Hi All,

Hello, I am the founder and Executive Director of, My Voice Music. My Voice Music is a nonprofit organization based in Portland Oregon that engages youth in music and performance in order to promote self-esteem, social skills and emotional expression.

I am also a musician and songwriter. I write and record primarily as a solo musician these days (formerly playing in the bands Another Cynthia and American Hit List). You can hear my solo music by clicking on some of the album links on this site.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Andrew WK Responds to, "My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole"

I don't have a lot to say about this linked article (below), other than Andrew W.K., most known to me for being a gimmicky rock n roller with blood all over his face (constantly) in the 2000's...

...hits the nail on the head in his response to someone wanting to know how to deal with their dad who is "right wing".

The juxtaposition between Andrew W.K.'s musical persona in the 2000's (shock rock during the regrettable rap rock era) and the wisdom that he speaks in this piece makes this an interesting article simply as a study of an individual.   Secondly, it is is wise.  It's a great reminder of how it is easier to rest in judgement than it is to wrestle with relationship and humanity.  It's a cool piece, read it.  You'll get something out of it.  

Andrew WK Responds to, "My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole"

Every Wednesday New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Why do you believe music has the power to heal?".

I was recently asked this question during an interview with Oregon Music News. Below is my response to that question.  (You can read the whole article here:  A Sit Down With Oregon Music News)
My Voice Music’s process works because we focus on writing great songs, learning music through hands-on experience, and recording and performing, rather than “healing” explicitly. The artistic process, in and of itself, is healing. It fosters, reflection, goal setting, hope, critical thinking, community and more. For youth who have been in therapy and treatment for a long time, simply having something “normal” to focus on rather than sitting in another therapy group session is therapeutic. An important byproduct of focusing on creating great music and establishing a strong community is that we get to assemble a diverse group of youth from all walks of life united by their passion for music, not their challenges.
Of course, there are many studies illustrating music’s particular therapeutic capacities. For instance, the act of singing releases endorphins into our bloodstream, which can relieve pain and reduce anxiety. Simply asking patients to share music that they like with caretakers bridges the gap between the provider and patient, creating a higher rate of success in treatment. Music as an intervention is even shown to increase particular antibodies. This is to speak nothing of the growing pile of evidence showing the impact of arts on social skills and academic performance. I will let those studies speak for themselves though as anyone can Google them. In short, music has an intrinsic therapeutic value and is culturally relevant to youth culture, so it doesn’t seem like therapy, even if that is its effect.

Photo By Robert Delahanty
What do you want the kids to take away from the program?

I want them to feel they are powerful and capable. They can write songs and grow as artists to the extent they are willing to invest in the artistic process. They have the power to manifest positive change in their lives to the extent they are willing to invest in themselves. They can bless their community to the extent that they are willing to be vulnerable.
I think this is a paradigm shift for many youth, particularly those with labels such as, “poor,” “mentally ill,” “abused” and “at-risk,” but really for all youth.  Adults spend a lot of time figuring out ways to control every aspect of youth life - this ultimately takes mutes young people's perceptions of their own power and impact (both positive and negative) on their wold. People, young and old alike, need to have the opportunity to make both good and bad choices and take risks and fail as they navigate the world. This is how people learn how they fit into their communities, what their strengths are, and where they may need help.  
My Voice Music's program model is designed to provide the opportunity for youth from various life circumstances to join our programs and begin to take positive risks and ownership over their personal growth and creative choices.  This happens with music and art and extends to our Leadership Program where older youth can attend training  and become Student Leaders at our various programs.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Nothing is so cheap as the evasion purchased by just enough good conduct to make one pass as a "serious person."

I lay in bed and have been unable to sleep for several hours.  Thoughts of work anxiously fill my head, and I shudder as I think of some of the challenges that lie ahead.  Finally I give up, get up out of bed, grab a book and cozy up on the couch to begin reading.  (according to my facebook feed, I know that I am not the only person who this happens to).  Actually, I am learning to appreciate this quiet time for reflection.

I am blessed to have this mission of My Voice Music to work on and develop.  It is a job that allows me to learn about myself and grow daily.  It is my mission to grow this organization and to surround myself with people who can help to realize the it's potential into that glowing ideal that exists in my head (for while we do great work, we are still a ways away from that place.)  It is a blessing that deepens me (just as the knife is a blessing to the wood in a carving...ha!)   I am constantly reminding myself that stress is not something people ever grow out of, or work our way out of.  Stress, struggle and strife are, and have been, our companions as long as life has existed.   These uncomfortable elements can teach us and propel us into places we would not go otherwise.  For evidence to this end,  watch the following video describing this concept, but in an in-depth way, and from a larger world view.  It is about how challenges allow us to feel empathy and how empathy is essentially what binds everything together from people to animals to trees and stuff.

Watch the video here:

So here I am reading my book at 2am in order to keep my mind occupied so that my heart rate will fall and I can finally sleep.  I crack open a book of assorted essays by Thomas Merton, one of my favorite intellectuals of the 20th century, called, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.  Typically each essay is not longer than a couple pages.  Often there is simply a paragraph describing some thought he was working through in a moment and no more.  Chapters are broken up by general theme with little delineation between specific essays.  So for instance, if you find an essay you really like you have to mark it, rip it out of the book, or something extreme, otherwise finding it again can be nearly impossible.  What I randomly flipped to was profoundly relevant in my moment of anxiety induced sleeplessness.  It begins:

"A great deal of virtue and piety is simply the easy price we pay in order to justify a life that is essentially trifling.   Nothing is so cheap as the evasion purchased by just enough good conduct to make one pass as a "serious person."

A great deal of libertinism, vice, and rebellion is in the end much the same thing.  It does not "justify" trifling, but nevertheless expresses impotence and refusal to do anything else.  The fact that the rebellion is an implicit criticism of the shallow and the respectable proves absolutely nothing.

And when you come to look more deeply into man's present condition you find that many forms of "seriousness" and "achievement" come to this in the end.  In our society, a society of business rooted in puritanism, based on a pseudo-ethic of industriousness and thrift, to be rewarded by comfort, pleasure, and a good bank account, the myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile.  There is, then,  a great deal of busy-ness as people invent things to do when in fact there is very little to be done.  Yet we are overwhelmed with jobs, duties, tasks, assignments, "missions" of every kind.  At every moment we are sent north, south, east, and west by the angels of business and art, poetry and politics, science and war, to the four corners of the universe to decide something, to sign something, to buy and sell.  We fly in all directions to sell ourselves, thus justifying the absolute nothingness of our lives.  The more we seem to accomplish, the harder it becomes to really dissimulate our trifling, and the only thing that saves us is the common conspiracy not to advert to what is really going on...No matter how empty our lives become, we are always at least convinced that something is happening because, indeed, as we so often complain, too much is happening.  There is so much to be done that we don not have time to live...such is the cliche.
But it is precisely this idea that a serious life demands "time to live" that is the root of our trifling.
In reality, what we want is time in which to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it.  But because we do not try it, we precipitate ourselves into another kind of trifling:  that which is not idle, but dissimulated as action."

(btw - I couldn't find the entire excerpt online, but here is a link to a google preview of most of this piece...from there you can buy the book too:  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

Other than the obvious coincidence of not being able to sleep due to the stress related to feeling overwhelmed by the endless duties of my work, and then reading this as the first essay I flipped to (out of hundreds of options), there is another thing I am left considering.  While he comes to the conclusion that what we really want is "time to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it", I also take away another thought:  The constant attempt to fill idle time with work and "to do lists" undermines our most important work as people which is to love one another, to be present and open for relationship, to be empathetic, to invest in people, to seek out inspiration and to inspire.   This work is not one sided, as Proverbs 27:17 says, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man another".  Indeed our to-do list's can be directly counter to this aim of connecting... of love.

Ultimately, when I am sleepless and consumed with stress sometimes I need to buckle down and finish my to-do lists.  Life is "work" after all.  However, I am left with this question: how can I make sure my work is not taking away from the relationships I need in my life?  I don't think it is a 12 step process.  I don't think organizational plans will help (though I do subscribe to GTD, and have systems I follow).  The work will never cease.   Stress will only intensify with life (more work, kids, more death, more needs, etc.)

I will only be in relationship with people to the extent I am willing to choose to do so.  The depth of those relationships will be the result of my openness, my vulnerability, and my intent.  It begins with a choice, not another "to do" item.  A simple choice, made over and over again, that places an investment in relationship over concerns about stress.  It won't help me sleep better, but perhaps it will help me become a better husband, boss, and friend.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Want Quick, Accurate Thinking? Ask a Musician

New research finds musical training appears to sharpen our ability to detect our own mistakes, and rapidly make needed adjustments.

This is a very quick and simple article stating what I have seen while using music as an intervention for youth facing major challenges.   Each year My Voice Music programs reach over 900 youth who are facing extreme challenges through our partnerships with youth service agencies such as Albertina Kerr, Youth Villages, Morrison Child and Family Services, and various foster care providers.  We run music programs that focus on song writing and recording that teach music instruments in the process.  Here is a quote from one of MVM's service partners after they watched one of our early music classes:

“I, and other psychologists, educators, and professionals witnessed astonishing things happen (in MVM's groups): the students were getting along, the residential units they lived in saw a reduction in number of physical restraints, a surge in students creativity and flexibility, and the development of new, reality-tested and sustainable coping skills...
This program also taps into therapeutic approaches such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Strategies, by coaching youth to use all of their senses to perceive their environment and make sound decisions based on well thought out opinions and decisions...
I have seen the invaluable, positive qualities it evokes within children and teens that have every reason to give up, act out, or get mad. After learning a song, skill, instrument, or the technical side of creating a CD, youth are empowered, self-confident, able to collaborate, and eager to listen and learn more...”
-- Kelly Blixhaven, Assistant Manager, Day Treatment Program, Albertina Kerr Centers

The following sentence from the article sums up what makes one specific part of music rehearsal so beneficial; "if you hit a wrong note, it’s important to be immediately aware of what you did wrong, but it’s just as important to not hesitate or second-guess yourself. You quickly take stock what happened and move on—a skill the musicians in the study applied to these two tests, and one players ..."

Part of learning music is about learning to handle failure so that at some point in the future you can reach fluency and connection.  Being connected is about handling all the successes and failures while not breaking the flow of the piece you are performing.  What an absolutely essential skill that we all need to be developing!  I was glad to come across this article that so pointedly speaks to one of the transformative aspects of music study that I see every day at My Voice Music.   I hope you enjoy it too.

Direct URL to article:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is Greatness?

I had a student recently tell me, they were quitting music because, in their words, they would never be "great".  (the student did not end up quitting music, but it got me to thinking about this concept of "greatness").  The following are some quick thoughts I had while considering the topic.

Greatness is not achieved in a single moment.  It occurs during small moments along a journey that is intentional by someone who is willing to: participate; be vulnerable; fall in love with process; share the results of  process; be forgiving of self and others when goals are missed; be humble in successes; acknowledge soul responsibility for the outcome of the journey; acknowledge that the journey will only bare fruit with the help of others.

Greatness happens when quality opportunities meet ambitious intentions.  Without one of these things, nothing happens.

Greatness is not fame - sometimes it is never seen.  Greatness is gone the moment it happens.  Greatness does not bring wealth.  Greatness is connection to the source.  It is a soft hand touching the face of a lover, it is the strain of muscles lifting a heavy head in the midst of disappointment, it is both laughter and tears.  Greatness evokes admiration, it does not ask for it.

My goal as a leader is to understand my own journey, remain faithful to it, and to support people on their own paths so that we may experience moments that inspire us, and perhaps the people around us.

I watched this video a while ago and thought it was pretty great (especially the second half) - I think it might apply to the topic at hand.

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am a Skidmore Prize Winner!

In October of 2011 I was honored to be awarded a Skidmore Prize by the Willamette Week.  (yes, I realize I am posting this a bit late, however, as they say, "better late than never")   This award is given to young outstanding non-profiteers in Portland, OR.  As part of the award I was one of four featured individuals on the cover of the Willamette Week, and participated in 30 minute interview on OPB's Think Out Loud (click the link to listen to the interview).  In all, I was able to share My Voice Music's mission and vision with thousands of people. What an honor!  You can learn more about this award by visiting My Voice Music's blog post - A City's Riches, Ian Mouser Awarded Skidmore Prize

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Album, There is a Light, Available