Musical Offerings during COVID times

As we each adapt to a new way of living during COVID, music can offer a space beyond words and politics to support us to connect with our innate sense of wholeness while grieving what has been lost. Music acts on all areas of our human being, including the body through vibration, moving to where it is most needed. As such, intentional sound is one of the most gentle yet powerful of medicines. Live music especially can build community connection when physical connection isn’t possible, by holding a space for shared experience.

Musical Offerings:

1. Garden Concerts

2. Musical Enjoyment (spotify playlists and/or tips for listening )

3. Individual Medicine Pieces

1. Garden Concerts
Enjoy the sounds of cello while surrounded by nature. Bring together a small gathering of family and friends or simply for you, within a space that allows for you to honor the guidelines for physical distancing*. The concert will be 45-60 minutes in length and we can select a program together that fits your interest from the repertoire list below. Please note, this is not background music but rather an invitation to listen deeply together.

Discounted COVID times Fee $300 (Barters accepted).
Weather permitting-a rain date is suggested. If cancelled due to weather, I will happily reschedule.
* I will wear a scarf while interacting before and after the concert and remain at 6 feet if law and safety requires, but will remove my face covering when I am performing (being sure to set up at over 10 feet distance) to accommodate the breathing required for athletic musical performance. I can travel anywhere within 200 miles of Holyoke, MA.
I can offer a list of pieces for a potential program, or you may choose from one of my three suggested programs

Sample program:
Monuments and Madness This program explores the movement between sacred geometry of form as well as the wild “in between spaces” of creative “chaos”. Hartka will play works tinged with a variety of influences including Spanish flamenco, celtic music, mayan music and Jazz as well two short compositions by Hartka herself. The concert will conclude with Bach’s magnificent E flat major Suite for solo cello.
Bagpipe Chanter Traditional?
Lord Galways Lament Turlough O Carolan
Keening: Song of Exile Rebecca Hartka
Flamenca from Suite for Solo Cello Rogelio Huguet Y Tagell
Bone Dust Star Dust Rebecca Hartka
Julie-O Mark Summer
Suite 4 in E flat Major JS Bach


2. Musical Enjoyment (playlists and tips for listening via zoom sessions) I can create a playlist to help guide and educate you through a certain area of Western Classical Music. Have you ever been curious about how Mozart Operas reflected the anti-aristocracy, revolutionary tendencies of the late 18th century? Or wondered how Bach’s love for sacred geometry informed his compositions? Do you have a love for French music? We can connect via zoom to give you suggestions on what to listen for in specific works. I can also create playlists via spotify to guide your listening in a particular style or period.
$70/hour (fee dependent on number of sessions and extent of request). (Barters accepted)


3. Individual Medicine Pieces Music is healing in a way that is mysterious, intuitive and global. If you are feeling like you need support to connect with your wholeness, grieve, or simply be inspired, I can create a short solo cello work with you in mind. After speaking together on the phone or zoom, I will improvise and explore sounds until they crystallize into a loosely structured composition that I can share through a digital recording.
Discounted COVID times Fee $200 (Barters accepted).

My passion has taken me to the threshold spaces between music, culture and healing. While gaining expertise in the Western Art Music Tradition, I have also expanded beyond these boundaries. This impulse can be traced to growing up in rural New York where my Ecuadorian neighbors often had traditional Andean musicians play at our neighborhood bonfire parties while we danced together. My experience of live performance is that it is ceremonial in nature, with the potential to be profound social medicine with participants experiencing their shared humanity through group listening. I am passionate about fostering cross-cultural connection through music, and have, for example, collaborated with Mayan musicians in the Yucatan. At the same time, I believe in the power of Western Classical Music to offer a reflection on culture and history, and I love to perform such composers as Bach, Debussy and Brahms. In college at Oberlin Conservatory I took non-required courses in African American Music History, West African Dance in Diaspora (where we had live drumming for each class), Ethnomusicology and Psychology. My passion for performing inspired me to earn a Masters and Doctorate in Performing Arts at Boston University College of fine arts. I continued to broaden my expression of styles to include Blues, Tango, Brazilian and Celtic music, and improvisation in courses at the Berklee School of Music and at summer festivals such a String Fling. Since 2007, while working to educate young musicians as a professor of music at Montana State University and currently at Keene State College, I ran a concert series, recorded three CDs and performed concerts nationally and internationally. My recent adventures have taken me to Cuba and Mexico, as I develop fluidity in Latin America styles with Cuban American guitarist Jose Lezcano. In 2019 I collaborated with acupuncturist in a group session. For twenty years as an educator with students and listeners I continue to learn how to better facilitate embodiment, empowerment and self-expression through music.

Full professional bio at
Tedx talk here


COVID Cancellations

This week I was scheduled to perform a concert at the Historical Piano Concerts with pianist Barbara Lysakowski.

This performance is one of many that have been cancelled due to COVID circumstances. One of the pieces we would have performed is the Frank Bridge Sonata. Consider listening to this recording- the slow movement at 10:15 is especially poignant.

Bridge was a pacifist writing this work from 1913-17 and despairing over the futility of war and the state of the world. This work is part of the program we were going to play entitled “Across the Channel” with music written 100 years ago during and after the First World War, and ironically during the time of the last pandemic. English and French composers were defining their unique styles and expression, declaring artistic independence from the long Germanic tradition that dominated western classical music for two hundred years years. They did this by incorporating regional folk tunes into their works, and by expressing their personal experiences. I planned this concert a year ago, well before the current pandemic. What a powerful resonance we might find in this beautiful music at this moment!!

Music forges cultural connection by expressing the broad ethos of a time, as well as the internal world of those able to reflect from a unique vantage point. Music touches in on the timeless and universal. Classical music in particular offers the opportunity for us in the western world to look back on history and grieve the wounds of our culture that seems to so often turn to warfare.

Music making is my whole reason for being, it feeds me because it is where I belong and where I feel joy. I know profoundly the power of art to forge compassion and connection in culture, something badly needed even before the pandemic. Contributing to society in the way that brings me joy is the only truth I can stand inside of. I can’t imagine life without this. Performing has been my constant even inside of a very challenging industry that suffers from extreme lack of support. How painful it is for me to not be able to offer this medicine for people to connect. How oddly cruel to have to process this loss without the one activity that has always helped me process best.

Several times during the past ten weeks the grief has overwhelmed any idea of how to move forward. What is different than previous lulls in my schedule is the unknowing as to when and if I will be able to perform in concert halls again because of social distancing. As I witness numerous large musical institutions cancel entire seasons, I wonder how much of this industry will survive the financial losses. As an entrepreneur I am more flexible and resilient than some, but I rely on a community of listeners and the ability for venues to be allowed to open doors. As well, my economic stability has been a chronic challenge.

As I confront these questions, I am well aware from my many travels, including to Cuba and Kenya, that I have many privileges for which I am grateful. I can feel concern for those dying and suffering in communities of color, or the elderly at risk, but my pain is still real. I am reminded of my college experience at Oberlin twenty-five years ago, where I struggled to find belonging. My family was declaring bankruptcy at the time, and so I had no safety net. I was experiencing PTSD from a childhood trauma, and my rural background was an invisible cultural difference. I was in a highly competitive male dominated field with peers with more means than I. While I recognized the value in the calls to confront my privilege from students and teachers, in the context of the invisible and unspoken challenges I faced, it felt ironic. And I will admit, it hurt.

Even as I hurt, I did my best to contribute and, for example, spent many hours outside of classes creating a community garden for at risk youth, with my friend Natalie. I point this out not to “virtue signal”, bit rather to illustrate that sometimes people who aren’t part of the “woke” culture are not as good at talking the talk, but may still be trying to walk the walk. This can be missed when assumptions are made too quickly.


Perhaps we all feel a bit left out of this society, but some really are more on the outskirts. Devaluing the work of artists is so ingrained in our history. We have continually and systematically placed artists on the fringes. What is the impulse behind a culture that has had centuries of persecution towards Creatives? What kind of culture starves its artists and burns its healers? I have had to confront these questions all of my life, but they are more front and center now that I feel so voiceless. What I do know is that for those holding the shadow pieces of a community, the very act of sharing their voices is a contribution to society, an invitation towards more wholeness.

What would our modern world look like if we made more space for our artists as part of the leadership in society? What would happen if we were guided by their world-view of creativity, broad embrace of humanity, and interconnectedness? Would we move beyond our need to find an external enemy to blame? Would we begin living from love, rather than fear and survival? Would we remember our deep belonging to each other and to nature?

Music vibrates in all dimensions

And lives in all times

Yet we know her only

In this one moment


We are drawn in by her beauty

Her sacred geometry

Even as she resonates our bodies

To the bone

Reminding each cell

To come home


Her world is beyond words

Of archetypes and myths

She calls forth even the misshapen

And abandoned parts of our humanity

Into her compassionate embrace

Reminding us

We are whole and we belong


After the moment, when she is gone

We learn the timeless nature

Of her ephemeral being

That is deeply felt

But never seen

And remembered long

After the last notes sound.

-Rebecca Hartka 2019


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