring. But after the clean-out we are left with space. Now what do we consciously begin to fill it with? Instead of refilling it with more of the same kind of stuff, is it possible to hold that well of emptiness and keep it open? Is it possible to keep the closet and garage clear, to keep the pounds off by engaging in healthier habits. Is it possible to keep the mind clear of the weight of debris from too much work, activity, and distractions and remain with the freeing feeling of lightness and ease, filling new space with time for compassion say, or more love?

This spring I am changing it up. It’s a new thing this spring.

I am currently in a Spring Renewal Cleanse, getting rid of old food/eating habits, cooking more often, partaking of spring greens and veggies, making smoothies. It’s been amazing to say the least. I would highly recommend it. You have to slow down, think about your emotional habits centered around food, and set aside some downtime to really embrace a cleanse. Really hard to do … yes … but so worth it. I feel so much clearer, lighter and very positive.

Next. New rule. No media in the morning until I’ve finished my daily practices. I’ve known this, and have attempted to enforce it in the past, but this imagined “need” to check email, the latest news, facebook, etc … really effects how my daily practicing unfolds. To go to the yoga room and then the harp room with all this stuff in my head already and then stuff it with more is ridiculous. Besides, it’s mostly negative news anyway which really stops the creative flow and keeps your head in the gutter. Enough! Done! No longer a need to “enforce” anything, I just quit.

Of course there are many things that can give your practice sessions a boost. Practice next to an open window, pull out that piece that has always called and inspired you and play it, get up super early and practice as the sun rises. Whatever…just shift it, stir it, wake it up, to a new way of approaching your practice.

Recently I was turned on to a website called “The Daily Love.” It comes in my email everyday now. I love, “Love!” Mastin Kipp writes some thoughts for the day, there’s a blog of course and many fantastic yogi’s write articles as well. It’s been a refreshing change and a welcome way to get focused. O.K., it’s a little trite sometimes, but it’s far more powerful and positive to start the day with a quick, loving reflection, than the NY Times. Most of the time it’s pretty hip. (With my new rule though, it has to wait until after the practice).

This spring, try moving your practice to a new level of consciousness and positive mental energy. Recognizing and getting rid of old winter habits is a great way to delve more deeply into your practice time, especially since time with your instrument is a precious commodity. Make it worth it. The world can wait until you’ve filled the space with music and your love of music.

I’ve decided to fill my newfound spaces with joy and love, and to just leave those empty spaces in the closets … empty. My practice has shifted, my body is shifting and my soul is filled with singing Joy Spring.

Sing it baby!

Always, Always Love, Kerstin

“Spring Renewal Cleanse” with Natalie Piet through Karma Yoga, Bloomfield Hills.

“Enchanted April” (1992) with Joan Plowright, Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, Alfred Molina, Jim Broadbent.

“Sing Joy Spring” John Hendricks/Clifford Brown from Vocalese, by the Manhattan Transfer.

We sing of spring
(Sing joy spring)
A rare and most mysterious spring
(This most occult thing)
Is buried deep in the soul
(It’s story never has been told)

The joy spring, the fountain of pleasure
Is deep inside you whether you’re diggin’ it or not
Once you’re aware of this spring
You’ll know that it’s the greatest
Treasure you’ve got
And furthermore
The joy spring, the bounteous treasure
Cannot be bartered away and never
Can be sold
Nothing can take it from you
It’s yours and yours alone to have
And to hold
And something more:
It never is lost to fire or theft
It’s always around
When trouble is gone the pleasure
Is left I’ve always found
It’s burglar-proof same as the treasure
Man lays up in heaven worth a
Price no one can measure
that says a lot
So joy spring this fountain of pleasure
That’s deep inside you let me inform
You in all truth *(to Coda second time)
Ponce de Leon sought this
When he was searchin’ for the fountain of youth

Ol’ Ponce de Leon laughed so much he
Never did find the magic fountain
But many people with a well-adjusted
Spirit they could hear it when y’told
‘em it was there tellin’ them was
Like tellin’ it on the mountain

It’s quite a lift havin’ the gift of
laughter I’m a man who knows in a
minute I can tell y’just exactly how the story goes
It involves a firm conviction in another
previous life givin’ your mind a chance to fly
Fly aroun’ the universe investigatin’ other
galaxies n’ certain other subtle
types o’life tryin’ t’dig it gettin’
pretty well-acquainted with a lot of
other strife an’ pretty much acquirin’
yourself plenty of education
pretty soon here comes earth birth
‘n then y’ready t’put it all t’work
but soon as you’re finished bein’ born
you start forgettin’ what you knew
‘Cause you’re another kinda you – a
reincarnation manifestation
of spirit in sensation

Y’really got that right
The average person isn’t bright
not so bright that they recall the fatal fall
down here t’ this earth
their minds disguise their death to spirit
life and call it birth
that’s their reason for forgetting and they
find it very upsetting when reminded
tell ‘em they’ve lived before
They’ll show y’ the nearest open door
Gotta have feelin’ while dealin’ with
walkers in their sleep
they can’t imagine somethin’ as deep

Here they come – here they come – there they are
Unimaginative and ignorant of falling from a star
Here they come – there they are – there they go
Life is over in a minute an’ they never dug
it in it or enjoy a minute of it
’cause they put too much above it
that was gross
somethin’ that was worth a couple bucks
at mos’

So there is the reason that the maker of man
included there in his plan
A certain fountain deep within’
where there was laughter, youth ‘n gold
for human beings t’have ‘n hold
‘n share the memory of where we’ve all been

Brothers called Grimm knew chances were slim’
Anybody would dig that the human soul
was Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs were seven tempers
in man
whose digging out the gold completes
the plan
An Bacon was hip that Shakespeare
couldn’t read
and so he gave him all the rhymes
that have lasted through the years
and kept eternal truths alive through
several centuries
That’s how we know them now
they lasted ’cause they’re true

What was it from “MacBeth?”
“Life’s but a walking shadow
a player poor
that struts and frets upon the stage
and’s seen no more
A tale that truly has an idiotic ring
That’s full of lotsa sound and fury
signifying nothing …”

That’s right signifying nothing
I’ll repeat it! Nothing
Don’t forget it – Nothing
And that’s the reason for that spring
of joy
That the Father put inside of every
single girl and boy

Show time! Everyone’s on
let’s hit the stage
It’s show time everyone an’ proceed
to act your age

Whatever you’re frownin’ at is funny
enough f’laughin’
so you’re wastin’ all your humor on a frown
While you’re bringin’ your spirit down

You gotta book yourself a comic in your act
without some laughter life’s a maudlin
farce ‘n that’s a fact

Once you know about the spring you always can smile
It becomes your one expression
and you’re always wearin’ it like the
Buddhas do

(Repeat Intro to *)
Ponce de Leon sought this
When he was searchin’
for the fountain of youth
I say in truth he
sought a magical thing
For he was searchin’
for the joy spring

Blog: The Important Things

Blog: The Important Things

February 1, 2013

It is such a blessing to be able to play and live music daily.

Sometimes there’s a lot of stress involved. There’s no question, that preparing for so many events at once and staying on top of your game can be stressful. Constant practice and performance pressure keeps you on your toes, or fingers as the case may be. But I wouldn’t give up playing music for anything … and especially playing harp!

Sometimes though, it’s really hard to drag your butt into the practice room … yet again! Or to the yoga mat either, the laundry room, the dishes in the sink, the oil change, the bank, etc, etc, etc. We feel like there’s something better that we have to get to and all this little stuff is keeping us away from our [      ] what? What are these things keeping us away from? If it’s hard to go into the practice room, then what else is there that’s so important to do that we sometimes feel that practicing is getting in our way? The big news is; the practice is it.

Those little chores that we do everyday are important to our life. Clean clothes, a smooth running car, food on the table are tending to the basics of life. We feel safe and secure when the basics are taken care of. They are important to our well-being. Paying attention to those phrase markings, the actual notes on the page, the dynamics, are essential to the full potential of the piece, within you. You pull them out. When you’re in the moment playing, they feel good, safe and secure because you have really taken care of them daily, mindfully and with love of the task at hand. It’s practicing mindfulness.


Musicians need goals, and the biggest sense of accomplish we can tangibly see or hear is the concert. The final concert. All the hours of work, preparation and sweat coming to fruition, sometimes in one 1-½ hour shot. Hopefully, we get to repeat that particular concert, but many times not.

When we practice again and again and as our talents and postures grow, and as we mature physically, it’s easy to just want to get to the concert. Just get me to that end-all, ultimate experience. I’m going to cram the notes and try to play faster and louder, in two days. Or, I’m going to go directly into hand-stand without that breathing, consciousness, aligning stuff, or even, I’m thinking about who I’ve got to call when I get out of handstand or done cramming these notes so that I don’t even remember doing the handstand or cramming the notes!!

If we can change how we are thinking as we practice, we can allow ourselves the concert experience every time. This time as I play, I am going to remember it. Notice how it feels in each finger, each breath. Listen to the vibrations in the room, feel them against your body, take that breath and direct it into a place in the body/mind or into the energy of the self. That is the experience. That’s the “thing” you have to do. It’s experiencing your highest potential every single time, not just in the concert.

I took a weekend yoga workshop, where the guru-maestro, (my title for an awesome teacher/leader) had us mathematically figure out how many breaths we had left in this life. It was stunning to say the least. Especially since someone had just turned 50. When you see it on paper in front of you it awakens you to your immediate moment. It’s more than an “aha” moment. It’s screaming at you that today counts. How many more practices is it going to take you to reach your full potential? Your full potential is right now, no matter where you are in your study, your are the best you can be right now, open into it, let all judgments go and relish every note, so that you remember the experience of it.

Teaching ourselves the habits of unconscious practice

So many of my students, harp and yoga, come to a lesson having practiced unconsciously. Because of this, they can’t remember parts of the piece, or play it so fast that its messy, uneven or basically unloved, just to get it done. We all do this. In all of our work. We have learned to do this. Teaching ourselves the habits of unconscious practice. We feel the performance deadline looming, feel the need to be perfect, or that we’re not at a certain performance level. We concentrate only on technique perhaps and worry about what might happen if we mess up, which is usually nothing. But if we love all the moments we have at the harp, then we will understand that it’s the practice that is life. Or I could say, it’s the playing that is life. From the love of playing comes joy, fulfillment and more love. We can reach down deep and pull out our full human potential in that moment.

What else do we have to do that is more important than that?

Blog: Start something really big in 2013

Blog: Start something really big in 2013

January 12, 2013

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah … ” —Rumi

Start something really big in 2013 and go for it 100%.

When there are no new beginnings in our lives, we tend to keep our eyes glued to the tiny details that surround us and easily forget the bigger intentions. I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In a sense, they are too limiting right out of the gate heading into a new year. They can be too simple, or nebulous and easily forgotten or discarded, because they were perhaps unfulfilling, uncertain, or impossible to maintain.

I’ve been “rumi – nating” about intention as we embrace a new year. It’s not uncommon to think about what we intend to do with the rest of the year as it yawns open before us. And intention feels different than a resolution. I was wondering how to incorporate intention into my daily harp and mat practice. I wanted new intentions to really sync-up to the intentions already planted in my practices so that real change could happen.


Intention or resolution is sankalpa in Sanskrit. Sankalpa also can be, will or a goal. I always like to check out these meanings in relation to yoga. There is always a greater meaning in this ancient language. Anyway, as I was thinking, studying, discussing, it became clearer that sankalpa could be “intention,” but that in itself was a limited understanding of the experience of sankalpa. As I first understood it, sankalpa, as an intention on the mat might be; staying mindful of your breath, but it also is, staying mindful of the breath and the breath in body alignment. But not limited to that, so it’s also, breath, alignment, energy flow, and back to the breath. Then it might expand to breath, alignment, energy, and effortlessness and then comes back to breath again. You see, it means one thing and all things. It’s the energy of intention and/or resolution. It’s the meaning behind the intention. Not just the “doing” of the intention. It is the energy of all small intentions morphing into a big universal intention. If we take it as resolution, then it’s many ideas resolving into one big idea. (In a piece of music, it’s the resolution of all notes to the final tonic).

Let’s look at this again. When an intention is made, there is energy created to sustain that intention daily, a transformation begins as the intentional energy is manifested again and again. Deeper consciousness can grow and we open to our energy of change with this daily experience.

I have a habit of doing big projects.

I imagine big outcomes and dream big dreams, working very hard and concentrating diligently. Often it is to the point of foolishness. But over time, they blossom, not necessarily the way I had imagined or wanted them to though, and I am always a little surprised when my big project happens, but always, I have grown immeasurably in the entire process.

I think intention is this. It’s not limited to just a small detail of practice (although that’s a start) but maybe having your eye always on the donut and not too much the hole. We need small goals to help ourselves along the way, but remembering that the experience is energy and energy that we create with our resolutions again and again. The mind/body stuff begins to respond in ways we don’t even know or understand to this intention. To get to a point where we can actually speak through our instruments with freedom and clarity, and to move through our experience of life with grace and compassion is to stand in a higher sankalpa, the daily intention of opening to that intention. To really make change in our lives, our communities and our world, is to have a big project in mind, and go with it … like Noah.

Blog: The Month of Light

Blog: The Month of Light

December 2012

The Month of Light

For me the month of December is a month of celebrating light.

Really, you ask? In the northern hemisphere of the planet, the month of December is the darkest month. The days are their shortest all year, and the winter solstice occurs late in December, this year it’s on the 21st. So how can this dark month be light-filled? The dark days in December are a reminder of light. We can celebrate that light is coming and that we have passed through the deepest, darkest cycle of the planet’s shift away from light. It is a reminder of the promise of light. There is no doubt that the sun will reappear. All the various religious practices that occur during the dark days of November/December have deep in their rituals and myths a celebration of light, the coming of light, and the promise of the coming of light.

This past week I taught a master class with all of my harp students. I had been noticing that as the majority of my class is maturing, going into their teens or early 20’s, they are struggling with nerves, anxieties, tensions, apprehensions about playing, that they didn’t have before. (Probably about growing up in general as well). With the very first student who performed, it was clear to me that it was time to address this issue openly and with all of them. They were ready. As a start, I worked with them to help them discover what they were thinking and physically doing just before they began to play. It’s the old “fight or flight” response. There were two very basic ways in which to begin to play: exhale, … then—inhale.

In my practice and study of Anusara yoga, there are 5 Universal Principals of Alignment that are applied to the body/mind as it moves through postures in space. The very first principal is “Open to Grace.” “Grace” can mean whatever you need it to mean for you. God, a Higher Power, a Universal Energy, light, possibility, relaxing… and all of those things. It’s a softening to that which is about to manifest. An opening and acknowledgement of something that is universally within you. It can sometimes be just a physical action that you may not even be aware that you are doing. For instance, exhaling.

Slow it Down.

When an athlete is about to perform his or her task they sometimes back away from it.

Slowing down time. They take a breath and step out of the batters box for a minute, say, or relax shoulders before the golf swing, or even in a fast paced game like hockey, feel the puck on the stick, then shoot. Mentally and physically, they are allowing the body to open, soften, letting it feel what it’s going to do before it does what it has been trained to do. When we’re about to perform, we can do the same thing. (After you have checked and re-checked that the harp pedals are correctly set and your bench height is right).

Thinking only within that moment, pausing, relaxing the fingers on the strings, the arms, the shoulders and jaw, sort of a physical softening response to the exhale…or in other words, Opening to Grace. Slowing down the moments with breath. Letting the body feel the sensations of how it’s going to produce the music, the energy, the colors. We can even revel in that moment just before action begins. Realizing with joy and light that we can even have this experience of playing in this moment, and then doing so. What gifts we have! What light is about to be manifested! Remembering, too, that you are supported by everyone listening, by the composer who wrote the piece and by this promise of light. You are not going it alone. Every single student had a different performance experience when first they applied this simple principal of softening and opening only to what was just happening in that moment of beginning.

And speaking of light … back to my December. December is “Opening to Grace,” on a grand universal stage. It is the exhale. It is the softening. It’s the knowing that the inhale is coming and that the promise of light is just around the corner. December is a month of holidays, joy, food, celebration and spiritual renewal. On December 22, the days will begin to get longer and the promise is fulfilled. Now take the inhale and begin.

Always, Always Love.

Blog: Happy November!

Blog: Happy November!

November 2012

Lot’s happening in November.

A Presidential election, Thanksgiving, the Holiday harp gig extravaganza lurking around the corner at the end of the month and cold and cold and cold and dark and dark and dark! And I can’t wait! Nothing like being immersed in one’s duty to the nation, each other and one’s self! Each November event gives us an opportunity to churn the soil, to plant seeds in ourselves and nurture the dark, quiet moments inside. It’s a great time to practice, both music and yoga, to study, to read and to contemplate.

I find myself reflecting on a yogic principal called dharma this fall. It’s a principal that comes up again and again, both in classes and in texts and it’s a principal that is deeply embedded, in slightly different forms, in all our cultures and religions. It’s a Sanskrit word that means a moral, or regulatory order of the universe. It’s that which supports the natural laws of the universe. Also in yogic usage, it implies how one performs one’s duty and maintains harmony within one’s community. It’s a choice, or freedom that aligns one’s attitudes and behaviors. It’s a responsibility you have to life and by aligning yourself to your highest duty you become stronger and healthier, enhancing your community, family and self.

Dharma is civic duty, too.

One of our biggest duties and freedoms as citizens is to vote. Feeling a part of a community is essential to our nature of connecting to each other as human beings. Our dharma as members of society is to uphold the moral and civic laws of our society, to teach these ethics and orders to our children, and to enhance the beauty and safety of the places in which we live. Voting is a way of connecting to one’s dharma, one’s truth and aligning to a common good. By voting you participate in the betterment of your established community.

In this same way we can enjoy our common Thanksgiving holiday as a nation. Going through the rituals of the holiday in a mindful and dharmic way we are more aware of life’s abundance and the celebration that surrounds our experience of the ritual. It can take on even deeper meanings when we work in our communities to eradicate hunger and homelessness. There’s a great energy when we celebrate a ritual in which the entire nation takes part.

Embracing our dharma in these ways make sense.
But what about when we are doing our work as harpists?

Each one of us plays the harp following a unique dharma, following our own right way. In taking these individual paths, we uphold the whole of the beauty that is our instrument, and recognize our individuality makes it so. When we are aware that our playing affects all that are listening in a ‘right’ way, lifting the community of listeners to a higher consciousness, the everyday gig can turn into a ritual of deeper meaning, we are strengthened by our life’s purpose, our dharma. Now we can really understand what our gifts bring to the holiday season. Living our talents, they take on an important role, even at the holiday office party. This also supports the entire community of harpists, each upholding the practices that maintain the highest, the common good, and that sustain the art.

Coming into November, we can look forward to what the fall and winter brings us. Taking time to nurture ourselves, we can be healthy, peaceful and surrounded in light, even in the cold dark days of November. Practice deeply, completely, fully, thoughtfully and follow your own dharma.

Always, Always, Love.

Blog: Creative Harp Collective International 2012 Review

Blog: Creative Harp Collective International 2012 Review

October 2012

Just a few notes about the first annual Creative Harp Collective International 2012, in Tobermory, Canada, that I birthed and created this past July with my harp buddy, Anita Leschied.

The Collective brought a group of amazing women together for three days in July to explore the harp in all of its creative aspects. The mix of ages was a delight and an added learning bonus for all as we shared ideas from all levels of harp and life experiences. There were three days of workshops: everything from harp basics to harp therapy, improvisation, yoga, music theory, technique, a drumming and rhythm class, meditation and at the end, an awesome concert! All Collective members performed in ensembles, duo or solo to a packed Tobermory United Methodist Church. The Tobermory Drum Circle even performed with us. It was an amazing evening.

Christa Grix was our guest performer this year. She was incredible. The audience loved her and our church in the woods was packed. Plus, after spending time learning about improvisation and being creative at the harp, Christa was the top icing as she jazzed her way through one improv after another, keeping the rhythm popping and the beautiful melodies flowing.

I felt so thrilled that the Collective came together as I had dreamed. It even took on a beautiful life of its own. Anita was a true inspiration to us all as she shared her wisdom of harp in therapeutic uses.  She discussed the use of modes and the ancient practices of healing with musical vibration. How amazing to have my traditional trained eyes opened to this kind of healing therapy from an instrument that I have been playing all of my life. It clearly is time …

Creative Harp Collective International 2013
July 16 – 20, 2013, Tobermory, Ontario, Canada.

Reboot your music, body and spirit. The premier summer program for every harpist. Join just for the 2nd Annual Creative Harp Collective International 2013 Harp Workshop. Event Details >

Continued Coverage and Follow-up to “The Core Issue” article by Kerstin Allvin published in the Harp Column September/October 2012 Issue

Continued Coverage and Follow-up to “The Core Issue” article by Kerstin Allvin published in the Harp Column September/October 2012 Issue

September 2012

I’m posting this as a follow-up to my article in the September/October 2012 issue of The Harp Column called “The Core Issue.” You can check it out at, but be sure to come back here for more information.

Some additional thoughts on core as related to harp health and harpists well-being:

As you begin to work with stretching and strengthening, pay attention to where things might be tight or where you have sensation. Noticing pain is very important to not hurting yourself. Only go where your body needs to be and not where your head is telling you to be. As always, do not do any exercise or stretch if you have a prior injury or contraindication without consulting your doctor.

Since the core is so crucial to your ability to perform, paying attention to how you are sitting is the first step to re-aligning your body center and becoming a more conscious player. Sitting at the correct height FOR YOU can be the single most important thing you do at the harp besides breathing and opening. I can elaborate on this here. You can experiment with height keeping these small guidelines in mind.

If you sit too low, the harp weight on your shoulder increases and more of that weight goes into the right side of the neck or through your shoulder into your mid-back and finally low back. It may also force you to lift your shoulders higher to reach the strings, or require your right hand and elbow to reach awkwardly over your shoulder and head to play the upper strings. You may also experience pinching in the hip-flexors (the muscles in front of the hip) and groin as your knees become higher than your hips. You may notice this especially when you stand up. This may make it more difficult to pedal as well, as the quads (thighs) can’t help you move your lower legs and feet. There’s too much weight in your heels.

The benefits to sitting lower are more connection of the core body into the seat which can support your weight evenly, less strain on the head and neck as it can sit straight on your spine without shifting forward in order to see the strings.

If you sit too high, the head and neck must “look down” at the strings thus throwing the head forward and/or straightening the back of the neck and taking the natural curve out of the neck. You’re farther away from the bass wires and the weight of the base of the harp can take the harp forward from you as you play forcing you to continually hold it against you with your fingers and wrists as you play.

The benefits to sitting higher are, there is overall much less weight on the core of the body and you can be freer to move and breathe. The arms are at shoulder height or lower for the best strength and energy to run from your core to your fingers. And you can dance on the pedals as the entire leg energy is free to flow and move.

Perhaps you have noticed that if you sit at different heights, the harp may either come in close to the right side of the neck, if too low, or shift off toward the outside of the collar bones to the front of the arm, if too high. It also may sit high on the collarbone or low into the upper ribs. Somewhere in the middle of all this is the best. Wood on bone is not such a great idea, and pressure on the front of the arm bone can cause inflammation and connective tissue problems. I have to watch my students carefully as they tend to want to sit under the harp. Harp should come to you.

Finding a good height for you is taking the time to experiment and discover your best fit at the instrument, allowing you to perform in complete balance and symbiotic relationship with your harp.

Here are some other core strengthening exercises:

Supported forward folds
Stand facing a chair or bench with feet hip width apart, unlock the knees. Inhale and as you exhale hinge at the hips placing your hands on the support. Support the low back with a gentle lift of the low belly. Lead with your heart and not with your chin, keeping head in line with the spine. You can hold the posture for a number of complete breaths then press into the floor with the legs and keeping the knees unlocked, place your hands on your hips and come up to standing. Gradually with practice, you can lower your support, eventually placing your fingertips on the ground always staying supported through the legs and knees unlocked.

Side Bends
Standing with feet hip width apart, inhale and circle arms overhead. Keep hips pointing forward equally above knees and ankles and gently lift the belly. Side bend to right, hold, then left and hold, always breathing fully as you hold each side for several breaths. Repeat.

Back bends
While practicing side-bending above, take a moment to do a gentle backbend with arms over head. Keep shoulder blades on the back and shoulders away from your ears. Support with the low belly by drawing it in and softly lift your gaze to the ceiling. Keep feet planted, knees unlocked and hips even. Always be mindful of your stopping point, where breathing becomes difficult and uneven.

Yes, I said sit-ups. A healthy core needs a healthy abdomen. Lying on your back, bend knees and align them with your hips. You can use a chair or low bed under your knees, but keep calves parallel to the floor. Keep the feet and shins active by flexing your feet so toes are pointing up. Interlocking your fingers behind your head and gaze to the ceiling, lift using your abdominal muscles. Do not use your head and hands to lift your torso. By keeping the spine straight and not lifting from the head, you may only come a few inches off the floor. These are working deep muscles here, so you may find that you don’t need that many repetitions. Try to avoid lifting with the chin and neck.

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  • Random Quote

    Allvin projected beautifully the work’s rapidly shifting harmonies and intricate finger work. She excelled at capturing the fleeting melodic pattern of the music.

    — The Flint Journal