I have two ideas that I’m going to try to fit under one title because they somewhat have to do with each other…
The first idea contains a story. It kind of backs up my other idea. The story is from my concert on Wednesday, when Jazz 1, Jazz 2, and the middle school jazz ensemble all had to squish onto one stage and play together for Lord-knows-why. Let me just tell you this: almost NO ONE knew the song – it was easy, what did we have to rehearse for? We got the song two days before the performance, and I skimmed it, noticing the four measly chords it contained and tossed it aside. (Anyway, I was learning the piano part for “What Is Hip?” because the other guitar player was playing it, and I’d have nothing to do on stage…naturally, it’s time to learn a new part…) Unbelievably, we fit 7 guitar players in a space that usually holds two, with approximately half the amount of amplifiers – thank God I brought my own – and I’m pretty sure only one guy out of our number actually knew what he was doing.
**Hold up, sidenote: Let me point out to you all that: I was the only girl smashed within that group of six other guitars**
At this point in the story, it’s time to back up about fifteen minutes. Around then was when Jazz 2 was playing its one song alone – without Jazz 1 or the middle school band. We’d had no rehearsal and I’d wager a fairly high amount of money that no one practiced the song on their own, so it was kind of lame. The keyboard’s amp was out for most of the song until finally it roared back in during the solo section. Fast forward about ten minutes. Now, we’re back at the combination, 7-guitar-player song.
When the time came for solos in this combo song, it kind of went wild. Some guy playing a bassoon soloed – kudos to him, that was the highlight – and a guitar soloed. I paused to watch and after he was done, he asked, “All right, who else wants to take one?” A unanimous, “not after THAT!” rose up, so he shrugged and proceeded to change the feel of the song with the drummer and make everyone silently cry to themselves in his shadow. Just kidding, we were all just laughing, but you get the picture.
For some reason, after the show, I started getting really angry! I was focusing on what I thought went wrong. I can’t even remember what exactly made me think this, but I just felt like I was the worst player in the world, that that concert was proof that I stunk horribly. I was tearing up in failure, so I thought, “Yeah, maybe I should write about this?” I just about destroyed a page in my journal, obscenely and furiously, and suddenly I wrote, “Maybe I should make a goal.” To prove to myself I wasn’t the worst guitar player ever, I should set a goal to solo. At the next jazz show. (very scary thought) To prove to myself that I could hold my own, like I thought I am incapable of doing. Because, on the surface, this thought process looks like a war between me and the good musicians in this school, but they couldn’t give a flaming bag of feces about what I do. This war is between me and myself. I think I can’t do it. I think I can’t hold my own. Somehow, out of being smashed in between 6 other guitar players, two of whom that I actually know, one of whom actually knew what he was doing, I drew that I am horrible at guitar.
What?! I ask myself. What in tarnation was I thinking? That doesn’t even make sense!!
Back to my journaling, the magic about it was, after I wrote that, my mood turned around. I wasn’t angry anymore. It was a miracle!! I can’t even remember what set me off, let alone why my train of thought kept chugging along – now I look back to the concert and think of it as a hilarious success!
**Another sidenote: destroying journal pages is a very good prescription. Prescribe yourself during any negative feelings because the written word is human’s first emotional and mental defense and disposal!**
Once I’d cleared my head, I realized something. Something specific happened at the concert. I remembered when I was watching the one guitar solo, it felt immensely different from when ANY. OTHER. PERSON. had soloed in Jazz 2, ever. Not for any reason you are thinking (Clare) but from a purely musical standpoint, I noticed something different. The music was there.
To elaborate, whenever Jazz 2 is playing, it feels like we are playing into an audience. Like we are throwing the music towards the back wall. Chucking it in chunks, shards, sometimes whole lines, not even paying attention. To the untrained ear, this sounds okay; sounds like a song. But to the nit-picking, over-analyzing, sharp-memory, opinionated ear like mine, this sounds uncomfortable. I felt so exposed when we played. And now I know: it’s not just stage fright. We are putting our music in the audience’s hands. Like we don’t even want it. The music is coming from the other side of the room.
On the contrary, when the great musicians in our school play, holy mother of pearl, the music is all around! They aren’t giving it up easily! The music is tangibly right. there. I know it was not just because I was standing in close proximity of the amp feeding the solo – it was because he couldn’t care less about the audience. Just by the way he played, he said, “This music is mine, you’ll have to come and get it if you want it.” And that‘s why those guys always get more applause. The audience has got to be in the music with them. And that’s why those guys always have more fun – because it’s their music, no one else’s!
Does that make any sense?
This – finally – brings me to my second point:
Dear wannabe gangsters, stupid high school kids, rap listeners, street crawlers, low-pants wearers, and anyone else claiming knowledge of this ever-elusive “swag”,
Hear me loud and clear: You will NEVER know what true swagger is until you have spent a year in the presence of a highly talented, male-dominated jazz music program. EVER. Swagger comes from confident artists ONLY. Do not think that because of the clothes you wear, the explicit vocabulary you use, the music you nod along to, or the crap way you dance that swagger has ever graced your presence. Swagger comes from confidence, not from association.
P.S. shortening swagger to “swag” doesn’t make you any cooler. Unnecessary abbreviations are stupid.
I hope this post was enjoyable.