Authenticity - Part II

Some of you may remember my first post on authenticity a few weeks ago (read it here).  It’s something that’s been on my heart and mind a lot since then, enough that I thought I needed to say a little more about it.

First of all, some exciting news: I’m building a new professional website and I can’t wait for the launch later this spring!  New content, new photos, new colors, new logo, new everything.  It’s been an exciting creative journey for me (from designing a myriad of custom details to way more HTML than I ever thought I would need to know!) but a big part of the process has been a search for my true (authentic) identity.  This is the hard part.  The part of the experience that stretches me in new, uncomfortable ways.  The part that requires risk and pushing past the boundaries that confine me.  The truth is, there’s a little part of me that feels as if my whole self detracts from the music professional image I am trying to project (wait, I thought you were a music teacher not a web designer…).  Gosh, that’s hard to say out loud!

Somehow, I had this idea going into this process that the people who visit my site should only know certain things about me:

  • I am a passionate teacher (insert statement of philosophy here)
  • I am dedicated to my students (insert professional accolades here)
  • I am experienced in music (insert list of credentials, degrees, and other experiences here)

Anything else I might share would take away from my credibility, right?  When I realized that I was only sharing pieces of myself, I felt like less of a musician.  Ever heard that slogan, “Eat. Sleep. Play music”?  What kind of professional am I if I don’t commit 110% of my life to the pursuit of music?

Well, I’m passionate, dedicated, and extremely driven.  I have a combination of sweet southern charm and a fiery spirit (and sometimes, you might hear a little bit of an accent).  I work hard.  I am always trying to improve and I love learning new things.  Music is my life but not my whole life.  I realized authenticity is more than packaging my musical self into a neat little square box.  There is more to me than the smiling, cardboard cutout image that I had created of myself.  Any music teacher can say the generic things I was saying.  How can I set myself apart?  By telling my story (including the not-so-perfect parts).  By being true to myself – my whole self.  By sharing my mission statement:

My authentic mission, the core of my work as a teacher and music professional is to encourage creativity, share experiences, and inspire a passion for music-making.

I find inspiration in more things in life than just dedicated students and good music.  I am inspired to be better, to try new things, and to learn more about myself as a teacher when I watch other teachers (music and otherwise).  I am inspired to create beautiful music when I see expressive works of art, classic designs, gorgeous color schemes, and when I read simple, sweet lines of poetry.  Other creative professionals (in music and other fields) who are committed to authenticity encourage me to be true to myself in everything I do (though I’ve never met Emily Ley, this post struck a chord with me and inspired me to write this follow-up post).  Making decisions in everyday life helps me to make more musical decisions in teaching and performance – when to interject, when to listen, when to push ahead, when to pull back.  Taking time to be outside, to walk, to jog, to be spontaneous clears my head and empowers me to be more effective in my work.

I’m Ashley Danyew – it’s a pleasure to meet you!

Image Credit: personal (Yes, that is a Coca-Cola can on the bench next to me.  I did say I was from Georgia, didn’t I?)