From Performance to Transformance: Making Beautiful Music Together


By Dielle Ciesco


I believe there is an evolutionary process happening in music, and it is quite exciting to witness and be part of. Where once musicians played their instruments to an audience, I see more and more how musicians are coming to understand that they can better serve others through a deep surrendering, playing in Divine trust, in a more spontaneous style. It is a recognition that we are all being played by the Great Muse of Spirit.


PURE HEART ENSEMBLE: Richard Shulman, Kate Steinbeck, Dielle Ciesco, Bob Hinkle (Adriana Contino not present). Photo by Carrie Turner.

PURE HEART ENSEMBLE: Richard Shulman, Kate Steinbeck, Dielle Ciesco, Bob Hinkle (Adriana Contino not present). Photo by Carrie Turner.

As an improvisational vocalist who specializes in healing and well-being through toning, I don’t consider myself the one who plays the music. Rather, I let the music play me. Life is the musician. I’m simply the instrument. There is no greater feeling than allowing music to sing through me! It’s a communion. There is a certain element of getting out of one’s way, stepping out of the thinking mind, and into surrender.


Luckily, I’ve had great fortune in finding colleagues not so much interested in getting up in front of a crowd to be watched as to be part of a crowd being expressed. They exemplify this new current happening in the music scene where musicians are getting together to experience a great state of flow through improvisation. We recognize that we’re here to inspire, evolve, and transform ourselves and others with our art and in collaboration. It may not be like music we’re used to listening to, but it has many moments of indescribable beauty, surprise, and inspiration. It uses what exists in the moment, honors all parts of the human experience, and works to transcend that experience.


I am blessed to be a member of the Pure Heart Ensemble (Richard Shulman, Adriana Contino, Kate Steinbeck, and Bob Hinkle), which presents a montage of both composed and improvisational, free-flowing, divinely-inspired pieces. Richard Shulman, who put the ensemble together, was feeling in need of some personal healing when he wrote the first piece for the collection. His approach to composing has always been one of deep connection to Spirit: “I am used to the process in my music of letting go of whatever comes up and returning to the music. Sometimes what comes up doesn’t seem to be very lovable!”


As it turns out, this first piece Richard composed for the new CD, The Bliss of Being, led each of us within the ensemble into our own healing journey. As Richard writes in the liner notes, “All of us had our own challenges and tremendous gifts as we each chose a path of serving the music and purpose for the album … Each of us had stepped through the door of trust into that place of pureheart where the music flows in Divine cadence.”


Crystal bowl player and co-owner of The White Horse in Black Mountain, Bob Hinkle refers to his experience as “a duet with the deep”. These challenges and the transcendence are now eternal parts of the music offering their gifts to listeners in need of healing.


The other group in which I’m involved is the Asheville Sound Collective, a local group of sound healers and musicians, of which Richard and Bob have also been part. The ASC was created by DahVid Weiss, Christy Clavio, Beloved Levensohn, and myself last year to bring sound healing and frequency-raising experiences to the community.


We wanted to provide interactive and pure listening experiences that include vocal toning, various indigenous instruments such as the didgeridoo, bells, bowls, gongs, and other healing instruments. All the music is completely spontaneous and takes everyone present on a journey deep into the unknown.


Other members include Nathan Dyke, MayaJoelle Aubry, Yvonne Rainbow Teplitsky, and various guest artists so as to keep the mix lively and unique.


The fulfillment we each get when something magical takes over and plays us is a joy that is palpable to audiences … it’s transporting. Likewise, the changing states of those listening or contributing to any particular movement inform and inspire us as well. In this way, we merge and become one evolving experience of sound.


I see more and more artists turning to this new improvised style, which really is turning performance into transformance, a mutual gift and unifying experience shared between all. In this way, today’s musicians are moving beyond the ordinary to give extraordinary encounters with the Spirit of Music to all those who listen, reminding us all that we are, in fact, that very Spirit.



Dielle Ciesco, the creator of Transformational Voicework and author of The UnknownMother: A Magical Walk with the Goddess of Sound, specializes in the transformational power of the voice to heal and connect us with our own Divinity. Visit her at

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker