Music + Transformation Circle

Henry David Thoreau once said, "When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest."  Time and time again, music has opened our hearts, healed our spirits and transformed us in ways that are hard to express.  

On August 8th, a few friends will be convening at the inimitable Teance tea shop in Berkeley to share thoughts on how music can be used as an instrument of service, and a tool for transformation. It will be hosted by two remarkable musicians -- Gwhyneth Chen, a world renowned pianist from Taiwan and Rev. Heng Sure, a Buddhist monk for the last 3 decades.

Gwhyneth Chen has played over a thousand concerts, won the most prestigious award given to pianists, and represented Taiwan at the Olympics.  However, she is troubled by the increasing commercialization of music and feels that the ambition-driven motivations of young musicians strips it of its profound healing capacities.  On the flip side, Rev. Heng Sure was asked by his teacher Master Hsuan Hua to play the guitar, in the face of many conservative views that saw it as a worldly indulgence.  Since then, he has taken his music to many places, including prisons, offering wisdom-filled lyrics with modernized tunes awaken a yearning for inner transformation.

What does music mean to you?  In today's era, how can music serve the greater good?  What are the models of offering such music without turning our labor of love into a "commodity"?

Join us to explore these and related questions, listen to some music, and enjoy some great tea. :)

After the Event ...

What a joy to see 30 of us huddle in a loft, listen to songs and stories, share insight on "true sound" and service, explore edges around culture of ambition that strips away at the heart ofmusic, and take a step towards manifesting radical ideas that holistically bridge our outer and inner lives. Thank you for a beautiful space around music and transformation.

It was inspiring to hear Gwhyneth's story of finding her calling on a gifted keyboard at the age of 5, then giving away her first major award ($100K!) "so all can share", deepening her journey in search of "true sound", and now opening herself to the unsettling paradoxes today's world of music. And similarly, it was very kind of Rev. Heng Sure to make time for our event, even after his mother's passing, and offer deep insights into the power of sound along with songs (particularly the chant from his bowing pilgrimage).

In support of the post-event conversations that were bubbling up, here are a few experiments around music, social change and inner transformation ...

Gift music to cultivate kindness -- Rev. Heng Sure came out with a CD few years ago, that you could download with a commitment to do a pay-forward act of kindness. Hundreds of people around the globe reported some beautiful acts.
Gift music to build community -- after traditional success as a hip-hop artist, Nimo is now traveling the US for 6 months just singing value-based songs to school kids, signing people up for 21-day kindness challenges, and more. His whole "Empty Hands pilgrimage" has been entirely supported by unsolicited offerings -- someone even bought all his CD's so he can gift it.
Gift music to support nonprofits -- apart from the traditional fundraising model, there are platforms like which allows any artist to upload a song for a charity that is doing good work in the community.
Gift music to nurture underprivileged -- David France is a world class musician, but inspired by his work with El Sistema in Venezuela, he started using orchestra as a "model community" in one of the poorest communities on the East Coast: Revolution of Hope
Gift music to foster collaboration -- Playing for Change brings musicians from around the globe and remakes old classics -- like Stand by Me -- that have received *billions* of views worldwide. (See also: Bill Moyers Interview)
Gift music to create spontaneous joy -- flashmobs are all the rage, whether for Beethoven Symphony No. 9 to British Army musicians to Sound of Music ... from place ranging from airports to an unemployment office in Madrid to Copenhagen's Philharmonic playing Handel's Messiah in the Subway. :)

Gwhyneth also spoke about cultivating a potential academy. (For interested in the 4 shifts I spoke about, you may enjoy Pavi's elaboration: Reclaiming the Priceless)

Oh, and last but not least, thank you, Teance, for your genuinely generous hosting!

Much gratitude to all for co-creating a space in which all of us could clean out our ears and, in community, hear our own true sound with increasing clarity.