This was an especially fulfilling week for jazz on campus. Thursday was the premiere of a suite of new music I had written for my 10tet, the New Directions Ensemble. We had a full, enthusiastic audience in UConn's beautiful, newly constructed Classroom Building. The band played splendidly, which made all the hard (and sometimes tedious) compositional work worthwhile. I hope to post some video clips in the near future.
In the weeks leading up to the performance, I had my students read the newly composed music, to make sure there were no errors or unpleasant surprises. It was a true win-win situation. The greatest benefit for them was hearing a band of accomplished professionals sight-read the notes and improvise over the harmonic progressions on which they had previously wrestled. Several students commented on how impressed and inspired they were. It was a valuable reality check for these aspiring, young players.
Then, on Saturday, the great Cuban pianist, Chucho Valdes led my students in a master class. What a marvelous experience! I was proud of how well my students played and Valdes was warm, appreciative and encouraging. He was very gracious with his time, answering many questions and demonstrating at the piano. A translator interpreted his Spanish throughout. It was a special event, providing a reminder of how music is the true international language, and giving insight into another culture. Saxophone student, Matt Baum wrote about the master class in great detail in his new blog, “The Right Changes”. I couldn’t help but smile as I read his impressions and the apparent impact this class had upon him. I think you will too. During weeks like this, I absolutely love my job.