Last night I was blessed to play two sets of music with two musicians (Chris and JT Bates) that I met just out of college some 20 years ago. We started a jazz sextet called the Motion Poets in 1993 and proceeded to write, record, and perform tons and tons of music together. We spent countless days rehearsing new original compositions and arrangements of jazz standards. We talked for endless hours about the challenges of mastering your instrument & ‘finding your voice.’ We fought over how a piece of music was meant to sound and we regularly convened 5 hour band meetings about how to ‘make it in the industry.’ And more than anything, we listened to thousands of hours of music together. JT, Chris and I made up what is called the rhythm section in a jazz group and so we were known (mostly just within the band) as ‘The Section.’ Last night after more than a decade, we reunited The Section.
We spent the day rehearsing our two sets of music and writing a couple new songs for the concert. We also spent an equal amount of time eating and just enjoying each others company. And you know what? It was as if I was 23 again. It was as if absolutely no time had passed. Very few words were exchanged about the actual music and very few words were needed. Music, when approached and explored/studied from a space of trust and 100% engagement, has a way of sticking with you for a very long time.
Those early years in my professional life were spent predominantly with JT and Chris (and the other guys in the Motion Poets). Nearly every new musical discovery I made, they witnessed. Every time I failed on the band stand, lost my place in a song, stumbled through the melody, or took a much too long solo, they suffered the consequences. And every time I was sure that I was going to quit making original music once and for all, they were the ones who guided me back onto the path. Mastering music is certainly not a straight line from point A to point B. We do not simply execute a set group of exercises and then magically we become virtuosos. There is an enormous amount of exploration and questioning along the path. There can be many seemingly conflicting pieces of advice from teachers/mentors being thrown at you all the time. And one thing I am absolutely sure of at this juncture, having a team of musicians that are winding down the path along side of you makes the journey a hundred times more manageable. Check that, a thousand times more manageable. And in fact, in my case, I’d argue that it was essential. JT and Chris were and still are a vital part of my team. I would not be making or teaching music today without their guidance.
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we are constantly talking about the value of our community. We see the private lesson gigs and the band parties as much about celebrating the accomplishments of each musician as they are about building community. We want each one our musicians to find their team that will help them down the long and winding path. Music playing is meant to be shared experience. And Music learning is meant to be a shared experience. We believe that every musician not only needs but deserves to find their own JT or Chris.