As a teacher, I always want to share a piece of myself with my students. I want to share with them my experiences, my history, my struggles and successes, and of course, the “good” stories. Small opportunities to do that come every day. However, every once in a while, there’s a chance to do something big – to share a huge part of myself and my story. Last Monday was the November concert for my Jazz Band and by featuring Dr. Pete Vivona as the guest artist, I was able to do just that.
Pete Vivona is a large part of my history as a jazz student. When I was in Jr. High I took saxophone lessons from his wife Terry, who passed away a couple of years ago, and I remember sitting in their living room in Flagstaff, AZ and Terry and I arguing about using a metronome. I remember her telling me that I needed to use it to help me with the rhythms and to stop guessing. I asked her if I had guessed right? She told me that wasn’t the point. It still makes me laugh to this day – especially as I encourage my students to use a metronome when they practice.
I practically grew up with the NAU Big Bands, were Pete was the director of Jazz Studies – always attending their concerts (had my first kiss in the back of the auditorium at a NAU Jazz 1 concert :)) and hoping to get to know the musicians. I remember getting to work with Jazz 1 in 1992, they came and played with my Jr. High Jazz Band and Tim Matteson introduced me to Blood, Sweat, and Tears. (Because we were playing Spinning Wheel at the time.)
When I got to college, I kept playing jazz even though I really thought I wanted to be a classical musician. (Whole other story) I took improv classes from Pete and played in Big Bands that he directed. I learned a lot during those years – however it took me many more years before I really started to apply it. It’s interesting how sometimes you have to learn something more than once before it starts to sink in.
Every year, my Jazz Band fundraises in order to bring in a guest artist. This year it was time for a brass player (previous years were Dom Moio (drums) and Paul Brewer (saxophone)) and since I had 2 dedicated trombone players, I contacted Pete. He immediately said yes.
So on Monday, Pete came to work my kids. He did a improv clinic, a dress rehearsal, a Q&A, ate pizza with the kids, and then played the concert. It was so neat to listen to him teach – he’d talk about things that I teach, but also reminded me of things I need to focus more on. The best part was listening to him play with the kids – and hearing them change and grow right before my eyes. It was incredible to witness. The concert went fantastic and I was really proud. It was truly amazing to share Pete with my students – and hopefully the experience will stick with them for a long time.