My last blog, improved
I have been writing these blogs for about ten months and I think I have said just about everything I have to say about music and a few other things. I have always been a pretty organized person and don’t like to leave unfinished business. So, at some point, if I am no longer able to write a closing column, I want it to be already written.
As I approach 80, I sometimes wonder if I should subscribe to any magazines. Hah! I’m not really serious. I am generally healthy and I look forward to every new day with enthusiasm. I wrote a senior blues though. The lyrics begin, “Woke up this morning, so what do I have to be blue about?”
I recommend trying to live in the moment so as not to miss things that are happening every minute of every hour of every day. Sure, it’s good to look ahead and anticipate certain things and it’s also natural to reflect on our memories. But life unfolds in some amazing ways that are best experienced as they go by. If I could foresee the future and tell you where and what you will be doing even five years from now, you might be skeptical and not believe it. My career has been a series of opportunities that I chose to take a chance on. Each one was gratifying in certain ways and a learning experience that helped strengthen my conviction about what I ultimately wanted to do. Even though I taught at North Texas for 35 years, while there, I continued to pursue new possibilities in relation to my job and continued to learn more about the music I love called jazz. I have also continued to listen to and learn from the classical repertoire for a broader perspective and balance..
Here’s a thought about problems. Though they can be difficult, problems that arise in our lives are often opportunities for growth. They may require patience and tolerance of other points of view but they ultimately lead to increased understanding of yourself and others. I think we can all stand to improve in our ability to get along with others.
Most tunes that we like to play as musicians contain problem areas that require solving before we can sound good improvising on the harmony. The standard repertoire of songs from the Great American Songbook and compositions by great jazz composers have shown that, as we identify and solve problems in a tune, we improve our understanding of music in general and that tune specifically. We start with easy tunes in familiar keys and not many chords and gradually work through more challenging material. This growth process is the work of a lifetime and, if we are applying ourselves, we can realize a great deal of improvement. We’ll never be perfect but we can aspire to perfection. Gradually we gain more control and ease in our playing and it becomes even more satisfying to make music.
Remember, music is a language and if we are to be able to speak eloquently we must have vocabulary. Study melodies of great composers, classical and jazz, and use their ideas to construct your own melodies. When we improvise, we are basically making new melodies to the harmony which already exists. Study improvised jazz solos and try to glean motives or “licks” from them. Many of the clichés that are used frequently help identify the music as being jazz. Also study classical sonatas and symphonies and observe the development of thematic material. Try to apply some of that thinking in developing your own ideas. Use a combination of repetition, variation and transposition.
I especially want to thank all of those musical souls with whom I have had contact. We are all part of a sub culture dedicated to creating art and bringing beauty to people’s lives. I hope you will all continue to be a positive force in the universe and not allow yourself to be involved in petty bickering. Rather, do good deeds personally and musically. Share your music freely but don’t let yourself be exploited by club managers who want you to play an audition or perform for a couple pitchers of beer. Believe in the inherent worth of what you produce. It deserves hearing and financial support.
I want to thank my wife, Jill, for editing not only this book but four others. She is a very skilled journalist. I continue to learn about writing from her as well as many life lessons. She is the best person I know and I am very fortunate to have spent thirty two years with her. I love her deeply!
It has always been my opinion that we should all be both student and teacher our whole lives. You never finish learning everything about any subject and, at the same time, you have something to share with others that may be helpful to them. We have all received help from others and should give back when there is an opportunity. Pay it forward! Life is fascinating and always full of potential. It is an amazing opportunity to be given the chance to live, grow, learn, share, and hopefully realize our full potential as human beings. It has been quite a ride so far and I am loving every minute of it. I wish you all a fulfilling, positive life experience and many hours of great music!