harmonium lessons


so, you want to play the harmonium...

What can I say about my beautiful friend, the harmonium? Such a humble, simple little organ, played with one hand and pumped with the other, but the sweetest accompaniment a chanter could hope for: somehow this wooden box with funky plastic keys and a tendency to develop odd rattles and wheezes also truly makes the most marvelous, reedy sound. Playing one while you chant is like having a lovely pal who always wants to sing with you, day or night, and nests your voice inside the kindness of its humble drone.

What are your harmonium dreams? My students range from people who would like to start (or deepen) a chant practice at home to those who teach yoga asana and want to be able to lead a bit of chant/kirtan as part of their classes, as well as some who are hoping to get out and lead kirtan in their communities. Generally, I find that two hours per lesson is about right, regardless, and frequency will depend on what works best for you. My schedule is flexible, though i do get booked up. If you don't mind arranging lessons a bit ahead, there will be more options.

My fee is $75/lesson plus any parking/garage costs (the harmonium is just too heavy for me to trek around the city with on public transportation, and I drive to where you are in the New York Metropolitan Area from southern Westchester County). I'm always happy to use street parking for my van if it's available, but of course sometimes it isn't.

My background is that I am a life-long musician (trained singer and self-taught guitarist/performing songwriter with a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA from San Francisco State University in Creative Writing) who played solo and in bands starting in high school and then fell in love with bhakti yoga and kirtan over ten years ago. I started leading kirtan in the San Francisco Bay Area soon after that and have continued here in New York City and in New England since moving back to the East Coast in 2007.

My own playing style and chant practice have evolved out of my own musical tendencies, along with years of chanting with Krishna Das (I am in the response choir on many of his CDs), Jai Uttal, Diana Rogers, Wah and lots of others. I am a quick study, and am happy to work with students to accompany chants, bhajans or songs that they would like to sing by any artist or from any tradition, though I should emphasize that I am absolutely a Western musician and not the right person to learn from if you want to play in the classical Indian style, much as I appreciate and enjoy it. No musical background is necessary to get started, although if you have one that's fine too...we'll begin where you are. I do recommend that you have your own harmonium, or at least access to one to practice on, although if you need one to play during the lessons I can bring a second instrument along for you.

Please let me know how you'd like to proceed and what you have in mind, as well as where you'd like to meet for your lessons and how best to be in touch.