We had the good fortune of connecting with Makayla Dooley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Makayla, how do you think about risk?
Have you ever been told to lean into your fears? What does it feel like for you to overcome fear and find fulfillment instead? This is how I think of risk. When life seems to be going well and things feel easy for me, I search for the fears that are buried underneath my joy. If I can make note of these fears, I know what to do next. This is not to overshadow the celebration, but to remind myself that an artistic life is one that will flow freely, oscillating between tension and harmony. When I find myself in the thick of that tension, I can remember that these overwhelming fears are actually related to my curiosities. When I was 10 years old I knew that pursuing a life of musical creation would outweigh any risk of failure. I knew this because music filled me with more joy than anything in the world and there was nothing else I was willing to persevere with, despite the “failures” that would come. I knew a low-income was associated with this job title, yet I was determined to define my own success. When I was first deciding whether to pursue a degree in classical flute or jazz piano, I had to decide what kind of risk I would take. Even though I had more experience playing flute, I chose to pursue my degree in jazz piano because there was more of the unknown in that route. Though I was terrified to step into a world I knew nothing of, I also knew I would regret it if I didn’t follow that which intrigued me. When it came time to get a job after college, I chose to travel abroad internationally for 3 years, performing on cruise ships. The risk of leaving the home where I had built a network outweighed the risk of being stagnant and viewing the world through a narrow lens. I had to step into a high-pressure performance job, yet in doing so, I was able to develop the skills that would support me in all of my future jobs. This year I had to decide if the risk of starting my own business would outweigh the risk of remaining in a secure, but financially limiting, position. I only regret not taking the risk of financial independence sooner. In my day to day life, whether I am modeling for a photo shoot or recording a song, I try to lean into the discomfort and trust that the success I feel when I overcome the fear will be worth it. It’s like that feeling you get before you tell someone you love them and you’re not sure if they will reciprocate. Sure, there’s a risk, but what about the outcome? Either way, you’ll know where you stand and how to move forward. I would say that I take a lot of risk in my life, but it’s an active way for me to practice trusting in self, community and my belief system. I always weigh the pros and cons of a situation, but I give more weight to whatever my intuition tells me.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I teach private music lessons, instructing my students in piano, flute, voice, songwriting, and music theory. Dynamic Expressions Music Studio is committed to encouraging self-expression and creating enjoyable learning experiences for their students. I integrate the structural aspects of developing musical skills with the more intuitive aspects of creative exploration. I use body awareness, mindfulness and emotional intelligence to guide students towards a mindset where music is an innate tool for self-discovery. The biggest struggle in starting my own business was getting organized and working through my social anxiety. After receiving some very helpful tools from friends who had been through similar startups, I felt prepared to find clients. Developing a productive professional relationship with my students has turned out to be extremely fulfilling. When there’s no pretense for perfection, everyone can relax a bit and be more comfortable with the learning process. Ultimately, I want to empower people and equip them with the knowledge needed to become their own teachers. My students provide me with extremely valuable insight and I am constantly inspired by their courage and growth. The biggest lesson I have learned while teaching is that developing a strong foundation of self-compassion will enable you to work through any challenge that life may present.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had a week free to explore Colorado with my best friend, we would plan our trip around visiting the best hot springs in the area. Getting into nature with some rock climbing or horseback riding would also be really fun. Of course, the main event would be attending a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s one of my biggest dreams to perform there someday. For the best dining experiences, I’d take them to some upscale Italian restaurants in Denver like Il Posto or Odyssey. To keep it real we would hit up the dive bars and open mic scenes at Goosetown Tavern or The Meadowlark. If we had our choice of local bands performing, we would check out Ramakhandra, Venus Cruz or Wes Watkins. If we went dancing we would go out to Milk Bar or Charlie’s. To balance out all that excitement and activity I’d end the week by booking us a sound healing session with April Maple.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mentorship came about in a completely unexpected way. I didn’t seek it out, nor did the mentor approach me. In fact, I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening for the first two years of our interactions. Yenni Towahade teaches sculpture and figure drawing at Arapahoe Community College. He traveled from Ethiopia to the United States at the age of 16 in pursuit of knowledge. Yenni has a B.A. from Olivet College in Michigan and an M.F.A. from Howard University. My part time job is sitting as an art model for drawing and painting classes at local community colleges in town. I find it challenging to remain still and meditate, so I initially used this time to reflect/process the rest of my life. However, I quickly became intrigued by one teacher in particular and his methods for helping students “learn to see”. I had never let myself attempt visual art, as my sister had been the one to exhibit natural talent in that area. I didn’t realize it was a skill you could develop, similar to learning an instrument. Yenni inspired me to attempt my own visual art, which has also been hugely beneficial in my process of creating music. During this time I was reading a book by Julie Cameron entitled “The Artist’s Way”. It is a 12 week program set up to help you heal the relationship with your creative self. It’s abstract enough to apply to everyone, regardless of your profession, and is based on trusting in Spirit and becoming a channel for creativity to flow through. The book ended up taking me 12 months to finish, but it was one of the most helpful, perhaps even THE most helpful, tools I’ve found. One day on a break in art class I had the book out and Yenni mentioned that he had taught that exact course for 20 years. He opened up to me a little and shared some personal details about how helpful the book had been for him. From then on, we had a different dynamic that was based on encouraging more emotional depth in our students. He knew that I was a music teacher and I shared how I had been applying a lot of his methods with my students. All of the instructions he gave to a student that was sketching could be interpreted on a universally artistic level, so it was easy to make a musical analogy for each of his approaches. We have since gone deeper in our conversations and he has shown me how these approaches can also be used to process the complex emotions of life. He is also a firm believer in Julie Cameron’s practice of keeping a journal for morning pages. You start the day by writing three pages of whatever is on your mind. It’s simple, but quite effective. These are some of the most helpful pieces of advice he has given me: Observe how you approach the thinking process. Ask more questions. Make sure to step back and see the bigger picture often. Finally, allow emotion to lead you. I have learned so much from Yenni about my own teaching philosophy and will be forever grateful for his presence in my life.