1. Jazz has taught me to take risks and go out of my comfort zone. Sometimes you don't even get chord changes, and you are told to improvise by ear. But, the best solos are the ones that you reach for something, even if bumps occur along the way. Courage is the name of the game.
The first time I was given chord changes I was terrified. I didn't know what they were, or what a "half-diminished chord" was! I was shy, and mumbled a few notes, because I was afraid of playing "wrong notes". Yet, at the end of the day, the next note you play determines if the one before it was "wrong"- you can recover, you can resolve, you just need to be sure of yourself.
"Yardbird Suite" was one of the first songs I improvised over:
2. Jazz has taught me to have fun and enjoy the moment. After all, each moment only happens once.
Maybe someone plays a lick, and you play something similar back to them just to get a reaction out of them. I think because of jazz I do not want to overly structure everything I am doing. I like to go with the flow and just see what happens. Whether I am playing jazz or hanging out with my friends the most fun I tend to have is when I do something spontaneous.
3. Jazz has taught me to never take yourself too seriously. Keep calm and solo on. Mistakes are inevitable, but you can recover, and even make a joke out of it.
Personally I can't stand when people take music too seriously. Maybe it's just me, but if I am going to be so serious and devote my life to something, I think it should be fun or if it isn't fun I should make it fun. And people tend to play music better when they have the freedom to laugh and joke with the people they are playing with.
Music should make people happy. If I can make someone happy, I think my mission has been accomplished, both musically and personally.
Dizzy Gillespie playing "On the Sunny Side of the Street"can summarize what I'm talking about:
4. Jazz has taught me how to be patient. Sometimes you work hard and see no immediate results, but everything eventually falls into place.
Sometimes practicing gets lonely, and stressful, and even boring. You are playing an instrument, which is basically a piece of metal, in a cramped practice room, or some room of your house by yourself for hours on end sometimes late into the night. Sometimes you keep on trying to play something, but it just isn't coming to you. And you can't give up- you have to be content with where you are in the moment, and tell yourself to just slow down, try something new, or take a break.
5. Jazz has taught me the merit in hard work. Basically practice makes perfect. As I said, you need to be patient, but eventually all that you have been working for works itself out for the best.
As freshman at my high school we wrote letters to ourselves that we received the day before graduation. So, after these four years, I was nervous to see what I wrote as a freshman. Would it be weird? Did I change a lot from what I used to want for myself? And you know what I wrote in my letter? I talked about wanting to go to music school, and I talked about wanting to go to Berklee College of Music- I didn't remember that I wrote this! And what do you know?- Berklee College of Music Class of 2018!
"There is No Greater Love" was my college audition song:
Now that I am moving on to the next chapter of my life, I am happy to think about how I have grown. I am thankful for everyone that has been a part of my life and that has helped me learn to love life more than ever.
I entered high school knowing nothing about jazz, and will enter college devoting my life to jazz. And no matter how much high school hurt me or stressed me out I have to remember that each moment in the past has led up to right now. And well, right now is looking pretty good.