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!

April: Getting Organized

March sure did zip by but I welcome April with wide open arms.  I am so ready for the final month of classes, the Holy Week services at church (this week, oh my!), and the (promise of) warmer temperatures (note: 60 is not “warm,” folks).  Here are a few of the things I have planned for the month: Easter.  This week is Holy Week.  That means choir rehearsal tonight, service tomorrow, and two services Sunday morning.  My goal: to get through this week (and all of this special music!) with grace and poise.  Immortal love, forever full, forever flowing free.  Forever shared, forever whole, a never ebbing sea…

Trip to Connecticut.  It’s been on our calendars for a while now, but this is the month we get to spend a weekend (Friday/Saturday) in CT with Steve’s parents!  I can’t believe it’s been almost four months since our last visit!

WCMW Only one month to go!  I am so excited about our series of events for this year and I am so grateful for the support of so many generous sponsors!  This month, I need to work on the program book (design, layout, ads), finish up marketing (email blasts, print posters, postcards), and properly thank all of our sponsors (with handwritten thank you notes, of course!).

Choir Program.  Last year, we put together a choir program (our favorite anthems from the year) for a Sunday afternoon in June.  This year’s choir program is tentatively set for early June so it’s time to begin planning!  This month, I need to put together a list of possible anthems.

Make decisions.  It’s time to do the hard work, buckle down, and make those personal and professional decisions that will keep me moving forward.  This is the month to make things happen.

Book flights for summer.  We’re planning a trip down to the Great South this summer to visit family and friends and attend the Music and Liturgical Arts Week Conference at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina (so excited about this!).  We registered for the conference and set tentative travel dates; this month, we need to book flights and a rental car and make this thing official!  Side note: I just discovered yapta – a free service that not only compares flights but continues checking prices after you book.  In the event that the price changes, they notify you so you can claim an airline credit (if it qualifies).  Pretty nifty! 

Branding/Website.  Last month, I had the opportunity to take part in a business and branding webinar presented by Making Brands Happen.  I learned so much about creating a strong, authentic brand for myself and building an identity to support it.  Now, I am tackling a few new items each week to continue moving forward in this process.  I love doing this work!

Exercise. Dear Main Street: It’s been a while since we shared 2-3 jogs a week.  Don’t worry – it’s not you, it’s me.  I promise I’ll try to do better this month.  Love, me.  It’s not that we stopped exercising (we walk to the Post Office and back and forth to church multiple times a week) it’s just that jogging a few times a week in addition to our daily walks took our exercise routine to the next level.  This month, I’d like to get back into that jogging habit.  Saturday morning – it’s a date!

Previously: March: Getting Organized

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?)