Learning something new is akin to opening a can of worms, and it can either intimidate you or inspire you. I've always been inspired by jazz musicians. Their ability to express themselves on their instruments with such ease and finesse, their control and mastery over their instrument(s), and their listening precision are all qualities and traits that amaze me. And when I was informed by a close friend of the Jazz at the Red Dot (JARD) workshop happening again this year, I knew I had to sign up for it - to open that can of worms.
JARD didn't disappoint at all. Of course this was because I knew next to nothing about Jazz, and this 5-day workshop was like a crash course on how to play, listen, and practice jazz. It was even more inspiring to learn from so many big cats in the business, to listen to advice and hear stories from their experience in the industry. I'll be honest - it was intimidating, especially during ensemble rehearsals (for me at least). I know, I always talk about practicing to make sure that the effort pays off when the time comes for execution. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you don't have to practice (you still need to), but from attending JARD, I've come to realise that experience also plays an important role in the overall plan of improvement - it's been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I think I've got quite some experience with classical percussion and if I was in a position of unpreparedness, I probably can still tread water and stay afloat to survive. Being behind the kit this time round felt like I was drowning.. lol! That being said, I really loved and enjoyed the pressure and most importantly, I knew that these cats mean well for us, that they want us to improve and play the best we can, and so I took none of it personally and used it to fuel my drive to improve and learn.
Greg Hutchinson was a beast too! Our masterclasses with him weren't too much about technicalities/coordination (something that we just have to work on on our own) but were more focused on the art, the passion, and also some life lessons along the way. We paired up with Ben Williams for some drum and bass playing, and hearing what these masters said about other instruments were in itself, great lessons. Which also got me thinking - sometimes, we have to learn from someone other than our main instrument to learn more about it, and also more about music. It's all about the perspectives as well.
Over the course of the workshop, I met many new friends, and really capable musicians! Our lessons and rehearsals culminated in a concert at Botanic Gardens, and it sure didn't proceed as planned! I was told that last year's concert was also wet, but the rain this year was just insane - shoes and jeans drenched even though I was carrying an umbrella, and it caused huge delays for the performance. The soundcheck was scheduled from 3pm to 4pm, but the rain came in about half way through and didn't let up. And then Greg made an announcement that the concert had to be cancelled!! But it was an April Fool's joke hahaha. We ended up starting past 5pm (from the scheduled 4:30pm) and everyone had a great energy and put in their best efforts in the show.
It was also comforting to hear Greg always saying "Go slow" every time something technical came up - partly because I tell that to my students all the time, but it was also because it aligned with my beliefs that music is not a race. We're not out to compete with one another or to see who plays faster or longer or better. It's all just about being a better musical self than we were yesterday, and constantly seeking improvement. The only true "enemy" is our self, and that's who we should only compete with.
And I guess my takeaway from all of this is that you don't have to be afraid of doing something you're unfamiliar with, or something you've always wanted to do. All it takes is some humility and willingness to learn - we all start off somewhere, and it just so happens that I'm starting my jazz journey now. I don't expect to be the greatest - there are tons of better drummers out there, but I do expect excellence from myself, for myself.
As always, thanks for tuning in and I hope you enjoyed the read. Stay safe and well!
P.S. I wanted to post Part II to last week's post, but since JARD was still kind of fresh, I thought for sharing it first. Part II drops next week! :)