Learning music & percussions
through active listening,
linear structures & self-expression.
I have been a multi-instrumentalist since my early teens. I started with the piano, bass guitar, and percussions. Today, I play a large variety of ancient and modern instruments such as the Hang, Zapotec clay flutes, the Mongolian shamanic jaw harp, Tibetan bowls, the Laotian khen, the Australian didjeridoo, Western percussions, and gongs. I have been collaborating with musicians worldwide, exploring the most diverse musical traditions and techniques. Since my early twenties, I have been composing and performing soundtracks and sound design for dance, theater, movies, and art installations.
It is through this combination of music performance, composition, and collaborations that I developed the Structured Improvisation Technique. This unique method is about learning music through active listening, guided discipline, and muscle memory.
First the body. I use the body as a fundamental learning tool. Through the mind, we can collect massive amounts of information in a short time, but we often forget the majority of it just as quickly. On the other hand, when memory gets imprinted in the body, it is not forgotten, it can become our second nature. By keeping the groove in the body, music is learned and remembered in a very natural and organic way, rather than through challenging rote learning or the tedious repetition of exercises. In a way, while you learn you already play music, while you improvise you simultaneously compose, and while you practice you release tensions.
A second pillar of my method resides in the way of using the hands. Inspired by my Sicilian roots, I developed a unique technique based in playing with intuitive and ergonomic gestures instead of isolated muscle movements. I use swinging and rotatory movements, all fingers’ strikes, unique ways to dump the sound, and so forth. This allows me to play fast with ease, to release tensions while playing, to keep the groove with flow, and to improvise with naturalness.
Third, the emotions. I see music as a metaphor of life. It speaks the language of emotions through the use of sounds, pulsations, melodic patterns, harmonies, resonances, dynamics, rhythms, dissonances, and so forth. Once the technique is imprinted in the body you are free to express emotions, thoughts, inspirations through the music. This is to me the experience of ‘being in the zone’, or ‘being in the flow’.
The apprenticeship and exploration of music is infinite and unique to each person. Once I meet someone, I develop organically a program adapted to the person’s predispositions, desires, and inclinations.
Contact me if you wish to build a learning path together.
A little story about my background
When I was a child my older brother brought home a guitar. One day I sneaked into his room where the guitar was. I took a pen and bounced it on the strings over the guitar's sound hole. I remember I listened for so long to the different ways of producing sounds, the dissonances and harmonies of the result patterns, the different pulsations of the bouncing pen, and movement of the strings which I let them fade out till disappear… and then tapping again.
I consider that moment as my first impression of sound. The first time I could see the vibrations and touch the sound. That’s probably why for me music is visual and experiential, rather than just acoustic.
Since I was 12, I had the privilege to learn to play different instruments by jamming with older musicians from various musical genres. When I moved to Rome in 1993, I specialized in ethnic/tribal instruments and cultural anthropology. By age 21, I began to teach percussion, didgeridoo, and improvisation. As a self-taught musician, after teaching for few years, I felt the need to study music deeper and I attended the Classical Music Conservatory in L'Aquila, where I studied classical orchestral percussions. Those years were very formative because they allowed me to develop my own personal musical style.
Since very young I have been composing and performing music for dance performances, theater, installations, and soundtracks for movies. In 2003 I discover the Hang, and I specialized in this instrument until the point that, when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007, I was considered 'the Hang player’. Then I started to produce different Hang Gatherings with Hang players from all over the world.
I have taught to people of all ages and backgrounds and what I enjoy most is to see and engage with all the different ways of learning. I am immensely and deeply grateful to my students because thanks to them I had to slow down what I was spontaneously doing while playing and learn to teach them that natural and practical way to approach music. From that my whole teaching and music style was conceived. It is for my students that I keep improving and refine my technique and my musical skills. I'm immensely grateful to each One of them...
I started playing music in my teens as a self-taught musician and in my twenties I studied classical percussion at the Conservatory while I was already teaching percussion and composing. Those years were very important because allowed me to define my own style, my unique signature.
"Laura Inserra is a dream of a music teacher. She is both classically trained and a gifted improviser. Laura is attuned to the needs and capabilities of her students. She know how to teach to their level, inspire confidence, and encourage excellence. She knows when to support and when to push to the next level of accomplishment. Laura teaches the disciplines of musicianship in an atmosphere of playful acceptance. She creates a safe place in which to learn, an inspiring place to gain competence, and grow in the language of music and expression. The lessons are fun and deep, beautiful paced, and build on one another. Laura is generous with her knowledge and her heart." - Ahbi Vernon (Psychologist and Mental Heath Therapist)
“I call her a ‘music-smith’, like a wordsmith or blacksmith because of the way in which she embodies music and sound. She is a truly gifted musician, composer, and teacher. She is incredibly skilled at teaching the complexities of the Hang: technique, sound, resonance, melody, incorporating the different voices and harmonies. My lessons are so inspiring and healing on multitude levels. What I am learning translates to many areas of my life and spiritual practice. Our lessons are not only about playing the Hang, but about breathing, relaxing the body, being present, and, from this place, one can open to the magic, joy, essence of the Hang. She is incredibly skilled at teaching this amazing and unique instrument. ... I have immense gratitude and respect for Laura’s instruction and wisdom, talent and experience, and most of all, for the beauty and integrity of her relationship with the Hang.” Deb Grant (Expressive Art Therapist).
"Laura is a fantastic musician and a skilled teacher. She is able to meet me right where I am, and give me music to practice that is both satisfying and challenging." - Debbie Fier (Musician, Musical Educator, Piano Tuner)