Flute, Guitar, Piano & Voice
I am a flautist and singer-songwriter based in Philadelphia and I have been an active member of the music community for over a decade. With a background in poetry and creative writing, my compositions combine storytelling and collage poetry, and draw from my roots in folk music and R&B.
My most notable work is as a flautist and vocalist in the 9-piece hip hop collective Hardwork Movement®. I have performed at numerous music festivals, including South X Southwest, Firefly, and XPoNential Music Festival. I have also opened for legendary acts such as Questlove and Talib Kweli. My newest musical project, Dani & Joe, is a collaboration with drummer/songwriter Joe Perullo and our first single, “All For You,” is now out on all streaming platforms (link below).
I first started teaching as a teenager, helping in religious school classrooms on the weekends during the year, and as a camp counselor in the summer. I have taught many creative subjects, including music, poetry, and song writing. I have always loved teaching; learning is one of the greatest ways two minds can connect – of any age!
As a music teacher, I am passionate about giving people of all ages the tools for self-expression and collaboration. My teaching style is relaxed and organic. I teach my students to appreciate the music they make, and to listen to themselves for what is working well, in addition to what can be improved. In my lessons, I value both exploring self-expression and introducing new technical information in each lesson. Self-expression can manifest in picking songs we learn, learning how to improvise, exploring dynamics and tone quality, song writing, and countless other ways. I especially love music theory and enjoy using whatever style of music my students are interested in as a pathway to gain more knowledge and understanding of the music they play. Performing is important to the learning process and is a great way to explore the skills my students acquire. I always encourage my students to seek out performance opportunities. The world needs your voice!
When did you begin playing Flute, and why?
I started playing the flute when I was 7 because my mom had one in the house that she played in high school. I didn’t know then that there is some kind of flute in every culture. I knew I wanted to play an instrument, and it was an easy choice because we already had one. After taking private classical lessons for several years, I was able to join the orchestra and jazz band in my middle school music program. Here I had the chance to play with other people for the first time, and that was so much fun. In high school and college I suffered from chronic injuries and it was difficult to play and practice as much as I wanted to. My passion for music was very strong, and it was emotionally painful to not be able to do what I loved. Over the years, I have collected many methods to help and resolve chronic pain, so I am again able to play as much as my heart desires! I am also able to share many of these tools with my students, including correct posture and care for our bodies while we practice. At this point, the flute is an extension of me, I play like I sing, and I sing like I play. It brings me so much joy and satisfaction to play the flute. I mostly like to perform pop, r&b and jazz, but I also enjoy playing and teaching classical music. Classical approaches to the flute are useful and fun for playing all genres.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I am a singer and have always loved singing and making up songs, even since before I could talk. I grew up singing in religious services and leading prayers from a young age. Singing was an important part of religious observance in my family growing up, a positive way for us to connect and be together. I started writing and performing my original songs when I was 19, and to me, it is one of the greatest joys of life.
As a songwriter, I started playing guitar when I was 15 so that I could accompany myself while I sing. I love writing songs on the guitar, it has always been fun for me to learn and overcome obstacles by using my creative goals as motivation. On guitar, I learn as I write, and overtime, the fretboard has become more and more intuitive to me.
I grew up with a piano in my house, and I played a little here and there throughout childhood. My grandmother was a professional classical piano player, so I have very warm and loving associations with the instrument. Piano is one of the best instruments for learning about music, music theory, and composition. I come back to it time and time again as a learning tool, to help me with my compositions, and because there is so much beautiful music written for piano!
What are your personal goals as a musician?
Currently, I am working towards a master’s in jazz Flute performance. I love learning, it is a lifelong goal for me. As I reach my current goals in the practice room, I redefine the next set of steps along the path of mastering my instrument. I am also working on an EP with my band, and my goals include finishing this project over the next few months and releasing it, sharing it with friends, family, and fans. My current goals also include collaborating with more musicians via jam sessions and recording projects. My long-term goals include to tour with my original songs and to reach a wide audience, to perform as a flute player for musical groups I admire, to collaborate with more people, and to continue to build my teaching studio. Right now, I aim to write a song a week. Sometime in the next few years, I would like to write a song a day for a whole year. Likely not while I am still in school, but soon enough!
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
Not too long ago, I learned how to expand my lung capacity in a new way. As a flute player, having more breath is always a good thing. I learned this through a new kind of long tone exercise. When I first started working with this exercise, I didn’t do it every day, and I didn’t see a lot of results. After a month of practicing this exercise for 15 minutes a day, every single day, I saw results! Since then, I receive compliments on the tone and color of my flute sound every time I perform. It showed me that putting in the work really does move you forward towards your goals.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
My music teacher growing up, Carl Bradley, taught me I could be passionate about the music I make, and that I could truly express myself when I play the flute. He taught me that the role of accuracy while playing and the role of time spent practicing are both to serve the expression of emotions in the music I perform. He taught me that music is infinitely giving and offers a space for self-expression. This lesson is invaluable to me, and I hope to pass it along to all of my students.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Learning how to sing in time, with correct rhythm, was a huge challenge for me. The drummer I was working with in my band was a good friend, and he very patiently helped me to gain more awareness as a singer. It was embarrassing and frustrating. Over time, I improved greatly, and built up my confidence with rhythm as a singer. Learning the things that don’t come easily to us can be very frustrating. Having both patience with myself and determination to get over the hump really helped me to put the time in that was necessary to overcome where I was stuck.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
My biggest musical achievement was performing at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. I had the chance to perform alongside hundreds of incredible musicians from around the world, as well as participate in a festival that offers many creative learning environments. It was all around exciting and inspiring! Shortly after this, I restarted my own song writing project.
Favorite thing about teaching?
I love giving my students the opportunity to learn the songs they love! There is nothing more joyful than learning how to play or sing a song you love, and I enjoy providing the tools and pathway to get there.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Learning music takes a lot of patience and bravery. It is a practice of self-love and curiosity. It requires us to try again and again, and it is worth every ounce of effort you give it, no matter what the immediate result is.
Personal music projects:
Hardwork Movement is a 9 piece hip-hop collective where I played flute and sang for many years. Kladky is a recording project I released on my own, it is a collection of collaborations. Likebirds is a song writing project of a group of friends of mine. Dani & Joe is a new song writing project. We released a single back in December, and will release more music soon!