Have you ever brought your handpan to work? That's what Mary Mosley does on a routine basis. As an educator, she uses the handpan in the classroom as a learning tool for her students. Speaking from her childhood, Mary talks about the unmatched power of creativity to help process difficulties.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast! The benefits of creativity are undeniable. Using our imagination to create something reduces stress, teaches us problem-solving, fosters community, and on and on. Yet, it often takes people to meet us where we're at and to empower us to pursue the creative inkling inside each of us. Today, we're gonna hear from one of these people. I met Mary Mosley at a recent handpan gathering and I immediately knew I wanted to share her story on the podcast. Mary talks about the freedom found in the handpan, after going through painful experiences which made it difficult to create years. And she reveals what she's learned from routinely bringing the handpan to the most unusual setting... the classroom. Here's my conversation with Mary Mosley. Mm.
Sylvain: Hey Mary, it's good to have you on the podcast. How are you?
Mary: Hello, I am fantastic. Thank you so much for having me. This is exciting.
Sylvain: Yeah, it's really exciting. Um, for me too because it's an aspect of the instrument that I don't have much experience in so I expect to learn a lot from you today. So we'll get to your occupation in just a moment because it's going to be a central focus in today's conversation. But first I wanted to ask you about your background specifically. I don't know, growing up, did you have experiences around creativity and art and community that set you on the path towards pursuing an instrument like the handpan?
Mary: Absolutely. Um, I was very lucky to grow up in a home with a lot of music. My father was a guitarist and a beautiful singer and my mother is a classically trained pianist and so they both played instruments and play with them often. And we're also just lovers of music. And so I remember as a child, you know, these parties that my parents would throw and they loved rock music and my dad had an amazing record collection and they would let me pick records. So, you know, I was like four or five and you know, dancing to the rolling stones on top of the coffee table and things like that. So it was, it was very much a childhood that was musical. Um, I also sang as a child, um, I sang a lot from a church and in choirs at school and things like that. And that part of me, the creative part of me was something that was very encouraged by my parents especially. Um, I sang, I didn't pick up an instrument. Um, I sang a lot and I drew, um, I liked to draw and to paint and when I was in kindergarten, they had us dress up as what we wanted to be when we were older and I dressed up as an artist and I had an artist Palette and all of that sort of thing. Um, and then my dad died when I was 10 and it, it made music really difficult for me for a bout 15 years. I quit singing and I kind of distanced myself from that kind of creativity. And, um, it was only in the past couple of years that I discovered handpan and found myself drawn to that creative part of myself that I had neglected for so long.
Sylvain: I had no idea. Thanks for sharing that.
Sylvain: So you went through a rough patch there in your relationship to music and art.
Mary: Yeah, it was interesting to have some thing that had brought me so much joy as a child, to be something that it was 10 tinged with sadness and you know, for me that, that happened when I was a kid. And so often children don't know how to process trauma and process things that hurt. And you know, I did what I think a lot of children do, which is I just pushed it away.
Sylvain: Yeah. Did you maintain some other artistic outlets like drawing in the meantime?
Mary: I didn't. I did find theater and the theater community in high school and in college and you know, those communities tend to be full of, of creative, Quirky, fun people. And, um, I never was someone who wanted to be on stage, but I was a stage manager and I helped with the lighting and things like that. And that was, that was good.
Sylvain: Yeah. And it sounds like theater brings in a whole new aspect of the art being community too, right. And performance. And so what drew you to the handpan? How did you discover the handpan? What attracted you to it when you did?
Mary: So I found handpan by watching someone play and it was actually a, someone who is now a good friend of mine, Lawson Yeager. And he was playing, he was busking at this little community in San Antonio called the Pearl. And I, I walked by and I, I heard this magical sound and was fully distracted by it because I believe I was walking on my way to somewhere or to do something. And I don't even remember what now because I sat down and, um, I had, uh, I make Malas, which are meditation beads. And so I had one with me and I, he was playing on the end of the bench and I sat at the other end of the bench and worked on nodding my Mala and just listen to him play for about 45 minutes. And I found the sound to just be enchanting and calming and grounding and exhilarating all at the same time. And I remember feeling really bad because I didn't have any cash. And so I went up to him and I was like, Hey, you know, can I, can I get you a coffee? Cause he was playing right outside of a coffee shop and he was like, yeah, that would be great. So I got him a coffee and you know, went on, went on my way and it stuck with me. And a couple of months later I made a new friend who busks often in, he plays Didgeridoo and djembe and a few other instruments and he had a hand pan and he let me play. And the first time I sat down with it, I think I sat there playing for two hours. And, you know, I've, I'd never played or percussion instrument before it. It wasn't a thing that I had any training with. And I remember so much joy. I just felt joy when I was playing. And it was funny because we were outside, like we were busking, he was busking when I did this. And so, you know, there are people walking by and I thought about it afterwards and there wasn't a moment where I was self conscious or felt odd about people watching me play despite the fact that, you know, I didn't really have any idea when I was doing. Um, and I remembered telling him, you know, when I first started playing, I looked up at him and I said, it sounds like fairies singing.
Mary: And I still, you know, still with, with hand pans, I like to find a description of their tone or something about them that is a little more whimsical and more fairy tale. Like, cause I think I'm drawn to that quality in them.
Sylvain: Yeah. And you're not the only one. I think a lot of us are drawn to the magic of this sound. And I love that you used the word joy because kind of the tagline for this podcast is the simple joy of creating and joy is this powerful thing because it implies the absence of fear. And you just described it, right. Busking being out in public and playing and not being fearful of doing it wrong or not being fearful of what others are going to think. And this kind of freedom from fear produces so much joy. Um, but it's, it's so cool that you had this experience and I had no idea that it was Lawson who introduced you to the handpan. That's awesome.
Mary: Yeah, it will. And it's great because now he and I played together, you know, at least once a week, often more.
Sylvain: Yeah. I've seen a number of recent videos of the two of you playing duets and uh, it's really neat that you seem to have a, a great chemistry and that you can make music together.