How Collaborating Helps us Thrive

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Sometimes private music teaching can be lonely. Unless a teacher is part of music school there are often many hours spent working alone, planning alone, and running events alone and it can be a bit isolating.

I taught in a music school for 10 years and then about 6 years ago left to start my own studio. There are many things I love about running my own program, but I do miss the people.

When I spend too much time teaching in isolation I find my creativity goes down. I find myself getting burnt out more easily.

I recently read Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age (which officially comes out today – get your copy here!). As an aside I think that it should be called “Real Artists Don’t Have to Starve” but once I put aside arguing with the title in my head, it was a fantastic book about thriving while doing creative work, and I highly recommend it.



A few chapters of the book that stood out to me as a musician, writer and teacher but my favorite one was on the importance of collaboration.

Mostly because I have seen first-hand what a difference this makes.

When I felt that working in isolation was taking its toll on me, I very intentionally set out to make sure I was a part of communities of all different sizes where I could get re-energized and be spurred on to do new and creative work.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jeff Goins’ book:

“This is the Rule of Collaboration, which says genius happens in groups. Starving Artists work alone, but Thriving Artists collaborate with others.”


This is my experience without a doubt.

Sometimes I just need to say my problem out loud or put it in writing to people I collaborate with, and the answer comes to me.

There are times when my colleagues and friends have creative solutions I would never come up with on my own.

Sometimes just being around people who are creative and excited about what they do rubs off and makes me creative and excited again too.

There is a creative, excited energy that comes from collaborating and from admitting to ourselves that we have something to learn from those around us.


Here are some ways collaboration happens in my teaching and writing life:

Large Scale/ Event Centered Collaboration:

Attending workshops, Institutes and conferences are a few examples.

I just came back from the SAA Leadership retreat where both the sessions and also the mealtime conversations sparked new ideas, renewed commitment to my goals and motivated me to continue to grow as a teacher and musician.

These tend to be events and make me re-look at the big picture of what I do and refocus on it each time I attend.


Mid-Size Collaboration:

This includes my awesome local Suzuki Association that gets together for coffee once a month to share ideas.

Also, the Suzuki Triangle Facebook Group and other online groups I am a part of .

These groups tend to be people who know me. The conversation tends to center on day to day parts of my work and give me practical ways to grow and change on a day to day basis.

Small Group Collaboration:

This includes my SECE teaching partner.

A tiny group of three teachers that text each other when we need a reality check or some support.

A small group of writers I bounce ideas off of and get encouragement from.

It is small group or one on one relationships.

I think this is the hardest type of collaboration to find and maintain but also the most rewarding.

These people know me and know when to say something honest and hard to hear. They also know when I’m being too hard on myself and remind me its ok to be human.


Collaborating in each of these ways is what gives me the energy to tackle new projects. It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself.

I personally take on a lot of different projects, and I love it that way. However, without the colleagues and friends I collaborate with it would not be nearly as rewarding and energizing to do so.

I really do think genius happens in groups and I am very fortunate to be a part of a number of great ones!

Who do you collaborate with? How does it help your creativity and love of what you do?


Habits of Successful Suzuki Families


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2 thoughts on “How Collaborating Helps us Thrive

  1. Dittos, dittos, dittos! There are some creative tasks that can only be done alone, but spending too much time there makes me crazy.

    The way you break out large, mid-size, and small group collaboration is great. Very helpful concept.

    I find that culturally we don’t have good paradigms for collaborating, and even when we do, economic pressure on families tends to work against it. Seeking good answers to that problem is a worthwhile task, and I’m looking forward to both your book and the Jeff Goins resource.

    1. Thank you – I so agree that our culture isn’t really set up for collaboration but it is so motivating when we’re able to make it work!

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