Coming Full Circle: One Songwriter’s Journey to CircleSongs á la Bobby McFerrin

I wrote my first song at age 8 and by age 14 was composing fully arranged songs. Songwriting became my “drug of choice” as a teenager. I used songwriting to cope with growing up in a chaotic environment where neglect and abuse ran rampant. Songwriting was not only my form of escape from all the drama going on around me, but also a way for me to express some pretty deep thoughts and feelings.

Even though I came from a musically-inclined family, I didn’t feel much support from any of them as I came into my own as a young musician. But I did find support and inspiration from people who shared their talent and vulnerability in their own music.

In the 1980’s, I stumbled upon the most unique vocalist I’d ever heard – Bobby McFerrin – who used his voice (and body) as an instrument. His vocal ability left me in awe. Mind you, the 1980’s were a magical time for music discovery. MTV and VH1 were just starting out. I don’t remember exactly where I first heard Mr. McFerrin, but I do remember the first song I heard. Take a listen below.

After watching his performance, I was hooked. I began a journey of more creativity and improvisation in my own songwriting. I began singing non-sense type lyrics and just vocal sounds over musical phrases I’d created with my synthesizers and drum machine beats. Friends and family I shared these little experiments with either LOVED them or didn’t. There wasn’t much in between. But for me, the experience of improvisation was profound. There was a freedom in the creative process I hadn’t felt before, the idea that I could do anything with the sounds and that was okay. It didn’t have to be perfect.

This kind of experimentation opened up doors for me as I continued my songwriting journey. I began using non-traditional instruments in my arrangements (such as wooden spoons pounded on phone books) and continued to explore using my voice as an instrument. I also created a capella arrangements, using my voice for all parts of a song (bass, percussion, chords, etc.). I always seem to come back to the voice.

When I found Mr. McFerrin trained others in some of his improvisational singing techniques, I was on board. The only problem is that when I found out, it was just after he had led a workshop in New York at the Omega Institute in 2005. Year after year, I checked back with the institute, but no more classes were scheduled. Then one fateful day in January 2011, an email came into my inbox announcing the return of McFerrin’s CircleSong workshop. I signed up immediately and had an amazing experience studying with him and his team of faculty in late August-early September 2011. (That’s a picture of me and Bobby to the left, September 2, 2011, in New York).

It is with deep joy and awe (and Bobby’s blessing) that I bring the CircleSong experience to my local community in Phoenix, Arizona. For further information about CircleSongs and to listen to samples of CircleSongs I led while studying in New York, please visit To register for an upcoming CircleSong group go to

Watch and listen to the first song I ever heard by Bobby McFerrin…

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