Summer 2013 Retrospective

This summer, something I noticed about the musical lifestyle (or, at least, the pre-musical lifestyle in my case) is that you spend both a great deal of time alone while also spending a great deal of time with others. Here's what I mean: when you're really practicing and working hard composing, writing, and the like, you're really alone in your musical endeavor; when you're out playing, hustling, and the like, you're really engaged with other people the whole time you're out. If you're in-between on either of these—practicing but also being distracted with other thoughts outside of music, or being out at sessions but not being completely invested in spending time with friends and acquaintances—my feeling is that you won't get the most out of either practicing and hanging. 

One of the biggest differences between last summer and this summer was learning to choose my battles more wisely, e.g., deliberately putting the horn away before the last tune at the Smalls jam, getting over FOMO and staying in and practicing, and also figuring out what kind of stuff is worth practicing at the moment and what isn't (although this didn't happen too much until the tail end of my stay in the city). Also w/r/t practicing, I've learned to like practicing slowly, practicing with a metronome, and being able to decide when it's time to practice what I'd like to practice and when it's time to practice what I need to practice. This interview with David Epstein also reminded me that there's no one-size-fits-all formula for practicing, even though music schools might make it seem that way.

The path of becoming a professional musician still occupies my mind, although hearing about the paths that numerous musicians older and wiser than I have taken has given me more confidence. The grail for many, it seems, is to make a living playing creative music; various alternatives include making a living doing something music-related and maintaining outlets for creative expression, making a living doing something not-music-related (that also hopefully pays better!) and maintaining outlets for creative expression, or else doing some combination of the above. I guess my big unanswered question last summer was, "What do people do once they're out of school?," to which I've heard numerous replies from 20-something and 30-something musicians—although not all equally reassuring, having some vague idea of the possibilities out there certainly helps calm my inner worrier, at least a little.

I do feel self-conscious doing this, but since this isn't a Facebook status and since I'll include a disclaimer (Sentimentality ahead; skip if inclined), I'll say it: I'm deeply grateful for all the opportunities I've had this summer. I had the chance to work behind-the-scenes at The Jazz Gallery and even help out on the blog side of things, played my first (and only!) gig in New York City with friends at Smalls Jazz Club, and, most importantly, got to hang out and meet amazing people—many of whom happen to be amazing musicians, too. Busking in Central Park, sessions upon sessions at the New School, Manhattan School of Music, and various practice studios/living spaces; people-watching during the late set at Dizzy's; hands-on group learning at Steve Coleman's workshops; and the list goes on. I'd like to give a special shout-out to Brian Woodruff, who hosts the impeccably-run weekly Blackbird's session in Astoria—finally, a neighborhood hang to look forward to! I'll add that the Vodou session on Mondays run by Seth Trachy were a close second for my all-around favorite session in the city this summer, so check that out if you haven't been (in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, 9-12). 

That's just about all I've got to say. Thanks for everything, everybody, and I'll resume with the regularly scheduled programming sometime in the near future. There's a 15-minute, 30-chorus long Coltrane transcription that's been sitting in a folder in my computer for a while, and I'll hopefully be also posting excerpts from my senior thesis, a collection of nonfiction essays about jazz, as they come.