Loss for words

I have a lot of people ask me about my summer… and I find myself at a complete loss for words. It seems like the typical words that should be used in this sort of instance – awesome, incredible, very interesting, I learned a lot – fall short of expressing even a small portion of what I feel actually happened. Even expressing what I did, the short list of events in order, leaves me feeling like I could have just as easily been sharing my grocery list for the week and gotten a similar emotional response.

I want to jump up and down, scream at of the top of my lungs, and shake people into understanding the magnitude of what I experienced. But even then, I have no idea what I would yell…

The grant has literally changed my life. That is a far more profound statement than even I fully realize. But when I think about life-changing moments, things that happen that define where a life goes, how a career forms, and helps determine what’s truly important – this is one of those moments.

There’s times when I get caught up in my everyday life, stressed out about teaching, trying to find time to practice more than 20 minutes, unable to keep my house clean, or make phone calls that need to be made and my grant trip seems like a faded memory and for a moment I have lost that feeling that I gained on that trip. It makes me sad, like I somehow wasted the experience on myself. Did I not learn anything?!?

But then there’s times when I can see (and feel) how that experience changed me. And now it continues to change me. Maybe I get an e-mail from someone I met, or a facebook post sparks my curiosity and all I can think about is what I’ve experienced and I’m just dieing to re-create it.

My day is up and down – when I’m playing, practicing, or composing I’m on this incredible musical high. I just want to experience it more, teach it to my students, and share it with the world. Then I find myself sitting with my inbox open dreading sending a much-needed e-mail and my world comes crashing down and I’m lost again.

Maybe that’s just the life of an artist. I know I’m always trying to find a balance between all the things I have to do in a day. Everyone can relate to that, but somehow I have to express what it like not to do that and what it was like to spend 5 weeks thinking about nothing but music, talking with musicians, taking lessons, and immersing myself in the jazz culture of whatever city I was in. Nothing I have experienced so far in life comes even close…

On October 22, the Surdna Foundation is flying the 15 grant winners out to NYC for a 3 day conference.  I’m really excited to meet the other people and learn about what they did. We each have to do an 8 minute presentation about our experiences. Any media (like a powerpoint presentation) needs to be sent in by Oct. 4. I’m again at a complete loss for words. I have no problem speaking in public, I could wing a 8 minute speech without even waking up, but I can’t seem to find the words to express what I did this summer in any sort of meaningful way.

How do I explain to someone who doesn’t know anything about jazz why spending 5 hours jamming with Leigh Pilzer and trying mouthpieces was so amazing. How do I explain theory classes with David Baker? How I express that the only reason I went to breakfast and ate powered eggs during Aebersold camp was because I hoped to have a conversation with Dan Haerle? How do I explain that Facebook is more than just a tool to find old high school friends, but also a incredible way to meet musicians, keep in touch, and network. How do I explain the joy of hearing the music of Mary Lou Williams played by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra for the first time and then getting a hug and kiss from David Baker after the show. How do I express the overwhelming sense of community and support that exists in the Chicago free jazz scene? How do I express how kind, helpful and giving all the musicians that I met were and what they have done for me and continue to do for me. I have SO MUCH to tell…. it’s overwhelming and amazing and everything that I could never express even if I sat down and wrote for the next week straight…

And that’s about how much time I have before my presentation materials are due.

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