Looking Back on 88 Creative Keys Events

IMG_3860 Back in February, while we were planning the Jazz/Pop Saturday Pedagogy track for the MTNA 2013 Conference, Bradley Sowash (who lives in Ohio) asked if I wanted to keep working with him. He felt we should continue building on our efforts to promote the cause of creativity that we both valued in our teaching and were promoting at the MTNA conference.

I distinctly remember the phone call in which he brought up this discussion because it was on a day packed full of lessons, choir rehearsal, blogging, housework...In the back of my mind I knew what my husband would say if I even mentioned involving myself in one more thing.


As you may have guessed, I said yes to the idea of collaborating with Bradley. We narrowed our focus on a unique (he likes to call it historic) endeavor held in my home town of Denver in late July. In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams there's a well-known quote: "If I build it, he will come". With little idea of the interest level in our plans to create a camp based on creativity and making music beyond the page, Bradley and I embraced the slightly modified quote: If WE build it, THEY will come."

It's been a couple of weeks since the camp and it seems right to look back.  We've rounded up some pics and clips.  A big thanks to Bryn Sowash for editing a lovely video reflecting the spirit and the hubbub of our inaugural 88 Creative Keys Events. They included:

  • Play it Your Way Camp: Mon-Thurs, 3-1/2 hour sessions of improvisation and creating on and off the bench, for ages 10-18.
  • IMG_3720

    Teaching Creativity Workshop:  Fri-Sat 3-1/2 hour sessions focusing on how to teach improvisation, for teachers.

  • Beyond the Page Clinic: Fri-Sat 3 1/2 hour sessions focusing on how to play by ear and from lead sheets, etc., for adults.

FYI: Each event was interactive with plenty of hands-on experience for every participant thanks to Schmitt Music Denver. They supplied and promptly delivered over 15 digital keyboards!


The video brought back countless memories--all of them fun and well worth the efforts. I must confess that planning an event such as this is an emotional roller-coaster.  In my typical fashion, here's a list of thoughts, feelings and experiences (in no particular order) as I held on tight experiencing this ride for the first time:
  • Fear of finding the time to make this a success
  • Trust of a colleague's vision and experience
  • Inspired by collaboration with someone from a uniquely different musical background


  • Overwhelmed with the amount of decision-making
  • Doubt in our curriculum and scheduling plans
  • Uncertain about manning last-minute details from Chicago at NCKP
  • Elation when the keyboards magically appeared, thanks to Schmitt Music, Denver and then plugged in, thanks to my son and husband
  • Pressure of skeptical parents arriving the first morning
  • Relief of completing the first day
  • Confirmation by peers who attended who are now eager to send their students next year
  • Intimidation of the right-to-be-skeptical teachers and adult students checking us out
  • Indebtedness to friends like Linda King for supporting us through the entire event and beyond with amazing western decor to serving snacks, to enrolling students to...
  • Frustration with the knowledge that as much as we can plan, there is little control over the actual event
  • Disappointment with the lack of interest by some colleagues
  • Surprised with the distance people were willing to travel
  • Exhaustion from over stimulation and sleep deprivation
  • Gratefulness and love for my sister Lorilynn from North Carolina who signed up for the clinic but also got

    Linda spoiled attendees with goodie bags packed with love.

    stuck with a great deal of behind-the-scenes work

  • Telepathic as Bradley and I sensed how to help each other teach without verbal communication
  • Anxious about teaching in a large group
  • Thankful for a lovely venue and the South Suburban Christian Church staff graciously opening their doors for us
  • Joyful seeing everyone making their own brand of music together as a group
  • Satisfaction to see that we could build it and they DID come
  • Pleased with the positive and constructive feedback
  • Sad to say good-bye to a colleague and friend (and his wife and my new-found friend, Susan) going back home to Ohio
  • Never-ending love for a husband that faithfully supported our efforts with gourmet meals and a great deal of patience and tolerance
  • Determination that if I'm working with a world-class improviser, it's time to add more in-depth improv skills to my classically trained chops.

My sis and I color coordinated all the boomwhackers--she likes to organize just as much as I.

If you recall, Bradley catapulted me into the improv world back in April. With little preparation, I managed to play along with him on Oh When the Saints but felt insecure, mostly from lack of practice time. Here's my attempt of playing with Bradley and more  details about his April visit.

It's been a couple of months so I've had time to absorb a few more improvisation tricks. As I'm on a roll,  I've signed up for Skype lessons with Bradley so I can continue the fun . Here's my latest rendition of Saints.


You CAN do this too...trust me.
If you are interested in learning more about our camp and our continued efforts to promote creativity beyond the page, check out 88CreativeKeys.com.
To see Bradley's blog about our joint summer venture, click here.

Dining on our deck enjoying a delectable meal  cooked by our in-house chef --my husband, Chuck.

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