The first time I went to an Artists Circle by Wendy Parr in NYC, I found myself dancing blindfolded amongst about 15 other, also blindfolded, dancers, for an HOUR. We were participating in a ‘trance dance’ with the aim to move blocked energy, to release expectations of ourselves and others by removing our sight, and therefore any judgement, and to move simply as our bodies wanted and needed to move. The experience was quite unlike any other I’ve had, and I was left feeling very grounded and quite exhilarated afterwards. When I had walked into the room earlier that evening I had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead of me, I was curious to find out more about what the Artists Circle was all about. I came away from that first night not particularly able to articulate exactly what it was, but with a distinct feeling that whatever it was, it was important.
The Artists Circle was started in New York City in September 2014 by Wendy Parr, one of New York City’s top voice teachers, and an award winning songwriter. Soon after its inception, Wendy was leading her monthly Artists Circles in Nashville and L.A., and in October will be heading to London for the first Artists Circles in the UK. What started out a few years ago as a small gathering at Wendy’s place where people would come and sing, and find a supportive community, then moved to a series at the beloved downtown NYC music venue Rockwood Music Hall, has now grown into the more solid form of The Artists Circle – a monthly gathering of singers, musicians, producers, and songwriters who come together for community, coaching & development, tangible tools to build one’s artistry and career, the invaluable resource of each other, and, most importantly, Wendy herself. What exactly the Artist Circle is is difficult to define if only because there’s nothing quite like it; perhaps a 12-step program meets life coaching meets artist development – things that are lacking in an industry where a lot of time is spent alone and where there isn’t a lot of support; the Artists Circle provides inspiration and motivation. In allowing the relatively young Artist’s Circle some time to evolve before distinctively defining it, Wendy ponders, “It’s not a networking event, but amazing networking and relationships come out of it. There’s collaborations, people are performing together, people are singing for other people’s bands, people are writing together, people are inspiring each other to write. There’s a lot of, I call it full circle collaboration… There’s a lot of full circle happening.”
With every monthly session being focused on something different, The Artists Circle delves into many different areas, everything from meditation to get rid of artistic blockages, career planning and goals setting (and how to accomplish them), success, failure, and finding your center-point, breaking through fears, being bold & discovering who you are as an artist, and my favourite so far, trance dance! Every month is a different theme to explore and work on, both at the Artists Circle, and for the next month; while everyone is out in the ‘real world’ there is encouragement to keep working, to connect with each other, to support and hold yourself accountable. Participants come to the Artists Circle when they can, they bring friends, tell other people about it, the circle expands and grows, and within that a community of like-minded people all find themselves connecting with amazing people. Wendy says, ‘I want to create community and cool opportunities for people to connect and collaborate and go through process together. It’s the benefit of why a workshop is different to a private lesson – you will learn things that you can’t learn alone. Having the circle, you’re going to learn to expand by going through the process together, by being accountable. You know, by being connected. I see people struggling with things, and they’re all struggling with the same thing. So, how about we find out that you’re not struggling alone, that you’re not the only person who feels this. Artists influence each other. Artists support each other. Artists can be there for one another. And that’s my intention. I’d like to change the fabric of the industry, so that people can support each other. The circle grows, and is stronger…”
While there is a lot of personal development and support within the community of the Artists Circle, probably the most invaluable aspect is Wendy herself. A self-professed ‘gatherer of information’ (or, the ‘living Siri’!!), Wendy’s extensive experience as a singer, songwriter, producer, and vocal coach make The Artists Circle particularly unique and marked. She leads The Artists Circle full of purpose and openness to guide, explore, and share her inimitable experience and knowledge with everyone in the room. And then she encourages everyone else to do the same. “I love facilitating it, and love allowing everyone else to facilitate with each other. The beauty is hearing everybody’s experiences and stories and learning. Then I get to do what I do, which is summarize it, or to use these examples to reiterate a theory or a theme or a process that I’m encouraging people towards, and seeing how things can support that. I think as a coach, or person, that’s something that I’m good at doing: translating a conversation into an effective way to use it. ‘Here’s how you can use that for yourself’. “
Ms. Parr hopes that The Artists Circle will continue to grow and be available all over the world. With so many options available these days to travel virtually, this is a plausible possibility, and a good one, because everyone should get to attend these magical events. (Oh, she also travels, so you may consider bringing her to you, IRL)!