Meet my piano teacher: dan the composer

I have wanted to be able to play the piano since I was quite young.   When I visited my maternal grandmother, a piano teacher, I would play with her piano.  I say, “play with,” because I never had formal lessons but I loved this instrument’s sound and I loved the way my fingers felt on the keys.

As I’ve told you, I love to sing, too.  When I was young, I would sing in the shower to an imagined audience; in the backyard, swinging in the swing; in my room to my dolls.  I made up shows and dances all the time.

I also sang in the church choir, but my knees buckled and my voice, usually a strong second soprano, became a barely audible, warbling reed when I was asked to sing solo.

When I finally asked for singing lessons, because of course, I thought one must have lessons to be a real singer, and I thought having lessons would give me the courage and confidence I lacked,  the woman (at church, of course) my parents consulted said I must learn to read music first.

Meaning well, and being the practical sort, my father rented a piano, bought “teach yourself to play piano books,” and told me if I learned to play the piano, he would not only buy the piano, but also give me the singing lessons I so desired.

I tried.  I reaaaallly tried.  But it was too much of a challenge and I finally gave up.  My grandmother showed me how to play a few chords and when I was at her house, I would sit for hours composing tunes and sounding out songs I knew by ear using the chords.  But alas, no piano at home and no singing lessons.

Fast forward, fifty plus years…

piano keys


I have just received my grandmother’s piano!  Though  I inherited it from her when she made her transition from flesh to light in the early eighties, it has been living elsewhere until now.  It has been completely refurbished and it sounds and looks fantastic!

My first inquiries regarding lessons from a locally respected teacher brought disappointment.  He would only give weekly (no less) lessons and the fee was more than I could pay.  So, I was on hold again until last week when I mentioned to  a visiting friend that I wanted to learn to play.  She said, “YouTube!  You can find anything on YouTube!”

And I did!  Plus, I think I may have found an absolute soul-match of a teacher for me!

His name is handle is danthecomposer and you can find him on YouTube here. His teaching/playing philosophy is fluid and open, giving the beginner permission to “see herself playing” and to find her own way of “fingering” the keys, to be “comfortable” in her body whether away from or at the piano.  I have listened to and practiced lessons one and two of his “Learn to play in ten lessons” series.  So far, I love it!

I have also bought ($3.99) and downloaded his e-book (PDF), Water Pianism: the guide in which he states:

Pianism embodies the self and is an extension of it; You play what You think about. As thoughts change, so too does playing; as experiences are gained, so too does playing change.

Give his composition above a listen.   It’s B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L!  I can see the ballet!

What do you really want?  If you know.  Go get it!

If you don’t know…explore, write, paint, sing, or dance until you do!


d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016) and of this blog.




after the party

rinsed in rain Alan Levine CC

after the party

the wind stopped by late yesterday

brought something cool to drink

put on some light jazz


the elm started to loosen up

swaying her dark bark like a hula dancer

pretty soon the juniper and the peach took a turn

so the wind put on some rock and roll

turned up the bass

yelled let’s party


the laughing got loud and everybody talked at once

the live oaks threw their arms around each other’s necks

i love you man one said

i think i’m going to puke said the other

that’s when the redbud took off all her clothes and

jumped in the pool


this morning a blue raft and a huge brown umbrella are

sleeping it off in the yard

other than that everybody’s acting all natural like

nothing happened, like they’ve agreed to keep the party a secret

cicadas sing

an airplane drones over


but the chime is singing it in the

key of g


Inspired by my poet-friend, Robert Okaji’s post today, I decided to follow suit and  post something “rainy” and fun.

This piece first appeared in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2012 for the month of March.

My heart goes out to all those who have suffered loss, inconvenience and fear because of hurricane Harvey.  May you know comfort and peace.


photo credit:  Alan Levine via Creative Commons.  Public domain.


d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, (Moon Shadow Sanctuary, 2016) and of this blog.




the day i stopped hurting myself

happy gecko 5 one half X 9 one half in ink on paper 2017

happy gecko, 5.5X9.5″ ink on paper, (c) d. ellis phelps, 2017

If you look closely, you’ll see words in this piece, as you often will of late, in my work.  The words and the colors seem to want to inhabit communal space, and so it is.  They read, “I would love to sing.”

This sentiment arose in response to a tele-seminar I attended (is that an oxymoron:  attending a tele-seminar?)  Anyway, I listened to a life-coach talking about achieving dreams.  This is not new rhetoric, but still, that day, it was attractive to me.  More attractive, let’s say, than actuating my dream by painting or writing something!

But I digress.  She talked about the roles of imagination, reason, intuition, perception, will and memory in dream making.  She talked and talked, but then she asked us to ask ourselves the pivotal questions:  1)  What would I really love…? and 2) What’s the one thing I could be doing [right now] that I know would move me closer to my dream?

Here are my visual notes:

notes from teleseminar with Rita M

When I first asked myself question one, I got some pretty ostentatious answers:  teacher of peace, healer, retreat leader.  These being ways I could earn a living, offering courses, retreats, service.

Well.  Of course.  Why wouldn’t my “Hero” archetype show up first?  This fellow ( I call him fellow because it feels like masculine energy to me) often dominates my thinking mind and frequently diverts my path causing me to make what Julia Cameron calls the “creative u-turn” in her book The Artist’s Way.

In answer to question two, I wrote:  plan a retreat; get up a half an hour earlier every day; get my LMI (Licensed Massage Instructor) certification.  These are all very reasonable and actionable, even admirable goals and in line with a certain part of me:  the hero~

Later, though, as often happens, soul showed up.  Quietly.  Always, quietly and usually after everyone else has calmed down.  She (you know why I call her she) said: paint every day; write every day.  Okay.  More in line with the part of me I want to nurture:  the creator.

Good answers.  Reasonable answers.  Actionable answers.  Hmmmm….still aligned with income, though a way better way to earn it.

It wasn’t until taking up my inks and sinking into right brain that something kin to truth arose:  i would love to sing.

sing by Kathleen Conklin via CC

Can I sing?  Yes.  I can.  But not on The Voice or even in public (though I have sung in public in shows, in choirs, but it usually results in unmentionable bodily revolt!)  But I’m not talking about singing for a living.  I am talking about S.I.N.G.I.N.G because I can.

Think about it.  How many times have you not let yourself:  dance, sing, run around inside the house naked, crack a funny joke in a meeting, sit outside and do nothing, paint….  All because there are more serious, important things to be doing or because someone once said you shouldn’t or couldn’t or maybe you are the one who judges your sound, your marks or your body so harshly.

Sadly, this is true of me sometimes.

But today is my birthday.  Really.  So let it be said that (by God’s grace) today is the day I stopped hurting myself by not singing when I want to, by eating too much sugar, by making creative u-turns or by telling myself that I am not good enough or by any other thought or action that does not feed, nurture and glorify my Highest Good.

Don’t be surprised if you see me dancing in the streets!  Will you meet me there?


For more info about Jungian archetypes, you can go here.

“sing” ar image (last on page) courtesy of Kathleen Conklin via Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016) and of this blog.


an open letter to President Donald Trump

An Open Letter to President Donald Trump:
This nation was already great before you arrived.

It is great because of it’s democracy; it’s laws against prejudice, hate crimes and speech; because it is peopled by individuals of all races and creeds, immigrants from foreign lands, dreamers coming to America to live life in a nation that claims to live under God; because of its acceptance, tolerance, and aid to the “huddled masses.” We are great because in times when others might attack our shores or when there are those among us who lose their bearings and aim their rage and individual prejudices at their own neighbors, we unite.

I stand united with a multitude of others who believe that your decisions to give some of the highest offices in our land to men who publicly express hatred and disdain for people of color, for the rights of women, for our many religious differences, and for other unalienable rights guaranteed to us by our constitution is unconscionable, completely unacceptable, and frankly, Sir, UN-American.

Please, right this wrong. Make us proud. Do the right thing. Do the Godly thing. Do the American thing. Remove these hateful men from the leaderships to which you’ve appointed them and replace them with reasonable, careful, gentlemen or gentlewomen without overt prejudice.

Further, as our leader, you must speak and act, speak AND ACT swiftly to completely abolish and ban hate oriented organizations such as the KKK, those professing to be Nazis and other white supremacists, as they are perpeptrating terrorism in the name of “freedom of speech” and “the right to peaceful assembly.”

Act now. Be swift. Be bold. 

New Work: how many walls?

how many walls does it take to build a nation 5.5X9.5 in mm on paper 2017

“how many walls does it take to build a nation?”  9.5X5.5″ mm on paper, 2017.  (c) d. ellis phelps

I think my days of sitting by, being contemplative are somehow over.

Even when I think I have let it all go:  the “white supremacy platforms,” the bigotry, the hate speech, the violence, the attacks on environmental protections, the inane ideas that are not solutions…the insanity appears in my art, in wordy comments on click-here-and-we’ll-make-it-better sites, in my dreams.

This piece, created in late 2016 (remember what was happening then?) is one example of Leo erupting.  It speaks to the proposed physical barrier between Texas and Mexico and to the myriad barriers that, allowed to persist, will ruin us.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, a novel (Moon Shadow Sanctuary, 2016) and of this blog.  Thanks for reading!

Trailer for [Robert Okaji’s] Chapbook — O at the Edges

Please support this enigmatic, funny, tender poet from Austin. He has read for our San Antonio Poets for Peace and will come again after this chapbook is out in Oct.

Buy now so that his print run will be huge. I promise. You’ll love it.

Words and Feathers

Just going to put this here. All you discerning readers know what to do.

The trailer for my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, is available for viewing on YouTube. Many thanks to Ken Gierke for assembling these scattered lines and images into a greater whole. Please note: prepublication sales determine the print run, which means this stage is crucial in terms of how many copies will be printed […]

via Trailer for My Chapbook — O at the Edges

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Why Anibus has come to stay…

anubis egyptian god who ushered souls into the afterlife 5.5X9.5 in ink on paper 2017

anibus 9.5X6.5″ ink on paper, 2017. $45

Anibus was an Egyptian god known for ushering souls to the afterlife.

This form appeared during an early morning meditation, say 3AM.  At the time, I was unfamiliar with Anubus, but when I finished, the image looked familiar and the thought came, jackal.

Indeed, jackal is one of the names by which this god is known, but it wasn’t until I showed the work to my son that I heard “Egyptian god,” though, somewhere in my subconscious mind, I knew.

Since I am often awakened or simply unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, being disturbed (I believe) by discarnate souls, (trembling, coldness, nausea, nightmares, acute anxiety), I wonder if Anibus has appeared to me for this reason:  a spirit guide for those who have lost their way and found me, the listener.

Always, I command these energies to go on their proper way, each to their own appointed path in the company of angels and guides.

Perhaps Anibus has heard me so many times, he has come to stay.

art on your walls ii

chris at munch on & beyond with clearing i & ii 7 17

Christine with the clearing i & ii 36X12″ acrylic on canvas, 2014. $125 ea or $200 for both

Now showing at Munch on & Beyond!

Stop into this San Antonio plant-based, gluten-free eatery and your tummy will go all yummy!  Yesterday, delivering art, I tried Chris’s vegan lasagna and loved it.

Here you can grab and go, order to go in advance for a party, let’s say, or eat in (one small table that seats six or eight and some comfy sofas).  It’s serve yourself but easy-breezy. You’ll find simple decor, wi-fi, friendly conversation, a nifty, thrifty store on site and local art for sale!

Don’t forget your daily dose of Famous (freshly squeezed) Juice to boost your afternoon energy and to super-anti-oxidize your system, then bring your GLASS bottle back for a discount on your next juice!

If you’re a no-toxins-no-way kind of eater, then this is theeee place in San Antonio for you.



d. ellis phelps is the authr of Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016) and of this blog.  All images are copyrighted unless otherwise noted.





art on your walls!

Elaine Casitllo with this is how it goes 7 17
Elaine with this is how it goes” 60X48″ acrylic on canvas, 2012
$1,500 (neg)

New art is now showing at Simply Hair with Elaine Castillo and Nancy Ferry.

My stuff really jazzes up the place (they say so, too!).
When you’re in San Antonio, stop by.
Have your hair styled by one of two of SA’s best.
View some art; give it a forever home!
Know anyone who has empty walls begging for art?  Hook me up!
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016) and of this blog.  All images on this blog are copyrighted unless otherwise noted.