Well, I really don't know what happened because I remember looking forward to July and now all of a sudden, it is September already! Where did all the time go?
I retired from my paid job at the end of May and I remembered that I was looking forward to embracing my new found freedom of spending more time on my music learning. The first thing I did this year was to participate in the week long CASSA Jazz Piano Camp July 11-15 for the first time! Wow, it was really intense. The first few days put me into a tailspin with the jazz theory concepts of 7ths, 9ths and 13ths chords and the learning of the scales other than just the Major and Minor scales ie. Dorian, Phyrigan, Mixolydian, Blues scale etc. On the third day, we were introduced to a condensed overview on the history of the origins of blues and jazz and introduction to the master artists of of both of these genres. There is so much to learn!
Next we were introduced to all the different ways that jazz improvisers can change a melody or how composers can create a melody. With all these tools we were given a jazz standard - Autumn Leaves, and we had to notate the best jazz chords to accompany the melody that we would be playing and we had to get comfortable improvising on top. We performed cabaret style at the end of the week in a trio with Derek on bass guitar and John Dewaal on drums. (I thank Edel, Linda and Donalda for coming to my cabaret recital to support me. I really appreciated it!) I was really nervous performing not because improvising was scary but because I am not a good enough calibre of a musician to be able to play a lead sheet well, in a few days. In other words, my lack of musicianship and my poor sightreading was limiting me. I hope to change that by using my extra gifted time, now that I have it, to work on making sure I improve in those areas.
I really loved this course and can whole-heartedly tell you that even though I am not good at improvising and playing lead sheets right now, I felt like this was where I wanted to go and BE. The act of improvising felt so freeing to me compared to classical where you have to play exactly what is on the page. Derek Stoll and Lorna Machlachlan were the jazz masters teaching the course this year. And like CASSA piano, the clinicians are not always the same each year which is a big selling point as participants can return every year to learn from different masters. I really appreciated the extraordinary skills of Derek, a phenomenal jazz pianist and Lorna, an amazing composer. I learned so much from both of them - they really taught so well as a team which made the course so interesting. And the great rapport that they had with each other and with us, the participants, put us all at ease so that we were able to be vulnerable and share our improvisations and compositions each day. I definitely will be taking CASSA Jazz again and I encourage everyone to try it.
The following week was CASSA Piano (for ages 9-19) July 18-22 and CASSA adult (18+) piano (July 19-21). I did not participate but I attended all three recitals, two on Thursday, an afternoon and evening recital and a Friday afternoon recital. The Thursday afternoon, I was there in my capacity as the founder of this group to support Edel, Linda and Evan who were participating in CASSA adult piano. All three of our group members performed their duets really well. That to me is the biggest stressor of the CASSA adult piano - playing as part of a duo at the end of three days. (That is probably why I haven't returned as a participant to CASSA adult piano camp in recent years.)
On Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, I was there in my role as a mother, as my daughter and her campmates were playing their pieces over the two recitals. I heard so many beautiful pieces at these two recitals. And it was such a treat to hear my daughter play four pieces. - one was a duet. My daughter went to her first camp last year and she looks forward to it every year. She caught the CASSA bug!
And now that I have had time to reflect, I realize what happened with the rest of the summer! After the two CASSA camps ended on July 22nd, the following week, I was just reflecting on all the beautiful music I had heard at all three recitals and trying to digest what I had learned at the Jazz summer camp as well. I purchased the Jazz Theory Book from Mark Levine right after the Jazz camp. In it, Mr. Levine states that any serious jazz pianist has to listen and learn a minimum of 250 jazz recordings . I spent a couple days cross-referencing the essential recordings Mr. Levine recommended, with the leadsheets from the Just Jazz Real Book that I bought from Derek a couple years ago. And I have about 83 that I can work on from that Real Book alone! I have to get cracking!
Then the next two weeks, I prepared for our Edmonton Fringe Festival trip by organizing all of our family's preferences and ordering all the tickets. We were there in Edmonton Aug 12-19 and we all really enjoyed it but we call came back sick from Covid. Within 10 days, most of my symptoms were gone except my congested nose. But I had a lot of fatigue and I needed another week to really recover from that before I felt more myself.
Another thing that has taken up a lot of my time is practicing all of my pieces so I can play adequatetely at Foothills Hospital during my weekly 1 hour of piano playing as a volunteer. I brought back my Bach Prelude BWV 999 which I learned in level 5 and I also notated the jazz chords for "What a Wonderful World" and played these two pieces in addition to my regular repertore (ie Autumn Leaves(my CASSA jazz piece), Burgmuller's Tarantella and Chopin's Cantabile ( both level 6 pieces). Thursday 11am - 12 pm is my regular weekly time slot. This regular weekly hour performance has pushed me already outside of my comfort zone so I am learning a lot. Am I stressed? Yes, totally - but it is only in this way, that I will put in the hard work so I can be a good performer. I am finding it is really hard to fill up one hour with piano playing. I am playing all my pieces with all the repeats so that the pieces are longer. And with the limited repertoire that I have currently, I recycle the pieces again in the second half hour. I look forward to the day that I can play 1 hour without repeating any pieces. There is nothing like a trial by fire to get you motivated to put in the many hours of practice necessary. I am learning to be the musician I know that I have the potential to be. And the fact that I can now make this statement makes me really happy!