Teacher Feature: Keely Borland

Keely Borland has been with us since Sept 2017, and currently works with a roster of 10 Blue Feather students. Her instruments are voice and piano and she is attempting to learn some ukelele just for fun. She is an active performer, receiving ongoing vocal mentoring from Elizabeth Daniels and coaching sessions from Joy Schreier. She is passionate about the music she makes, and states,  "I just want to sing the stuff I love to sing. If I'm not enjoying it, why am I doing it?" 

This sentiment spills over into everything she does. Keely's first musical inspiration came from The Little Mermaid. As a child, she fell in love with the Disney classic and dreamed of becoming a voice over artist. So she started taking lessons, performing with local theater companies, and the rest was history. A chance to perform in a children's chorus in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh, with Jody Benson (the voice of Disney's "Ariel") narrating, only fanned her passion. She was ecstatic, bringing Little Mermaid paraphernalia to rehearsals for Ms. Benson to sign. Keely crossed over into classical music around the age of 12 and has been at it ever since. 

What values hold a top priority in her lessons? Confidence is number one. Keely wants her students "to think for themselves," and be able to repeat back to her what she is looking for, in their own words, rather than mindlessly doing what she tells them. "If you're confident with a piece and not doubting yourself all the way through it, that can cross over to a lot of different things." 

Additionally, she believes in tailoring each lesson to the needs of her students in the moment. A great example of this occurred when she helped a piano student make up words to a song that was becoming a monotonous series of notes on a page. As they came up with their own imaginative words to go with the notes, the music came to life for the child.

When asked what obstacles stand in the way of success, Keely shared that kids often have an unrealistic "idea of what it means to be a performer or to go into music as a career." While she doesn't want to "dissuade them," she hopes "to give them a really honest picture of what it's like. Music is hard as a career. It requires hustling." She doesn't believe young people often realize that icons like Taylor Swift overcame significant obstacles to pursue the career they enjoy today. "Instant success"  is a fantasy, she explained; "If they really want to be a singer, you want them to know what they are getting into and still choose to do it."

A student who currently inspires Keely is a voice student in her teens named Caroline. Her range and confidence has greatly improved since they began work together. "The last couple lessons especially have been really, really good," Keely explained, adding that "she's able to laugh off mistakes," which Keely believes is an essential skill in order to progress. 

Upcoming professional events include The Mikado at The Victorian Theatre company in Baltimore this summer, where she'll be covering the role of "Yum Yum", as well as the Shenendoah Valley Bach Festival, and The Little Match Girl Passion with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. In addition to the excellent work she does in our community, Keely also holds a church job. For more details on where and when you can hear her perform, please check out Keelyboswarthborland.com

Fun fact: "I geek out over film and tv and can't pick a favorite movie because there are so many amazing ones."

Teacher Feature: Jenny Anne Flory

Jenny Anne Flory began teaching piano and voice through Blue Feather in May of 2017, just as she was completing her Master's in opera performance at the University of Maryland, College Park. She now continues her studies with instructors Arianna Zukerman and Elizabeth Bishop, and coach Giovanni Reggioli

To hear Jenny Anne's beautiful mezzo soprano voice in concert, you can attend an evening of operatic scenes put on by the Potomac Vocal Institute on Mother's Day at the United church, 1920 G Street NW, DC. Further details will be posted shortly.

Jenny Anne found inspiration as a child in her 2 older cousins, who are "more like sisters." They played piano and did karaoke, and she desired to follow in their footsteps. Her mother and grandmother provided further inspiration through their active involvement in vocal productions at church. Jenny Anne's first performances were at talent shows in 4th grade with her local 4H club. She went on to play the saxophone in her middle school band, and then to sing with her high school choir.

Jenny Anne spoke of all her students with affection and pride. She is particularly excited about an upcoming middle school production of The Sound of Music, in which her piano and voice student, Emily, will be starring as Maria von Trapp. Emily, who started lessons with Jenny Anne in the fall of 2017, and already possessed a solid background in piano, is excelling quickly as an aspiring vocal artist.

When asked what obstacles musicians must overcome to succeed, she confessed, "I am my own worst critic. The nasty voice in my head prevents progress some days." On these days, she is learning to be more positive with herself, and recommends the value of seeing a great therapist, who can persuade musicians that "everything is going to be ok." Students too, sometimes get mad at themselves for mistakes, when the real issue is simply a need for more time to devote to their instrument. She is careful though, to "build relationships" first, rather than "hounding insane amounts of practice." Her approach is to encourage positivity, use rewards systems for accomplishments, and make lessons fun.

Jenny Anne's dream goal is to sing opera or concert music around the world. She hopes to find an agent in the future, but for now, she is enjoying DC as an ideal mid east coast location for networking. In her words, "I want to share my gift, and have cool experiences in different areas." 

A fun fact about Jenny Anne: She is "obsessed with the Washington Nationals."


Teacher Feature: Spencer Granger

Spencer Granger joined Blue Feather in  2016, bringing an expertise primarily in drums and guitar. While these are his main instruments, his skills are broad, having majored in voice for his undergraduate degree, and possessing proficiency in piano, cello, violin, viola, and bass guitar.

Spencer can be heard performing either guitar, bass guitar, or drums 2-3 weeks of the month at National Community Church's Baracks Row and Potomac Yard locations. He shares that his first inspiration came from watching his dad play music at church growing up. His dad played acoustic guitar and offered a strong tenor harmony to the worship team. While Spencer was a "later bloomer," picking up his first instrument at 12, he felt that listening to so much music throughout his childhood gave him a head start and "everything took off" from there. Like his father, he too is a tenor.

A student who currently inspires Spencer in particular, is a boy nearly 14 years old, who has been studying guitar with him  for 4 years. In the last year, he's been progressing quickly. "I have to practice before lessons to prepare for him," Spencer reported proudly. He is delighted when students begin to practice more and more for sheer enjoyment.

A value that Spencer wishes to impart to his students is time management, especially since we are located in the DC area. "I've never seen so many stressed out 9 year olds," he confessed, referring to our busy schedules and strong drive to succeed that is so typical of the DC community. "For myself as well," he says, "it can be hard to carve out time to practice when the pace of life here is so busy."

Another principle Spencer believes is important in developing any performer is what he calls "The big 3." These are Transcription, Technique, and Repertoire. Transcription is the ability to hear or see something and replicate it, either on paper or at your instrument. Technique is the ability to find your way around the instrument well. Repertoire is a set of songs that each student has developed and can play with ease at any given moment.

Spencer's dreams for the future include releasing music over next 18 months, which will require marketing and management over social media. He also hopes to build a better personal network of musicians, and start a family of his own someday soon.

A fun fact about Spencer: He is left handed and learned to play all instruments backwards!


Teacher Feature: Chelsea Davidson

Teacher Feature: Chelsea Davidson

Chelsea is an opera singer, piano and vocal instructor who came to us in 2016. She has just concluded a run of 11 shows at the Sarasota Opera Florida, where she was cast as Frasquita in the beloved Carmen. After relocating for an intense month of rehearsals and thrilling stage experience,  she shared the following highlights: the opportunity to dance in the opening scene, the chance to play a peasant character since she's tall and usually type cast as a noble, and the friendships made with other leads in the production.

When Practice Becomes the Joy.

Nora Keith did not have the chance to perform on our spring recital, due to a traveling conflict. However, the work she put into this piece, and a simple, low quality iPhone recording I captured of her work on it this week, demonstrates a truth that has been growing in my heart over the past year.

It's not the moments on stage where we are guaranteed our greatest rewards. While those moments can be exciting and fulfilling, depending on how we approach them, they are very often overrated in the life of a performing artist. The quiet moments we spend pursuing excellence out of pure joy are worth far more than any standing ovation.

Nora's mom shared with me that her daughter has been spending lots of time in daily piano practice now that the summer months are giving her extra free time. She's adding it to her days and mixing it into the usual pleasures of tv shows and book reading, and the only reason this could be happening is because she loves it. It's summer time, and she could be at the swimming pool or the movie theater or anywhere but the piano, if she saw piano practice as a mere means to an end.

For Nora, who has been playing piano for just shy of two years now, the practice IS the joy. The quiet moments are her reward. The artistry of dynamics and legato and expression and beautifully rounded fingers are blossoming as she takes the time to "play," and I am proud of her.

Please take a moment to enjoy her rendering of "Leaving Netherfield" from the 2005 motion picture soundtrack of "Pride and Prejudice." 

- Kellie McHugh -

The Boutique Experience

The Boutique Experience

If you scan the internet for definitions of boutique however, you’ll find that the term isn’t only used for glass storefronts filled with gorgeous clothes or expensive flowers and gifts.  The word actually describes businesses of all types that are one of a kind in their field of expertise.

Tips to Cure Performance Anxiety

Tips to Cure Performance Anxiety

Whether it’s presenting a science project to your 6th grade class, giving a projections report at the next board meeting, or singing in front of a group of any size, we suddenly go into panic mode and those pesky symptoms of performance anxiety show up. The worst part is that it feels like there is nothing we can do to stop it. Or is there?

Walk Out in Faith

Walk Out in Faith

I don't know how it happened, but I get to do what I love for my life and have a community that supports my mission. I honestly feel like the luckiest girl in the whole world! I know now that music and teaching is my heart and life's work, but it wasn't always that way- I didn't always know  this.

Welcome to the New Home of Blue Feather Music!

I'm so excited to reveal our shiny new website! This has been in the works for some time, and I hope you enjoy looking around. With this new site I wanted to create an online presence that reflected the calibre of our teachers and students and represents the type of teaching studio we are becoming in the community.

Greatness Isn't Born, It's Grown

Greatness Isn't Born, It's Grown

As a trained vocalist, I am often asked when I found I could sing. It’s a difficult question to answer directly, because I’ve built my singing voice through years of study and careful practice, just like any instrumentalist. One of my first voice teachers advised me this would be the case. She confessed to me that all she could think when told her voice was amazing was, “Well, it better be. I’ve worked my butt off for it.”