Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Lesson

Day 3: This is my student Justin and I playing a duo.  Justin is sight reading, and this is the first step in improving that aspect of his playing.

 

Sorry for the sound quality! It’ll be better next time.

Day 2

Day 1: My first performance of the 365 Days of Performance was, of course, to my wife.  I sang her the song I wrote for her, and that we sang to each other at our wedding.  Even though I wrote the lyrics and music, I still couldn’t remember them all the way through without messing up.  After the performance, I promised her that the last day of the series, I’d sing it to her again after having practiced it for a year.  Maybe I’ll be better at it then.

Day 2: After a weekend of visiting my parents and having a great time at the Green Pastures in Elmira, I returned to work today to teach a few lessons.  With my new quest in mind, I decided that my performance today would be for my student, Mark Johnson (yes, a jazz bassist named Mark Johnson) in our lesson.  At first I thought this might be a cop out, but upon further consideration I changed my mind.  This shift actually reminded me of a Hebrew school lesson I was taught my my Rabbi, Scott Glass.

One of Rabbi Glass’s lessons dealt with the importance of Jewish holidays.  “Which Jewish holiday is the most important?” he asked the class.  Naturally, being greedy little 11-year olds, we said Hanukkah with the eight days of presents, chocolate coins, and all the macaroons we could stuff in our faces.  “Nope, try again,” he said.  Next we thought of Rosh Hashanah and Yon Kippur, the bookends of the High Holidays and the beginning of the Jewish calendar.  “Good guess, but wrong,” Rabbi Glass quipped.  We then proceeded to list as many holidays as we knew; Purim, Passover, Tu’Bishvat, Sinchat Torah, whatever we could think of (for lack of anything else, one kid even said Christmas).  Finally, Rabbi Glass, with a little bit of exasperation in his voice said, “Shabbat is the most important holiday.”

We were baffled.  Shabbat happens every week.  Usually when we thought of a holiday, it was something that was rare, something that happened once a year.  Rabbi Glass went on to explain that Shabbat was the most important holiday because it happened every week.  Shabbat symbolizes rest, study, time with family, contemplation, restoration, and prayer .  These are all things we need as humans to counteract the crazy lives we have during the week.  It’s a once-a-week vacation day where the really important things in life are brought to your attention.

And thus, I felt the same about the performance today.  Shouldn’t we as teachers be at the top of our game every day for our students?  In actuality, there should really be little difference between our day-to-day performance level and the performances we present when giving a concert.  In fact, that’s usually the reason students study with a teacher, to absorb and learn from an expert up close.  It’s the “little” performances in our lessons and classes that matter the most, because those are the ones that actually shape the success of our “greater” performances, both as presenters of music for a concert, or in a classroom situation.  Like Shabbat, however, these performances tend to be overlooked as routine, but in the end, carry the most consequence in our musical lives.

So Mark and I played “Yesterdays” and we performed for each other.  He learned a lick or two, and I learned a new way to talk about performing.  On to the next…

365 Days of Performance

Congratulations to my friends Andrew Le and Jenny Walvoord for recently having their first child, Matthew Alexander.  Both Drew and Jenny are inspiring people, and I know they’re going to be great parents.  The new baby also brings a new opportunity for Drew, though.  Actually, it’s not a new idea for him, but rather a new way to treat an old idea.

Recently, Drew just finished a photograph project that produced one photo for every day of the year.  I was amazed at the technique and creativity Drew was able to find within himself, and I anxiously awaited every new photo.  As new parents, Drew and Jenny will no doubt follow up with a similar (if not as diligent given their new duties) project.  I’m also looking forward to witnessing the development of their family over the next year, and the years to come.

Drew’s project, though, inspired me to think about other things besides photographs that could be renewed every day.  We all have our daily routines of checking email, Facebook, news, blogs, and whatever else we’ve fallen into to the habit of doing that makes us human and unique.  But if these mundane things can fascinate us and consume so much of our time, what are the other details of our life that we could repeat every day, yet still contribute to our development as professionals and interesting organisms?  Seems like blogging may be a new one for me.

However, I asked myself what it is that I love doing the most in terms of my career.  It didn’t take me long to decide that I’ve followed my particular path because I can’t stand going too long without performing music.  That’s why I play the bass, and try to find as many diverse opportunities as possible to play.  Jenine can attest to the fact that I rarely turn down gigs, even if the money is bad.  It’s because I find the act of performing gratifying in itself; maybe as a form of expression, a social platform, or the fulfillment of an unknown desire to be part organized sound which is innate to the human race.  Whatever it is, performance is my thing.

So in the spirit of Drew Le, and because my only other hobby is chess (an unparalleled waste of time), I’m going to try to perform something every day for a year.  For a musician, this usually means something organized in a concert hall, classroom, club, or other public venue.  I’m taking performance to mean the act of presenting something artistic (and preferably musical) to someone.  Since I’m sequestered in my apartment today, no doubt the first performance will be something for my wife, although I’ll probably try to make it more formal everyday if I can.  Sometimes that’s not possible, so Jenine will have to endure some of these, and to her I’m eternally sorry, but grateful for her patience.

I haven’t done enough research to know who has done this before, but who cares. My point is to do it because I enjoy it, and to get better at it.  Conceiving, preparing, organizing, and presenting are all aspects of a “performance,” and these are all things I need to improve.  There’s no motivation to get your act together like having a deadline, so from today on, I have a deadline every day. Better get working…

Thanks to Drew for the inspiration, and good luck in the next few weeks.  If anybody would like to be a guinea pig for one of my “performances,” let me know.  I’ll also try to be detailed on the blog about what I’m doing.  Today’s performance will be brought to you by the letter W for “What the hell am I going to perform today?”