In the mid 1980s, a small group of improvising musicians came together to create an inclusive approach to experiential music education.  Based on the premise that creativity thrives with encouragement and withers with criticism, Music for People was founded by cellist David Darling and flautist Bonnie Insull. Their vision combined David’s natural gift for crafting learning experiences with Bonnie’s talents for organizing and networking. The series of workshops and the international network that they began remains the core of Music for People’s work.

In the 30 years of Music for People, the workshops have expanded to incorporate musicianship and facilitation skills. Educators and trainers such as Mary Knysh and Julie Weber have contributed their expertise in honing the content and format of MfP teachings. Psychologists and Music Therapists such as Eric Miller, Jim Oshinsky, and Lynn Miller have added elements of personal healing work to the original message of improvisation for self-expression.

The missions of the organization have always been to make improvisation a common element in music education and community music experience, and to make the learning process organic, natural, positive and deep. The organization has brought to fruition increasingly detailed  descriptions of its unique exercises and its humanistic philosophy through self-published books (Return to Child), and recordings (Improvising with David Darling, Improvising Chamber Music). Additional related materials have been commercially published (The Darling Conversations, books in press by Lynn Miller and Mary Knysh). College courses that employ MfP materials and embrace MfP philosophies are taught at SUNY Fredonia by David Rudge, at DePauw University by Eric Edberg, at Adelphi University by James Oshinsky and at Pratt Institute by Joelle Danant. Over 100 graduates of MfP’s training programs teach in private studios throughout the USA, Canada and Switzerland. Satellite workshops have been hosted in France and Italy. Through the Internet, MfP has connected with related organizations to be of influence in the international drum circle movement, with mention in books by Christine Stevens and Kalani Das. Prominent classical musicians from the late Don Campbell to Barry Green have endorsed and lauded MfP in their writings.

As Music for People looks to the future, it seeks to encourage new generations of performers, educators, and everyday people to spread its message.  Music is for everyone. Any combination of people can make improvised music together. Listening is the most important musical skill. And with an open ear and an open heart, there are truly no wrong notes.

 – Jim Oshinsky


It is the Mission of Music for People to:

  • Present to the public simple ways to engage in improvised music as a means of fostering connections among people at all levels of musical experience;
  • Allow trained musicians to rediscover the joy of making their own music and free them from the stifling effects of hyper critical auditions and reviews;
  • Model ways of teaching improvisation that are encouraging and engaging;
  • Advance the methods and philosophy through modern media.
EricOur Mission