Going through the Hard 

It happens at least once, if not regularly in every musician's career. I see it regularly in my most diligent students. When they are working on a concept and it just isn't happening, they feel like they're not making any progress. In reality, they're progress is imperceptible in real time, but it's part of a larger picture. These students are working hard, practicing all the things they need to get where they want, but they feel stuck, with no discernable improvement week to week.

And then it happens in a…

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The Most Important Thing to do When Overwhelmed 

Having too much work to do is nothing new, but the post-pandemic world seems to have even more responsibilities attached to it. This could be because stress takes a toll on the brain's ability to process at usual speed, but there may actually be more work to do, depending on your field. As musicians, my friends and I are so happy to be able to perform live again that the tendency is to overbook.

Whatever the reason for your increased workload, the feeling of being overwhelmed can drastically reduce your…

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How I Managed Feelings of "Barely Hanging On" While on Tour 

I just completely a month-long lecture and performing tour. The first week was the heaviest, with two lectures I'd never given before and a residency with a major performance. After that, I had some down time over the weekend, but I had to complete a grant application that was due in the coming weeks. Yes, my body was stressed by travel and the upending of my routine, but I felt in charge of the situation.

The next leg of tour is where things went wrong. I had scheduled three lectures back-to-back at two…

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Do This Not That When Programming Diversity into Your Repertoire 

This post is for my musician friends and is inspired by the wonderful culture and repertoire I was exposed to during the International Music by Women Festival I recently attended. The vast majority of attendees were there to support and share music they loved that was written by women composers. The purity of that ideal, as opposed to a look-at-what-I-can-do culture that can take hold in some settings, was uplifting. In short, less ego, more love.

So here are three examples of how we can grow to program and…

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Post-Pandemic Healing 

Being on tour for 5 weeks was a wake-up call to just how traumatized we all are as a nation. No one is at their best, and I found myself choosing grace over and over again for myself and others because we're all still recovering from the past several years of cultural and personal trauma. Although I'm not a health professional, I don't think the theory that we're all suffering from a mild case of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome is far from the truth.

The Mayo Clinic has a list of PTSD symptoms that may sound…

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Weakness, Faults, and Perfectionism 

If you are or have ever been a perfectionist, you know what it's like to keep your weaknesses a secret. You don't want anyone else to find out that you're not 100% all of the time or that you don't know ALL the things. This practice is unattainable if you're a human, which I'm presuming is the case if you're reading this.

Even if you can keep yourself from revealing your weaknesses to others, you'll eventually get tired enough or sick enough or overwhelmed enough to let something slip through for all to see…

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An Exercise in Humility 

The expenses of going on tour can be high, so I'm staying with friends and relatives when I can. It's been a long time since I've stayed in someone else's home. The experiences is fostering humility, since I'm an outsider. No matter how gracious my hosts are, the change of setting and ownership creates vulnerability on my part.

Often, you're more flexible when you're younger. There's even the saying about being “set in your ways” as you age. You stop putting outself in circumstances that are uncomfortable…

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Leadership amidst Tragedy 

This blog was supposed to be a lighthearted reminscence of my first week on tour, my first major extended travel in years after battling chronic pain and a stomach infection. Indeed, there have been many joyous moments, but I didn't anticipate (and who ever does) how tragedy would touch those I care about and how fundamental leadership is in those sitations.

My first destination was staying at a friend's house during the South Dakota Music In-Service. I was excited to see old friends and present a new…

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A Semester of Rejections 

Last August, I was sure I was going to get this one job...until I didn't. Surprised by the sting of rejection (I'm a musician after all, and I know from experience that I'm not going to win every audition), I decided to embark on an entire semester of putting myself out there so boldly that every rejection would be a win for my bravery.

Here's what I learned...

  1. It's not personal.
    Whether or not I got a job or a gig or a student wasn't up to me. It depended on lots of variables: if there was…
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How to Pick and Use a Word of the Year  

The word of the year trend has increased in popularity recently. I started participating in the trend in 2022, not as much by choice, but by a nudge from the Universe. The word "trust" pushed its way into my brain when I asked myself, "What word would I even choose? This seems stupid."

My word for 2023 is "kindness" for pretty much the same reason. There was no question this time. Kindness is what I feel I need most, especially from myself. I suspect as I fill my own need for kindness, I'll be able to…

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I would definitely recommend working with Nancy to help anyone feeling stuck and unable to move forward in their goals.


Working with Nancy helped me overcome a significant block in my career concerning success.


I felt a shift in my thinking from a limited mindset, always focusing on what things I had to be before considering myself a success, to a new space of accepting my successes as they appear and feeling more grateful for those.


Elissa Nesheim

Elissa Sue Watercolors

Are you an overachiever who hates to say no?
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