On Being an Entrepreneur

Do your best. Hold fast to your core values. Create something that matters. Do good work. Help others. Be kind. Add value to those around you.

These statements are very much in line with my core values as a teacher and business owner.

I want to encourage creativity in others, share learning experiences, and inspire those who have a passion for making music.  The words above remind me to focus on the things that add value, promote excellence, and make a difference to someone.

It was never about how to make money or be "successful" (as others define it).  Those of you who consider yourself entrepreneurs or creatives know what I'm talking about.  We do what we do because our heart and soul demand it.  It's not about power or prestige, it's about creating a legacy that you can be proud of.

It's about holding on to your values and the things that make you YOU.  It's about being honest and authentic in the work you do and the relationships you build.  These things are at the heart of our passion, aren't they?  It's that desire to do something meaningful, make something beautiful, and see things from new perspectives.

I find an immense amount of hope and inspiration and possibility in these words - I hope you do, too.

Brand New

What an exciting day!  I have been refining my brand, discovering my voice, and building a new website for several months now (translation: I now know waaaay more about HTML code, RSS feeds, and Wordpress than I ever thought I would need to know!).  I am so excited to finally share all of that with you today!

This is a reflection of who I am: my passions, my experiences, my personality, and my aspirations.  Thanks so much to my brother, Nicholas Garofalo for all of my new headshots and for Lara and Emily at Making Brands Happen for all of the business and branding advice!  Also, a huge thank you to Steve for the months of support, proofreading, web hosting assistance, and so much more.

Among these pages, you'll find stories about me and the work I love, details of my current and recent music projects, my philosophy of teaching, and this blog, which will focus on my work and teaching experiences.

Discovering and refining my authentic core has been a soul-searching experience and I'm so thankful for each step I've taken during the process.  Thank you for being a part of this journey and for taking the time to visit!  I hope you stay awhile!

Things That Fire Me Up

Earlier this week, I read this post and was inspired to take the time to make my own list.  Truthfully, if you ask Steve, he’d tell you that there are lots of things that fire me up – I have fire in blood (I am from the south, after all).  However, identifying the things that truly fill me up, satisfy me, and fire me up to do more and be more required a little bit of thought.  What a powerful exercise for setting priorities and recognizing what is most important!  For me, it comes down to worship, time with SD, music (building + making), writing, and clean designs for home and work.  This is my heart, the things that matter most of all.  This is why I do what I do.

What fires you up?  Where is your authentic core?  Download your own Fired Up List right here.

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?)


Authentic.  Formally defined as genuine, trustworthy, reliable, honest, and truthful. 

In teaching, in collaborating, in my professional interactions, and in my personal life, I want to be authentic.  This is part of my commitment to excellence and being the best I can be.

I want to be GENUINE, my true self. I want to be TRUSTWORTHY and HONEST in the way I present myself and in the way I deal with people. I want to be RELIABLE by following through with what I say, being true to my commitments, and being responsible with my time. I want to stand behind my word and be TRUTHFUL in communication and action.

Maybe you’ve seen the quote circulating the blog/Pinterest world – “If you’re your authentic self, you have no competition.” – Scott Stratten/@Unmarketing.  Go out there and be your smart, successful, witty, personable, genuine, authentic self.

Oprah Winfrey: Interview

"What are you really passionate about?"  "What would you do if you didn't have fear?"  "How can you use your life as a service to yourself, your family, and your community?" These are just a few of the challenging questions Oprah asks herself and those listening to this interview (from last week, September 8, by the way).  It's a message of authenticity and real-life experience.  Be you.  Be true and authentic.  Be the best you can be.  And don't let fear hold you back.

Watch the video here.