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Angela Myles Beeching | Beyond Talent Consulting
The Professional Musician's Roadmap
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Bibliotherapy: the reading cure

MONDAY BYTES — August 22, 2016

Has this ever happened to you? The right book suddenly “appears” — you find yourself reading something perfect that offers the perspective you most need. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the book seems to directly address your needs, providing the solace, example, or challenge that helps you move forward.


Books can be incredibly therapeutic for making change and improving lives. That’s the idea behind Bibliotherapy — “a therapeutic approach that uses literature to support good mental health,” according to

How it works: you visit a shrink (or fill out a form remotely) detailing your reading habits, lifestyle, state of mind, and current dilemma, and this professional then prescribes a particular set of works chosen especially for you. The plan is for you to be able to identify with characters or the narrators, and then experience catharses and gain new perspectives to help you cope better with your reality.

Check out The School of Life: they offer remote biblotherapy.

I confess that here — with absolutely no authority or credentials to practice bibliotherapy — I’m going to recommend two books for you.

Not that I’m assuming anything about what you might need or want. But I’m guessing you might be curious about two books packed with insights about human nature, motivation, and how to deal with challenges. I’m crazy about both of these: not just for the practical help they provide, but for the realistic hope they offer.

Prescription #1: The book I’d recommend is one my friend John Steinmetz has talked about for years and I had bought not once but twice but hadn’t read.

Well, I finally read it last week — it must have been the right time! The book is Steven Pressfield’s fabulous “The War of Art.” It focuses on creative work: what gets in the way (resistance in all its guises), and how to overcome obstacles.

I find the book hugely inspiring. It’s a quick and powerful read with a slow after burn — gave me surprising new perspectives that helped me connect other ideas.

Note: the book refers to a higher force, but you do not in any way need to be religious or even spiritual in your orientation in order to get a lot from the book. It’s for anyone who’s ever wanted to commit to a project.


Spoiler alert: here’s is the fantastic last passage of the book (pg. 165). This isn’t giving away a punchline, but I hope it may inspire you to read (or re-read) the book:

“If you were meant to  cure cancer, write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”


Prescription #2: I’d suggest the next book to anyone who deals with procrastination, jealousy, fear, or negative thoughts. Which is all of us.

This book might be a harder sell, especially for those squeamish about therapy, but you may be interested that the two authors, “Hollywood shrinks,” treat some of the most successful actors, agents, and writers in the business, and that they specialize in helping people make real change. The 5 tools they cover in the book are in-the-moment interventions to get you to take the actions you’re avoiding and to stop undermining yourself.


Read The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.

The tools themselves can seem a little new age-y: that is until you start using them regularly and start noticing the changes in how you feel and how you behave.

For this week: What books have helped you move ahead in your life? I would LOVE to hear your bibliotherapy recommendations — please write with the titles and why you recommend them and send to 

PS: Want to know what a bibliotherapy session is like? Hear a mini therapy session in this quick NPR piece.

PPS: Hear from The Tools authors in this short interview.

Specifics about coaching with me are easy to get right HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well


Peeling Onions: Writing Teaching Statements

I’ve been thinking that writing teaching statements is a lot like peeling onions. Both should reveal multiple layers while avoiding tears.

[This beauty found on wikipedia, yellow onion.]

[This beauty found on wikipedia: yellow onion.]

Writing a teaching philosophy statement is challenging because it’s often the first time we’re asked to describe our own teaching. We get hung up on finding the right “layer” to focus on. Think onions: it’s a matter of peeling off layers to reveal who you are as a teacher.

On the surface there’s the immediate content of our teaching: the method books, repertoire, and assignments we use, and how we organize and structure lessons or classes. But this is basic information and not usually all that revealing since many other candidates use the same repertoire and methodologies.

Peeling down a layer, there are the particular focus areas we emphasize in our teaching. For studio instructors this would include emphases on technique, sound quality, and stylistic appropriateness. Again these are what 99% of all the candidates would also write, so still there isn’t much that’s distinctive.

If we peel the onion further, there is how we set up a rapport with each student or class, and tailor the teaching to fit students’ needs and interests. And that’s a good thing of course, except every teacher does this (or professes to).

Writing that you customize your teaching is only useful if you go beyond description, peel down further and illustrate with detailed anecdotes HOW you tailor your teaching to specific students.

In an anecdote, describe what the student’s challenge was, and how you worked with the student to address the challenge. (Make sure it isn’t just the standard drills with encouragement.) And include what the results were. That will absolutely help distinguish you from other candidates.

But you’re not done yet, because even results have layers.

Peel further to find the results beyond improved musical skills. Consider the overarching learning goals, the transferable life skills that institutions hope students will attain by the time they graduate. Things like critical thinking, communication, and leadership.

How do you help students become not just skilled musically but skilled for life?

What skills, habits of thinking, and behavior are you modeling and coaching them on? How do you work on these with students?

A teaching statement that peels down through all these layers and provides convincing examples as illustration will absolutely stand out from the crowd.

Great teaching is like an onion: multi-layered.

Don’t just scratch the surface — show your layers!

As always, I love getting your feedback, questions, and comments—reach me at

Specifics about coaching with me are easy to get right HERE.

PS: Other posts on writing teaching statements are HERE and HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

School of Life Lessons

MONDAY BYTES — July 25, 2016

This week I came across two unlikely pieces of inspiration: a 3 minute animated video and a 2 minute acceptance speech (no relation to the video).

Here’s what they got me thinking:

In school we learn how to jump through a series of hoops in order to be passed on to the next set of exams, juries, competitions, and degree program.

The problem is when we finally get out of school there’s no longer a set path with hoops for which we’ve been prepared.

School of Life Lessons

After graduation It’s time to take initiative and choose for ourselves: to make our own game plan and score card.

It’s easy to think that with a certain kind of job we’ll be happy and successful. But it’s not simply about being employed or having a certain title.

Ultimately success is about creating a meaningful life. And unfortunately, there aren’t classes that help with this.

Until now.

I’m a fan of the author and “everyday philosopher” Alain de Botton, the founder of the School of Life — which offers programming relevant for asking and answering the important questions of everyday life.

The School produces short thought-provoking animated videos to address those nagging life and career questions. Watch this quick clip on Success at School vs Success in Life (3:28)—it may get you rethinking how you operate.

Although the School of Life offers terrific short courses, books, and an astonishing array of quirky videos, none of these is offered as a quick fix. Just as there’s no short cut to success, there’s no magic pill for a meaningful life. It’s all about the journey: a process that requires reflection and trial and error: that’s how humans learn.

That’s one of the reasons I loved this recent post of John Thomas Dodson (the conductor who writes the excellent Creative Destruction blog) on Re-thinking a life well-lived — in two minutes. He writes about the realization he had about his own life and career process in the form of a 2 minute acceptance speech and offers it as a way for others to understand our own process, capacities, and mission.

The good news is that there are guides and resources like these to help us along the way, plus tools for examining our mindset, behavior, and outcomes.

As always, I’m interested in getting your feedback, questions, and thoughts: send to

Want help thinking through your own career and life action plan?

To schedule your complimentary consultation write me:

Specifics about coaching with me are easy to get right HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well