Improvisatory Leaps

Aug 28, 2017 | Intern's Perspective, Off the Hook Arts

New on the OtHA blog: A Growing Artist’s Groove

Introducing Improvisation, a brand new blog series from Off the Hook Arts Intern, clarinetist and CSU Performance graduate student Lara Mitofsky Neuss. Lara is a clarinetist and graduate student in Performance at Colorado State University. Follow her as she explores improvisational music and documents the journey while stepping outside traditional musical boundaries in search of “the groove.”


As a classically trained musician, I have always reached for 100% of the composer’s notes as written. The expectation to achieve this leads me to strive for perfection; to tell the story that the composer envisioned. The pitch, rhythm, dynamics, articulations, and tempo markings are to be precise. This training is invaluable and I will never stray far from my love of all realms of the classical world.  But what happens when we step outside of the classical approach and reach within our creative selves without boundaries?

While studying for my Bachelor’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music I was introduced to this concept and told that if I could imagine it, feel it, see it, I could create it. Since embracing this revelation I have fully immersed myself in any and all musical experiences that come my way. I look for the “groove,” as my teacher Wesley Ferreira, the clarinet professor at Colorado State University would say. “The Groove” is found by noticing, watching, experimenting, and taking risks. I spent much of July and August this summer in Canada where I studied contemporary music and improvisation at the Banff Centre and Orford Musique. This was one of many thrilling learning journeys that began with a leap out of my classical comfort zone.

Close your eyes. Let judgement fade away. The power of music is in each moment that we connect with our energy, the energy of the environment, and the energy of those with whom we are making music. Improvisatory moments, once terrifying to me, are now the space that I most learn about my inner voice as I allow others to experience musically my rhythm, creativity, and vulnerability. What was once a risk, too frightening for me to take, has become an opportunity for connection with musicians and audience; an energy place that is invigorating and often magical. My love of this collaborative experience has led me to explore jazz and composition. Again I will be stepping into a world new to me with a beginner’s mind that I hope to always have.

In October the Triptych Jazz Trio is coming to Fort Collins and I encourage every performer and listener to experience with me their artistic, uninhibited, and energizing force. I am thrilled to be interning with Off the Hook Arts! I have discovered in myself a free musical voice as I combine the beauty of classical music with the freedom of improvisation, jazz, African rhythm, contemporary sounds, and any other genre that finds me. The Colorado community is exploding with opportunities and creativity. Notice, participate, and join me in my journey of boundless musical joy.