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Singing at the Edge, Music at the Heart

Uncategorized Jul 08, 2021

(repost from Fall 2018)

Why I do what I do, summed up in a weekend.

People randomly burst into song in front of the fireplace, others wander through the garden humming a tune, friends harmonize in line for the buffet, guests serenade you at the dinner table.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered onto the set of a 1940s MGM musical. But happily, this magical place actually exists. Or at least it did for a full weekend in October. I am, of course, describing the wonderful “Singing on the Edge” weekend at Esalen.

With 130 singers on site, it could hardly be any other way. 

In its 56 year history I can only imagine that this workshop will stand out as one of the most exciting. Sold out in a week, this was the first workshop of its kind at Esalen, taking over the entire property and offering 15 distinct and talented workshop leaders to choose from.

And with such a wealth of experienced musical leaders, we couldn’t help but be inspired. Laurence Cole, Melanie DeMore, and Barbara McAfee were there, to name just a few, and it was incredible to see their differences and how they each shine in their own, fearless ways.

Each workshop was a joyful experience, enhanced by the wonderful surroundings — the calming view of the Pacific, the rejuvenating hot springs, the majestic gardens. The perfect setting. We couldn’t help but let our music flow into the landscape, whether happily humming on the journey to the next workshop, a spontaneous group performance, or devotional chanting in the hot tubs on the Sunday morning. It was a weekend of pure bliss.

The power of connection.

What really made the weekend — for me at least — was the deep sense of connection I felt with my fellow participants. There we were, total strangers, thrown together for two whole days. It could’ve been excruciatingly awkward. Or a very lonely experience. After all, we had nothing to bind us together, apart from the music.

But, of course, the music was enough.

Melanie DeMore led us into the deepest depths of African American song, moving us to tears as we sang of the grief of the enslaved people. It was a powerful journey of pain, of healing, of discovery and again, a journey towards connection with others.

I tried to do my own part to foster that connection during my vocal improvisation workshop, held with performer, dancer, and drummer Emile Hassan Dyer. We had never taught together before but we made a great team and had an absolute blast together helping people discover the music they had bubbling inside of them, just waiting to get out!

The whole weekend was a glorious reminder of why I do what I do. Music truly does have the power to help us connect with others, to tap into the joy and the pain experienced by our fellow human beings, and to bring us all together in a way that nothing else can.

At Esalen, music had the power to turn strangers into friends.

If you feel music bubbling inside of you, dying to get out, we’d love to welcome you to Sing Portland!


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