Five Ways to Bring JOY Back Into Your Playing

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Reverend (Rev.) Kiah Abendroth is an ordained interfaith minister and a third generation female trumpet player. She holds her Master’s Degree in Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, specializing in Classical Trumpet Performance. Her instructors include renowned trumpeters Judith Saxton, David Washburn, and Dean Boysen – as well as her father, Roy Abendroth (and of course the influence of her mother and grandmother, Lori Abendroth and Beverley Shearer). Although Rev. Kiah’s training is classical, she also enjoys playing free improvisation, jazz, world, sacred music, and more!

Rev. Kiah freelanced as a performer and educator in New York City for three years. While she was there, she was the producer and soloist for a show at the Lincoln Center Institute entitled, “Introspection.” Kiah is a 2011-2012 Kenan Fellow with Lincoln Center Education, having completed a fellowship in arts education and imaginative learning.

Rev. Kiah Abendroth recently relocated to the island of Kauai where she is now exploring songwriting and creating original music. To Rev. Kiah, music is uplifting and healing. It is her aspiration to work with the power of the creative arts to help support and cultivate community: bringing us together – within ourselves, between one another, and with our world. Please don’t hesitate to visit her online at or In addition to performing, Rev. Kiah offers trumpet lessons and empowerment coaching in person and online.

If you’re wanting to bring more joy and PLAY back into your playing, it is my sincere hope that by reading about some of my journey, you may be inspired further on your own.

  1. Take a Break. Much of my early progress came with my dedication to play everyday, even if it was just a little bit or very late at night (Sorry mom!). Although taking breaks can be controversial, it has become very valuable to me to check in regularly with my body and heart: How am I doing right now? Body, how are you? Heart, can I help you in any way? In listening and caring for these parts of myself, I am suddenly more available to bring my full presence back to the practice room or stage. Sometimes, what I needed was one guilt-free day off to go frolic in the woods, or sleep, or do some “meaningless” activities. These things can be so refreshing and rejuvenating to me! After a break, I often find that my playing is fresher, lighter, and simply more pleasant for everyone. I try to remind myself to be gentle. Treating myself well ultimately helps my playing.


  1. Nature. It can be refreshing to practice outside. Even when I lived in Manhattan, I went ahead and marched down the hill outside to go play some sonatas in Central Park. There have been many studies about the healing effects of spending time in nature. Playing with a flower right in front of me or making up a little ditty to play for one of my favorite trees can be so enjoyable, and help remind me of how connected we all are. When I’m in a beautiful and calm environment, my playing becomes more beautiful and calm as well.


  1. Be ridiculous. Playfulness is a natural part of being human. Sometimes, in my adulthood, I can forget how to be playful. One of the fastest ways to break out of my shell, is to do something utterly ridiculous. I went to an open mic once and ended up doing the whole performance upside down, leaning backwards over a large wood block. It was terribly uncomfortable, and definitely hard to play, but it brought such a sense of lightness and playfulness to the performance that I still smile when I think about it today. As I look for opportunities to do something out-of-the-box, I find that my approach is infused with more curiosity and lightness. Note: please be careful if you decide to play upside down!


  1. Priorities. It can be easy, after playing for so long, to lose touch with why I started. What were my favorite things about playing when I was young? What was it about trumpet that I loved? Connecting back to my child-self, I remember the simple joy of playing, the wonder of the music. Bringing it back to the present, I ask myself: What are the most important things to me in life right now? How are these things supported by, or expressed through, music? When music and the rest of my life feel connected, my values and priorities can be expressed more easily. The music itself can feel more fulfilling and enjoyable.


  1. No Wrong Notes. I know as a classical performer, this can be a stretch. “What do you mean, no wrong notes? Tell that to the conductor, thank you very much.” Probably the most healing part of my own journey back to a joyful relationship with music, was allowing myself to improvise. I took a couple months off of my regular practice routine and started playing by ear. I explored how the notes don’t really go “up” and “down” like the images on the page, but exist more or less in the same place – right at the tip of my lips. I started wondering where the music really comes from (feel free to write me about that one!). I found that I perceive the music first through feel, then visually, and lastly orally. I redefined what it was to make a “mistake,” seeing those moments as opportunities to get outside of my normal ruts and discover new sounds. All of this helped me understand myself better as a musician and ultimately find a way of playing that works for me. Through improvising, I was able to shift my view of music. I found myself dropping back into my heart, where that childlike wonder still lived, and enjoying the present-moment adventure of simply being alive.

2 thoughts on “Five Ways to Bring JOY Back Into Your Playing

  1. Stephy April 10, 2018 / 12:02 pm

    I loved this post SO much! I created a video response in which I added some ideas to each of them, and tried some of them myself:
    Needless to say I had a very joyful time playing. 🙂

  2. Kiah Abendroth April 17, 2018 / 2:32 am

    Hey Stephanie!

    So glad you enJOYed the post. 😉

    Your video is amazing and the treat at the end is so fun too! Now you’re inspiring me!!!

    Thanks for being you and for sharing your music and presence.

    Aloha! -Rev. Kiah

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