As a tiny child, I remember lying in the grass under the old maple tree in our big backyard. My older brother had my parents old Victorola record player outside. He placed the needle on the record, turned the handle and “Cruising Down the River” floated out into the warm summer afternoon. Later, I had my own little red record player and would play my little “golden records,” listening to the songs and nursery rhymes over and over for hours on end. Then came the dancing lessons, with my shiny black patten leather tap shoes, the blue and white taffeta dance costume with the sparkly sequins, and the sweet little yellow tutu and soft ballet slippers. The memories are vivid in my mind. I can see the vibrant colors, feel the slippery soft textures of the fabrics, and remember the leathery smell of the shoes. Then came piano lessons with Mrs. Padgett, a very dear woman who was kind and gentle and very encouraging. I was thrilled to be learning to play the piano. My little red piano book made me feel very grown up. I felt I was doing something very important. I thought of Mrs. Padgett as old but my mother tells me she was in her thirties. She was a large woman with a tiny, thin voice except when she would talk about Brahms or Chopin and the beauty of their music. Then her voice would broaden and expand. I knew, even as a tiny child, that that meant she was speaking from her heart and I loved to listen to her stories. At age eight, I was still joyous in all my artistic exploration and though a shy little girl I remember feeling very unselfconscious. By twelve, it had all grown more complicated. My mother, not wanting me to damage my feet did not allow the next step in dance which was moving to “toe-shoes” as we called them. So my dance lessons fell by the wayside. Then I fell in love with basketball. I was an outdoor girl, tall and lanky and very athletic. Sitting at the piano, to practice became tiresome and I wanted to stop my lessons. At first, my mother, not wanting to hurt dear Mrs. Padgett’s feelings, insisted I continue. But after another year, fights with my mother over practicing, some difficult piano recitals, and complex family issues, it was clear to all that my love of piano was dead and should be laid to rest. And so it was. In truth, my music was not dead. In high school when I would hear a song that I loved, I would rush to the music store to buy the sheet music so I could play it. I began listening to classical music and when no one was home I would dance wildly around the room, expressing with my body what I heard the music expressing. This continued for years, even when I went off to college. It was my secret and spontaneous pleasure. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, where I got my BA degree, I discovered early on that the piano practice rooms were open and available to all. I would go regularly and play classical music that was way over my ability level. I practiced for hours and took deep satisfaction in the sound. Looking back, I see that during this time, I was taking the important step of owning my music for the first time. I was learning that it didn’t belong to my teacher, or to my parents. It was mine, and mine alone. Music and dance were there for me to enjoy and to use for my own personal pleasure. Because I had never learned to draw, I assumed that I was not artistic. One summer near the end of college, I felt an urge to paint in the same expressive way that I was using dance and my music. I went to the art store, bought oil paint, brushes and some canvases, went home and started painting. It felt like a completely rebellious act to paint without knowing what I was doing, to paint without any skill or talent. I had never heard of art therapy, or music therapy and expressive arts therapy hadn’t even been named at that point in time, but I was discovering the essential nature of all three of them all by myself. After college, I married, had three sons and drawn by nature, moved to the beautiful Northern California Coast to raise my family. Soon after the birth of my last child, a piano found its way back into my life. I began taking lessons and fell head over heals in love with making music all over again. Playing the piano became all consuming and for several years when I was not being a mom, I was practicing my piano. During this time, I discovered aspects of my personality that were in the way of freely expressing at the piano. I entered therapy to make changes so my music could grow and expand. I soon realized that the issues that were roadblocks to my music making were also holding me back in my life. Thus began an intense time of using the therapeutic process to free myself in life in general. I became fascinated by the tandem effects of psychotherapy and my ability to express myself artistically and had a dream of wanting to help others to experience this dynamic process of combining personal exploration and artistic expression. I was still very focused on music at that time and began teaching piano to children and adults with this new focus of music for the joy of self expression. For The Joy Of It! A studio for the expressive arts was born at that time. Wanting to bring more formal education and training to my work, I found a master’s degree program in psychology at Sonoma State University where I would be mentored by an Art Therapist, Nina Menrath. It was there that I validated academically what I had discovered for myself as a young person, that the arts combined offer a wide, wide world for self expression and self growth. Working with my mentor, I could see how many of the ideas in art therapy applied to music as well and that using all the arts together enhanced their power in deepening awareness. While art therapy and music therapy were established practices, the field of expressive arts therapy was just emerging at that time. I felt like I was cresting on the wave of this discovery just as others were also. My years at Sonoma State were rich and challenging on a personal as well as professional level as the program made emphasis on personal experience as well as theoretical grounding. I graduated in 1987 with a Masters Degree in Psychology and started my practice on the Mendocino Coast. Contact me and we can explore how my work might assist you in your life explorations and your own creative journey.
FOR THE JOY OF IT! Creative Arts Center, Mendocino, California