I started in 1982. I can still remember teaching "Wake Me Up Before You GoGo." In 2023 the job still has some wonder in it. Perhaps, not as much as when I started, but enough. What have I learned about students that can be shared?
Realistic goals are difficult to set if you don't know the field. For example, a year ago I began part-time online studies at Athabasca University. Before I signed up, I dreamt about which courses I might take, which area to focus on, how it might benefit my students and my interactions with the world. Then I took the first course, then the second, and I'm now on the third. Reality check. My goals failed to consider the enormous amount of work involved. Furthermore, my previous ideas on the subject matter were, at best, uninformed, at worst, mistaken. Am I sticking with it? You bet. Is it exciting? Yes, it is the most exciting thing I've done since I earned my ARCT at age 47 and just as difficult.
PS I've completed an English writing course (A) and an ancient philosophy course (A-). I'm now deeply involved in an ethics course.
True story from this week. Each month, my friends and I play at a recording studio in Etobicoke: guitar, bass, drums. I bring a new tune. It is a shuffle I had written for a student. Now the set up.
Twenty-five years ago, I was playing jazz piano with a poet in a Queen Street club, we opened for a blues band. Our hippy dippy poetry set went well. During the blues set the band invited me up to sit in. I am thrilled. They yell piano solo! I wail through and finish triumphantly. I look to the band leader for affirmation of my brilliance. He says, 'nice jazz solo buddy." I am crushed. So, I went home and learned to play the blues.
Fast forward to this week. I did it again with the drum set. Too much jazz in my blues! I was comping on the snare drum instead of focusing on the pop of the back beat. My drum coach heard it right away. I immediately heard what he was saying. I was being too clever. So, I now focus on the snare drum, keep the bass drum down, minimize my fills, and no comping like a jazz guy on the snare drum. Next session, my shuffles will be simplified and popping.
The moral of the story. When we accompany on the drum kit, keeping disciplined and focused for the entire song is difficult. It is easy to get bored and want to fill: here, there and everywhere. This goes for jazz too. In pop and rock drumming with a singer, this never happens, I can play my part and stay out of the way of the story telling. However, in instrumental music, I must stay on my toes, or I will over play.
It is time for the yearly stock taking part 2, the setting of new goals while considering my long-term goals.
Earlier in the year I posted this:
"Top 5 things I can do to grow as a musician in 2022
How did it turn out?
I bought a Stagg xylophone in 2021 with the goal of learning to play the thing to the level of a community orchestra.
My drumkit playing has improved since last time I played in a concert band. But, living in Toronto, expectations are much higher. So, I'm practicing.
I've discovered that mallet percussion is a whole new world. Besides the mechanics of the instrument, I've had to relearn how to improvise. You be the judge. This is the progress after 3 weeks of jazz practice. Click on the photo.
Top 5 things I can do to grow as a musician in 2022
A xylophone performance of Everybody Loves My Baby. I bought a xylophone in 2021 during Covid and I'm learning to play the dang thing. Two mallets here, four mallets coming up soon. Written in 1924, 75 years+ of silliness.
I watched with fascination the "Listening to Kenny G" Documentary today.
1. The guy oozed confidence and charisma in equal measures. His high school band director shares delightful stories on camera. Kenny was a real show boater from the start.
2. He believes he can learn anything if he just focuses and seeks out the information and then applies himself.
3. Pat Metheny's legendary rant comes off as jealousy and envy. There is an interesting discussion amongst the critics as to what jazz is and isn't over the course of the documentary.
4. The critics interviewed have both scorn and admiration in about equal parts. The critics do not put down or ridicule the aesthetic experiences of his millions of fans. His appeal in China is explained. Hint: the pentatonic scale. (The explanation is in Mandarin; I'm assuming the subtitles were accurate.)
5. He speaks with the confidence of a musician who has been listened to a billion times or more. The guy oozes confidence and charisma in equal measures. In this I find him equally admirable and annoying at the same time. He has Chutzpah.
6. His live band kicks ass, the concerts look like fun. The bassist and drummer lock it in. His early recordings sound hilariously dated. He admits as much.
7. The guy practices his ass off. And in the practice room he really demonstrates he can play.
8. He jokes about his hair.
Did I run and stream his music afterwards? Not yet.
What I'm up to behind the scenes.