For as long as I can remember, I have loved to sing. As a small child, I sang all the time, and I was blessed with parents who nurtured my interests. Piano lessons, choruses, and lots of singing in the car helped nurture my innate musicality, and taught me that musicality was a gift to be shared.
But my deepest experiences of music were solitary.
My favorite place to sing was in nature. In the garden, I made altars for the fairies who I believed lived under the violet leaves. I sang songs for them, and for the magic I felt in trees, roots and flowers.
I didn’t have the words to describe it this way at the time, but I can see now that this was the earliest iteration of my calling towards singing as ritual – a path to greater self connection and belonging. However, while my musical gifts were nurtured, my spiritual questions and yearnings were harder to talk about. Not trusting anyone to understand, I kept them these thoughts to myself.
Over time, attending mainstream schools where Spirit was not ever talked about or mentioned, and growing up in an atheistic and irreligious family, I came also over time to adopt these values. By adolescence, I had almost completely forgotten the truths I knew as a child.
Fortunately, while I didn’t have many avenues to explore spirituality in my youth, I had many, many opportunities to explore art, and my creativity flourished. Playwriting, theater, electronic music, poetry, visual art… There was hardly an art form that I did not explore.
When I was in my late teens, I picked up a guitar and started writing songs that way, and that was it. It felt like I had found my calling. The songs came quickly, and with a force that knocked me off my feet. One thing led to another, and my early work propelled me into a career as a singer – songwriter.
Through my twenties, released six independent albums of original material that developed a following around the globe. I saw my work featured in film, and toured the country, opening for many well known artists, including two national tours with Ani Di Franco. I also worked with many incredible collaborators, including bassist Todd Sickafoose and producer Lee Townsend.
This period of my life was exciting, and from the outside, it must have looked like I was living the dream.
But inside I felt terribly at sea. In the absence of a sense of my own spiritual center, I used performing and creative striving to seek stability that I did not otherwise feel.
By my late twenties, I knew I was in trouble. So I stepped off the wheel that was life as I knew it and set out on a path of searching. I felt like all my life, something had been missing. I set out to understand the reason that I didn’t feel whole.
My first stop was higher education. I re-enrolled in college at age 30, to finish my long neglected college degree. I graduated from Hunter College in NYC, and then continued on to graduate school, earning my masters of theological studies in comparative religion and education from Harvard Divinity School.
This introduced me to mysticism as a lens for understanding personal growth. It also introduced me to the idea of spiritual activism, which is how I understand my work to this day.
Somewhere along the way, I attended my first circle sing, and my life was forever changed. As a seasoned songwriter and performer, I was no stranger to the power of music to nourish us. But in circle singing, I experienced something new. These gatherings were uplifting. They were unifying. They brought us into community in a way that could honestly change the course of our lives.
My early singing circle experiences affirmed something for me that up until then had only been an inkling – that singing can move energy in deep and powerful ways.
I began to lead circle sings myself. As I did, I started to receive strong intuitive guidance about about how these events could best serve people.
As it turned out, these ideas were very different from the choruses and music lessons of my youth.
At first, I felt like I was setting out on a limb, since nobody had taught me to do what I was doing. But my regular live events – individual and group musical gatherings for adults or for children – provided the perfect setting to experiment. Along the way I found many kindred spirits to learn from, and steeped myself in every context and modality where I could develop my skills as a song leader.
Over time, I began to develop an approach to group music making – in response to the direct needs of the people I worked with every day. My approach infuses group music making with mindfulness, ritual, and opportunities for authentic connection.
This was not making music to perform. This was about harnessing the power of song as a technology for personal transformation and social change.
With this change in life direction, my motivation shifted. I moved from “living to get” to “living to serve”, and I’ve never looked back. Over time, the work healed my own wound – that sense of rootlessness that I had struggled with through the first twenty some years of my life.
I rediscovered the truth I’d known as a child singing under the apple tree – the knowledge that we are all connected. I discovered that singing could be the path back – a way out of the trance of separation to uncover our true belonging – to spirit, to one another, and to our world.
This is how Deep River of Song was born.
At this point, I’ve worked with more than five hundred families as a music teacher, ritual leader, community builder and counselor.
It’s an incredible privilege to get to serve in this way, and I say thanks every day that life has brought me here.
If you are called to join us, I look forward to growing alongside you on this journey – towards greater connection, deeper alignment, and all the good to be found when we draw upon the Deep River of Song.