Finding Your Next Passion Project

Grace Miles

These days, I only think about attending church when in need of kindness.

Like, if I feel that I’ve let people down; but today, I’d rather hunt for Easter eggs.

Which brings us to passion projects. A passion project gives you a glimpse into how a person manifest interests, takes control in an area they believe in. (Only new mothers are allowed to have “my kid” as a passion project.)

Each musician should pursue a passion project. Here are a few ideas that I’m currently working on.

1. A reader asked if I’d arranged a piece that “I” was playing.

Surprised that someone would want to hear my take of the music, I explained that she was another pianist in Vancouver, and it wasn’t my music.

Later, though, I improvised my version of the same piece:

Here's what I'm working on, on the piano. I'm arranging this by ear!

A post shared by Grace (@letgracesmile) on

Take Me to Church is essentially four lines of music, truly simple and lovely; I’m currently writing the improv on paper, as people have requested sheet music.

Why don’t you arrange (or cover) a piece of music that you love?

If you’d like to see snippets of my music as it comes out, here’s my instagram, or soundcloud.

2. I encourage you to compose two-line musical sketches everyday.

Once you have 30, they become delightful to play through. Like a journal of feelings.

Last month, I decided to improvise and stop caring about rhythm. After all, no one else sees the sheet music. It was like having chains cut loose; as an example, this is the first musical sketch:

3. Picking up old pieces

Thank goodness muscle memory works like magic.

This is my third time playing La Voix de L’instrument in 5 years and was pleasantly surprised at how easily it came back.

4. “You need a vacation,” Kat says.

Visiting her office at the university for each week has become vacation.

But she’s right, I need a real one, overflowing with fun. At some point, my most interesting side projects began feeling like work.

Each week leading up to my design event, my mom called to say, “You’re crazy.”

Five days to go, she said, “Do something that makes sense for someone like you. You’re not an event producer; Microsoft was calling.”

The event was a birthday present to myself– and was successful in every way that counted. Vancouver’s leading designers and entrepreneurs in the house, heck, our venue had a view over the ocean.

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But how many 3AMs did that glorious day cost? Too many, in the past two months.

Turning back the clock, would I still choose to produce an event? In a heartbeat.

Moving forward, would I do it again? Not alone– I’d need the spark, plus a great partner. Likely not before leaving for Hong Kong.

5. Live events are rocking the future of education and retail.

Now that we have online courses and stores, we care less about static spaces for lecturing or browsing clothes.

We need authenticity and human connection; like, travelling to a different culture by staying in a local home or seeing behind the scenes of events across the world by watching live streams.

Think about this when you develop your music (and studio): How can you support people coming together– authentic connection?

There’s something to be said about being outrageous for what you believe in.

Taking the extra mile for a passion project, because if you want it done right, do it yourself.

What’s your passion project? Leave a comment below! (And if you know someone who needs inspiration, feel free to share this!)

Thank you to Isaac Sim for taking the first photo!

2 Comments

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2 Comments

  • Reply marla April 4, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Funny- I work in a church so I am there a lot!
    My “passion project” is on-going. There are no easy arrangements for children’s hand bell groups that are easy enough for beginners, yet challenging enough for kids with some experience. So I arrange hand bell pieces myself. Sometimes I use existing works, but most times a Bible song and make it work for my group. This piece we’re currently doing has them playing with mallets and doing a mallet roll, which none of the adult bell choirs have ever done – which of course makes the kids feel uper!

    • Reply Grace Miles April 4, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Handbells make some angelic sounds! I remember attending one handbell choir practice– it’s like a team sport. Great to hear, Marla!

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