Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts on Chick's teaching style

In response to someone who doesn't "get" Chick's master class / workshop approach, Chick is obviously not a traditional "teacher". But he is offering a glimpse into his approach and way of thinking when it comes to being a self-taught musician. Most of the legends of jazz had no formal training in jazz. They have their life experience and various apprenticeship models. I learned a lot by being able to play my own composition with him. I learned a lot by watching him navigate through new pieces -- live rehearsals, his approach to the music business, all sorts of things. Read back through my 12-part blog series and you'll find a ton of great knowledge about being a real-world musician, artist, composer, improviser, and band leader. Being a largely self-taught musician myself, and being a fan of Chick's music for decades, to be able to spend any time with him at all and have him share his ideas and insights about things was very valuable and eye-opening for me. I learned a ton from the workshop. It was pivotal and life-changing for me. My playing has improved as a result of replaying that experience in my mind and going back over my notes from the workshop repeatedly to let things sink in and take root. People have noticed my playing and writing has improved since that workshop and I attribute it largely to the confidence I gained from that workshop. Chick's mantra "Think For Yourself" is the key to finding your own voice as an artist. I am more relaxed when I play now. I listen better. I stop worrying about what other people think about my playing while I'm playing. My communication with my bandmates on stage has improved. All of that I attribute to the practical application of the things Chick described and demonstrated for us at the workshop.

So, while some people may not understand his teaching style, I certainly learned a ton and he supplied me with a lifetime of useful tips about improving as a musician and artist. There are many ways of teaching and learning. The academic approach is just one of many ways. Chick is not academic. Neither am I. I had so many "aha" moments during the workshop. Things just clicked. I gained a lot of new understanding.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Today is the 5th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis

Today is the 5th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and surgery. I'll have my final scan and chest x-ray in late December at which point I'll be officially cancer-free if all goes well. After that checkup, I think I'll just have an annual blood test. A lot has happened in my life during those five years. Over all, that cancer diagnosis is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I owe my new music career to that diagnosis. My band, compositions, albums, gigs, etc. would not have happened without that life-changing motivation. Even though Lance Armstrong turned out to be a fraud in the cycling world, his cancer story and his Livestrong organization inspired me to do something positive in response to my disease. Thanks to my family, friends, fans, and God for giving me this second chance on life. Now the challenge is to keep the momentum going instead of sliding back into the everyday rut I was in prior to the diagnosis.