An impressive group of high school and college band directors took part in my "Michael Colgrass Experience" workshop this summer at The Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut. I showed them how to write compositions using graphic notation and improve their performance preparation with exercises from my book My Lessons with Kumi. Ultimately, their goal was to learn creativity and performance skills to pass on to their students. Here are a few photos.

Participants compose using graphic notation:


Janet looks over her graphic composition:


Kim shows us her graphic composition:




Theresa performs her graphic composition:


Janet, her feet in the background, goes through seven steps to align her art with her life:


We all loosen up to one of my favorite bands, Talking Heads:


(Photo credits: Teresa Rice)

Exercises for The Colgrass Experience workshop at The Hartt School

The exercises are from my book My Lessons with Kumi.

See-Hear-Feel-Do (Lesson 7, p.304)

A concentration exercise where you identify what you see, hear and feel in your immediate surroundings followed by the ongoing state of mind you desire.


Walk-Ons (Lesson 9, p. 318)

Participants practice walking on stage using the "eyes up" visualization technique for eliminating internal dialogue and unwanted emotion.


Zzt-Squeeze (Lesson 2, p. 275)

A resource anchor using a finger squeeze to recall constructive images.


Circle of Excellence (Lesson 18, p. 375)

A piece of yarn, one-meter in diameter, is placed on the floor in front of each individual who then steps into the circle representing his/her personal excellence.


Hologram (Lesson 3, p. 281)

Assuming three different positions for the Performer, Coach and Listener to gain multiple perspectives on your performance.


Phobia Cure (Lesson 3, p. 281)

Re-living a traumatic experience from three positions: feeling yourself experiencing the trauma (stage position), watching yourself experiencing it (audience position) and watching yourself watch yourself experiencing it (balcony view of audience position).


Triple-Channel Learning (Chapter 13, p. 189-90, 194)

A see-hear-feel exercise for memorization where you make an internal image of a passage of music, then sing it off the remembered image, before playing it on your instrument.


Sequencing (Lesson 5, p. 293)

Defining the sequence of events leading up to an undesirable outcome. Then re-designing the sequence to achieve a desirable outcome.


Life Levels Alignment (Lesson 17, p. 383)

Walking through the six main levels of your life as defined by philosopher Gregory Bateson and NLP developer Robert Dilts -- Environment, Activity, Capabilities, Values and Beliefs, Identity, Spiritual -- and relating each level to the other in connection with your goal.



A group participation workshop for performers and presenters. (3 hours)


  • Walk-ons. For a group of up to 50 people in a large room with unfixed seating, large enough for 50 people to move freely.
  • Two-thirds of the workshop is an exercise for each individual in front of the group, where each participant learns a quick practical technique for walking on stage with comfort and ease.
  • The remainder of the time is a movement exercise in non-verbal communication. (3 hours.)

Equipment:  High quality sound system for playing CDs, black- or whiteboard.

Objective:   To manage your mental state for performances, interviews, auditions, or any kind of public presentation.

(Chapter nine in My Lessons with Kumi)



A Workshop for actors, musicians and dancers. (3 hours)

Three group exercises:

  • Acting: In groups, individuals practice "as if" techniques for altering their state of mind. Object: to understand how an actor creates a character.
  • Composing: the group creates and performs a piece of vocal music using graphic notation on a black- or whiteboard.
  • Dancing: the group dances to three different types of music, given simple moves that automatically work with each style -- classical, modern atonal and Rock

Equipment:  Black- or whiteboard, large open space suitable for movement. High quality sound system for playing CDs.

Objective:   To experience the creative process from three perspectives.



For music educators (2 hours)

A lecture for teachers on how to teach children to create music.


Participants create and perform a piece of vocal music, then review the steps used so they can teach children to compose music using the same system. Includes a 10-page handout on the method.

Participants also discuss three questions:

  • Why don't we teach children to composer music?
  • What is the best way to educate a music educator?
  • What could be done to make music a required course that could not be cut, like math, science, history and language?

Equipment:  CD and DVD players, black- or whiteboard.

Objective:   To demonstrate a process for teaching children how to create music.



A workshop for music lovers (3hrs)

Techniques for listening to various styles of music in new ways. Maximum 50 people.


Listening to a piece of music under hypnosis. Improvising physical movements to different styles of music to understand these styles "in the muscle." Creating and performing a piece of music as a group using graphic notation to understand the musical creative process.

Equipment:  Large open space with moveable seating, CD player, black- or whiteboard.

Objective:   To learn new and enjoyable ways to appreciate music without having any formal musical knowledge.



A lecture demonstration with volunteers. For a large, diverse audience. (1 & 1/2 hours)

Equipment:  Power Point technology, screen and laser pointer.

Objective:   To learn practical, easy-to-apply techniques for dealing with stage fright.

(Various techniques from my book, My Lessons with Kumi)



A Workshop for Creating Your Future. For entrepreneurs in any profession (2 hours)

Participants go through an exercise based on the ideas of NLP developer Robert Dilts to give them a broad overview of their future and show them how to integrate their life with their work.


The Circle of Excellence, and the Life levels Alignment. Equipment: Power Point technology and screen, large open space.

Objective: To understand how to organize and align the six majors levels of your life -- environment, activity, capabilities, values, identity and the spiritual – into a practical and functioning whole.

(Chapters 17-18 from My Lessons with Kumi)



A workshop on how to use language to persuade and influence (one full day)

For teachers, trainers, organizers, therapists, politicians, litigation lawyers, or anyone for whom communication and the elicitation of information is critical.

The Language Maze ™ is my version of the Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Meta Model created by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. This model analyzes the verbal techniques of leading communicators and organizes these into language forms that people typically use to limit or expand their beliefs.


Working in pairs. Participants go through The Language Maze ™ script as if they were actors in a play, exchanging dialogue and enacting situations where words change a belief or alter a situation.

Objective:   To learn how to use language to clarify thinking, elicit a high level of information, and create new behaviors.



Developing the Creative Demon. A lecture on experiences that re-directed my life. (1 to 1½  hours)

Thunderbolt One: first inspiration – to be a musician.

Thunderbolt Two: second inspiration – to compose music.

Thunderbolt Three: third inspiration – an incident on West 57th Street that re-directed me from performing to writing music for a living.

Lessons learned from these three inspirational events:

  • Developing your personal creativity is the most important thing you can do for the health of your mind and body.
  • To create you must favor your Dreamer, but you also need to develop your Realist and Critic to make the Dream work.
  • The biggest creative act is building a life, of which you are the sole designer and for which you alone are responsible.



For 4-10 people of any profession who request a workshop designed for their special needs. (One full day)

Working in alternating pairs, participants learn techniques to:

  • Self-teach and coach yourself from multiple standpoints
  • Present to audiences and groups with comfort and ease
  • Maintain concentration for extended periods under pressure
  • Communicate non-verbally
  • Feel good in a difficult situation

Equipment:  A large room with moveable seating, CD player.

Objective:   To create a workshop that satisfies the special needs of a particular group or profession, i.e., performers, middle managers, therapists, teachers/trainers, public presenters.

(Various techniques from My Lessons with Kumi)



Michael Colgrass combines techniques from mime, dance, theater games, Grotowski physical training, Neuro-linguistics, self-hypnosis and exercises from his lifetime experience as a professional percussionist, conductor and public presenter. Over 30,000 people have attended his workshops throughout the United States and Canada and also in Great Britain, South America, South Africa, and Bali. These workshops began as training for stage performers, but the skills proved useful in other professions, and the workshops soon included teachers, therapists, business people, entrepreneurs, communicators, specialists in human resources and many more "performers."
In this workshop Michael Colgrass teaches physical and mental exercises that help you learn how to:


* Control performance nerves and eliminate stage fright
* Facilitate memory and reduce memory slips
* Increase and maintain performance energy
* Use self-hypnosis to facilitate performance concentration
* Coach yourself as a performer by switching perceptual positions
* Discover your strong learning sense and how to relate it to your other senses
* Walk on stage with comfort and ease
* Relate musical emotion to physical motion
* Align your art with your environment, your values and your personal identity


This is a participatory workshop, not a lecture. Performers wear loose clothing and will be physically as well as mentally active throughout the three 3-hour sessions. Colgrass' goal is to quickly re-route undesirable performing habits, and participants often report noticeable changes in their performance after only one day in his workshops.


Among the techniques taught are:

The Pre-performance Set and Hero Trance: A set of mime exercises combined with visualizations recommended as a daily routine and warm-up prior to performance. Purpose: to relax the body, focus the mind for performance.

Self-Hypnosis for Performers: Two basic self-generated mind control techniques for performance will be taught. Purpose: to control performance nerves and learn how to focus concentration under pressure.

Hologram: A technique for switching perspectives mentally from performer, to coach to listener. Purpose: to learn how to coach yourself and to see, hear and feel your performance from your coach's and your audience's perspective.

Sequencing: A technique for understanding how you learn, unlearn and re-learn. Purpose: to increase learning efficiency and understand how to deal with stage fright.

Walk Ons: How to prepare the proper state of mind for the walk from off stage to your playing position on stage. Purpose: to increase your comfort on stage and immediately garner the audience's attention.

Life Levels Alignment: An exercise for relating your performance to your environment, skill levels, beliefs, identity and spiritual self. Purpose: to help put your art in perspective with your life.



Music Magazine; By Michael Colgrass

What is stage fright and how do performers overcome it? Probably everyone - musician or not - has at some time experienced the nerve-racking effects of speaking or performing in public: the mouth goes dry, the heart beats faster, the legs weaken, and it becomes a major effort to pull oneself together. Imagine the pressure on musicians, especially soloists and chamber music players, who must perform continually before large and critical audiences and maintain the highest musical standards. How do they do it? MORE…



Music Magazine; By Michael Colgrass

What's the best way for a musician to prepare for performance? How do we learn fastest and memorize best? Each performer is unique and we have no pat answers to these questions, but I have found that the most solid performers not only hear and feel the music deeply, they also use imagery to improve their performance. For example, string players strive to develop a big tone, but simply practicing longer and louder will only fatigue the fingers. Violist Emanuel Vardi is known for the gigantic size and beauty of his tone, even though he uses a small viola. I once asked him how he accomplished this richness of sound and he told me he had spent long periods of time practicing while looking at mountains and projecting his sound to the uppermost peaks. He would actually see the sound floating to the mountain tops. His fingers instinctively made all the adjustments necessary to accommodate this image, and when he got to the concert hall he could project effortlessly to the last row of the balcony. MORE…



Many believe that classical musical enjoyment is a gift bestowed on a lucky few, but listening is a skill that can be vastly enhanced by practice and training. In a series of sessions of lively listening and interaction with music, listeners will learn new skills that can make each concert a more profound experience, more concentrated and fulfilling. No previous musical knowledge is needed - just a love of music. Far from being music appreciation lectures, these action-oriented sessions (participants wear loose clothing) let people immerse themselves in music and listen with all their senses. The long range goal is to revitalize the orchestra-performer-composer-listener relationship and help create new music lovers.


Object: To learn to listen like musicians and enjoy music on a deeper emotional level.

Participants learn how to:

* Let go of your inhibitions as a listener
* Explore the mysteries of musical creativity
* Experience music on a deeper emotional level
* Discern quality in music and in performance
* Share the musical process with the composer and performer

You will discover how to:

* Relax and enjoy listening
* Experience music with all of your senses
* Create an original piece of music
* Feel musical styles with your body
* Use your voice with power
* Relate music to your life


STEP 1: Listening with the Eyes: Hearing and feeling music by visual overlap. This new technique enables you to use all three primary senses to fully enjoy the listening process.

STEP 2: How to Create a Piece of Music: Participants jointly create and perform a piece of music using graphic notation - an insight into the origin of all music.

STEP 3: Hearing with the Body: Using balance, space and distance to develop the inner ear. Participants learn the relationship between emotion and physical motion in music.

STEP 4: Deep Listening; A journey into the composer's mind. Self-hypnosis and intense listening.

STEP 5: Triple-Position Listening; Participants learn to switch positions between the listener, the performer and the composer.

STEP 6: The Six Levels of Listening; Participants experience listening from the standpoint of their daily environment, their workplace, their capabilities, beliefs, identity and spiritual self.


Exercises will include: Techniques from Neuro-Linguistics, mime, self-hypnosis, movement, and special exercises from Michael Colgrass' Excellence In Performance and Creativity workshops.

Music will include: Bach Goldberg Variations, Mozart F Major Piano Sonata, Beethoven Opus 131, Brahms Piano Concerto in B flat, Debussy Afternoon of a Faun, Stravinsky Rite of Spring, Cage 4'33, jazz of Charlie Parker, the pop group The Talking Heads and African folk music.

Sessions are three hours, the groups are small, and the listening steps are explained in layman's terms.


Natural Listener Workshops for Orchestra and Opera Managements

Michael Colgrass also gives Natural Listener workshops to expand the listening skills of professional managers, agents, promoters, publicists and marketers.



* To fully understand and appreciate the product you are selling
* To communicate better with people you want to enjoy your performing group
* To learn to use a common vocabulary with listeners
* To discover what draws people to concerts


"Call it auditory group therapy, gentle mass hypnosis or a little bit of both, he has come up with a listening technique that acknowledges the emotional basis of our musical responses."
-William Littler, Toronto Star



I have long been troubled by the lack of attentiveness of many listeners during concerts. Especially toward the beginning of a concert people tend to fidget and cough, rattle programs and even whisper to their partners. Although these mannerisms are irritating I realize that following a busy day many people have to overcome obstacles to get to a concert on time - finding a baby-sitter, rushing dinner, fighting traffic - and when they finally do get to their seats in the concert hall it may take them a while to settle down and concentrate. And I'm no different. More than once I've noticed at intermission that I'd been talking to myself for most of the first half of the concert instead of listening to the music! MORE…



NLP is the art of modeling human excellence. John Grinder, psychologist and linguist, and Richard Bandler, psychologist and computer specialist, joined forces in l975 in a quest to determine the strategies of outstanding people and teach those patterns to others. They devised techniques for learning, unlearning and relearning, based on the relationship between language and the senses. Early models included hypnotherapist Milton H. Erickson, M.D., and therapist Virginia Satir. From studying videotapes they made of Erickson, they learned that eye movements reflect specific sensory responses, which they applied to all manner of learning and rapport skill training. From Satir they learned how to reframe experience to gain a new perspective, which led to a variety of new therapeutic techniques. Using unique methods of eliciting high quality information quickly, they modeled business leaders, athletes, speed-readers, and many others.

In l983 John Grinder modeled Michael Colgrass for creativity. He called Colgrass' strategy The Demon Model, because Colgrass described his creative self as a demon in the classical sense (daimon) - a divine power - that one must harness with care in order to use effectively. Colgrass got interested in these techniques of modeling and became an NLP trainer, whom Grinder used in his workshops, especially as related to creativity, performance and self-hypnosis. Colgrass now teaches NLP as an alternate activity to his composing, traveling the world and working with people in various professions. His workshops on stage fright, and work with private individuals suffering from performance anxiety, has gained a wide reputation.


"Michael is a milestone in my study of human excellence. His startling ability to apply the technology of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to the whole spectrum of human experience demonstrates a profound understanding of both NLP and of the human creative process. This competency, along with his personal elegance and marvelous sense of humor, makes him a splendid teacher. Michael is a genius."

John Grinder, co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and co-author of Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., and numerous other NLP books



The following is an excerpt from Michael Colgrass' book My Lessons With Kumi - How I Learned To Perform With Confidence In Life And Work.This book has many NLP exercises built into the story, with a manual at the end of each chapter explaining each exercise. This excerpt is from Chapter 3, called "Jack Nicholson On The Rocks - Create a whole gang of coaches." In this section, Kumi, the teacher, is showing Nick, a computer programmer from New York, an exercise on how to coach himself to gain objectivity in personal and public performance situations. MORE…



Article about Excellence In Performance; By Dana Nasrallah

During Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Michael Colgrass' five-hour workshops, it's not unusual to see the noted composer of "serious" music propped upside down on one shoulder.

Or perhaps Colgrass will lead participants in an exercise in which they make strange beeping or gurgling noises in an attempt to create a unique musical notation. Activities like these have elicited raised eyebrows form the staid and proper classical music establishment. MORE…