I’m sure by now, you, my avid readers, have been on pins and needles to find out just what happened at my first Jazz Band rehearsal. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s amazing just how far months of reminders and getting kids pumped and excited for a new thing will do for its success. Even with the drastic change in scheduling, kids were still up for what would be a new experience for them. It’s always nice to see some eyes light up at the prospect of learning more, completely different music. So when three o’clock rolled around on Monday, I had my horn out and a stack of music to sightread and a pair of drumsticks to click a backbeat. I was ready and raring to go.
Well, after all this preparation, four kids showed up. Just four. They were four great kids, but they were only four. So what to do? Go forward as though nothing was different. Two trumpets, a trombone, and a sax make for a nice starting point for a group. These guys were all over it, though were a little daunted by the look of the music itself. However, once they learned how to feel a bit of the groove, how to lay back and blow, it was great. By the end of the rehearsal, I felt very satisfied with their quick progress and with my own work as their teacher.
I have since sent them out to recruit more players, and I have done the same. I think with them having a good first impression and telling their peers about it, this fledgling music program could get on its feet. I do have hope.
Along with the Jazz Band, I have started the Jazz Combos class. Open to all instruments wanting to learn styles and improvisation, it is intended to be a reinforcement of the Jazz Band proper. Many flute and clarinet players expressed intense interest in playing jazz, even after being told the Jazz Band would not be open to non-big band instruments. So what could be assumed is that Jazz Combos would have a larger attendance than that of the big band.
Reality and assumptions rarely line up, do they? I had one kid show up yesterday, the trombone player from Jazz Band. I felt so unmotivated and heartbroken that he and I just sat around talking jazz and hanging out until the early bus could take him home.
I was at a loss, and I still am. I’m not sure what it’ll take to get these kids that say they want to play jazz to actually get up and play it. Jr High Jazz Band was what motivated me to learn saxophone at all. I started playing clarinet in elementary school because I loved Benny Goodman and old style Dixieland jazz. But when I got to Jr High, that’s not how it worked. So I made a very conscious decision to learn tenor sax over the summer and make it in my eighth grade year. I picked it up and learned every single note of the horn and some scales, and sealed my fate as a saxophonist. I wish I knew how to evoke the same motivation for music from these kids.
Now, I know that I was a different case, since I went on to become (nearly) a music major. I still don’t really know what to do with myself in music. I play a little bit with the beginning band kids during my lunch breaks, but it is mostly me exploring the unfamiliar world of brass and helping keep percussionists’ heads in the game (hand an eleven year old boy a pair of drumsticks and see how long he’ll stay still). Nothing I do now is for myself in music, nothing to expand my playing ability, or even to bring it up to where it was at this time last year. I’m languishing in music, as well in general because I don’t play anymore.
I miss dearly playing in my old jazz combo and working with a great teacher. I felt as though I was finally on to something, then I had to leave it, far far from finished. (Alliteration anyone?) I have said numerous times to my wife that I have to truly admit to myself that I am actually a musician. And I have said many times that I wish I had had one more year at Stanislaus to dive deeper into jazz and finish my bachelor of arts in music as well. C’est la vie, though. There really is no time for or point in regrets.
The best thing for me to do, I think, is to find an outlet or two for playing. Get myself into a big band that plays during evenings, find a group of people to jam with and learn from. Anything, really, to get my fingers wiggling and my toe tapping. The world is so much duller without music, and I truly am an incomplete soul without that magic art in my life.