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journey of a ten through talons


In-Depth Post 2: Jazzin’ It Up

Second post!

My In-depth project has seen great progress in the last two weeks. I did record myself at the beginning of January, playing some pieces that Chris (my mentor) gave me to practice, but plan on storing it away in the archive until the end of the project. Instead, I recorded one of the pieces I’m playing with our jazz combo in preparation for the Jazz Gala: Autumn Leaves (here’s a link to a professional recording). The combo’s recording is below:

(Sorry for the awful recording quality – the only device I had was my phone)

I improvised in a section of the piece, and it was a rather daunting task. The keyboard in front of me suddenly seemed like a mass void, with an endless amount of possibilities that I could undertake. Since my combo practice days are on the same day as my jazz piano lessons with Chris, I made sure to ask him if he had any tips on how to improvise.

We covered a large amount of ground during our second lesson, including chord “voicings” (arranging the notes of a chord so they sound better), a new piece called “Blue Bossa”, and improvisation. The first time I was making things up on the spot, I had a similar feeling to when I was improvising with the combo: I often felt lost, and lost track of where I was in the music – improvisations still occur over a steady chord progression often played by the left hand. Then, my mentor, sensing this, offered a piece of advice that was very helpful. He told me to slow down, and focus on small melodic patterns to repeat and transpose. That way, I could actually know what I was playing, rather than just using random notes like I had been doing previously. Afterward, my changed approach to improvising was much better. I was still playing spontaneously, yet I had a clear vision of what I was playing. Another thing I learned was that the skill of being able to improvise comes through practice. In just a few weeks, my skills have improved enormously through continuous repetition. But practicing isn’t necessarily very boring and laborious – improvising means that I’ll play something completely different each time.

Below are the three aspects of How to Have a Beautiful Mind we were to focus on:

  1. How to agree: in the first two lessons, my mentor has been giving me a lot of information about jazz piano and some basic skills. I often try to find particular points that I find interesting and give my own take on it. I believe that this will help my mentor know I am listening to him, and also help enrich my own learning. At times, my mentor did mention some basic theory knowledge that I learned several years ago, and I found it slightly annoying. However, I then tried to consider that he didn’t know me and my knowledge base very well, and had to make sure that I understood basic concepts. It also helped me review some basic terminology!
  2. How to disagree: I haven’t been in any big situation with my mentor yet where I’ve disagreed with him. The only instance I remember is when he was speaking about my eminent person (Glenn Gould), and stated a few common misconceptions and generalizations about a famous story about Gould. I considered pointing it out to him, but ultimately decided against doing it, as it wouldn’t have proved anything, and we had just met. Also, I noticed that he was reading a biography about Gould, so perhaps the story will pop up in there!
  3. How to differ: Again, I haven’t had any differences with my mentor. I do envision possible differences in the future arising over our interpretations of pieces – this could be due to our different musical backgrounds (classical and jazz). I think that it should be averted fairly easily, since no interpretation is wrong in music. I believe I can listen to my own opinions, but also listen carefully to my mentor’s, since he is more experienced in the field of jazz piano.


Month 1: Over!

“Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise.”

George Gershwin


Socials Final: A Look Back

To recap my journey with socials this year, I created a video, which is below:

If you want to follow along with my notes, they are below:


  • Previous knowledge: interested in history and government
  • Expectations: very excited for various units, mostly about EMINENT
  • Goals: improve discussion skills
  • How did it turn out?
    • !!!!!!!!! AMAZING
    • Learned so much in such a short period of time, able to connect more with peers and think critically about historical events


  • Collective identity:
    • English Civil War
      • Collective identity of each side was shaped by propaganda, often what the other side’s identity was (i.e. the Parliamentarians attacked the Royalists (Cavaliers), Royalists did as well (Roundheads))
      • Content: propaganda was weapon during English Civil War, helped influence social and political revolution
    • Donald Trump
      • Content: discriminatory policies (build a wall, ban all Muslims)
    • Oliver Cromwell
      • Content: discriminatory policies of Christians (ban), injustices (massacres)
  • Disparities in power:
    • French Revolution (Socials wheel)
      • With the monarchy, the power was completely owned by the King and the nobility, leading the lower classes to revolt
      • Eventually the Jacobins had so much power they could kill anyone they wanted to
      • Content: social revolution
    • Hamilton theme map
      • People in power often influence how history is written (i.e. Hamilton’s legacy was buried by his counterparts who lived longer)
    • Columbus
      • Columbus had incredible power (weapons, numbers) than Native Americans he met
      • Content: imperialism and colonialism
  • Emerging ideas:
    • Hamilton
      • Emerging ideas were literally shaping the society and influencing it – they were building a new nation
      • “The American Experiment” – building a nation on ideas, experimenting and testing out if things would work, a work in progress, a nation founded on concepts and principles rather than physical geography
      • Hamilton made: national banking system, founded New York Post, wrote “The Federalist Papers”
    • Glenn Gould
      • Innovative recording techniques
      • Content: technological revolution – in classical music
    • Columbus
      • The idea of new riches
      • Content: greatly helped advance colonialism


  • Significance: Eminent Document of Learning and Eminent Person in general
    • Importance of Glenn Gould today in Toronto
    • Why he is eminent/why he is more significant than other pianists
  • Cause and consequence: French revolution studies
    • Discussions in class/what caused the events/how they were all related
  • Perspective: Social Order Document of Learning
    • Social norms, common beliefs, etc.


  • Evidence: analyze competing sources on controversial historical events
    • Bias, background of competing sources
  • Continuity and change:
    • Comparing shifts in ideology of political parties over time (i.e. Democrats/Republicans)
  • Ethical judgement: explore more into historical events that included racism?
    • Look more into historical atrocities


  • Use the tools I’ve learned (critically analyzing documents, making historical judgments and opinions) in everyday life, watching current events (Trump)
  • Look for connections between this year’s studies and Socials 10, and in future socials classes (Confederation with American/French rev.)


And here are photo credits (music is instrumental music for My Shot from Hamilton):×490/landscape-1457039161-hamilton.jpg×420.jpg*fra6dhYu5P6q22t9q9dqVw.jpeg

See y’all next year – in Socials 10!


French Revolution Final Address: A Vow of Vengeance

[Gets stabbed by Charlotte]

[Stands up, removes blade]

I am just one. Do you think, by killing me and proclaiming that you saved 100,000 lives through my death will stop us? [Snort] No. You have only succeeded in martyring me. You have succeeded in raising me to a higher pedestal, and in that, you have condemned to death yourself, and all your comrades!

Your comrades, the Girondins. The ones who wrote me off as too radical, even for the Mountain. You thought that I could not galvanize the public through my writings, and yet, they found in me someone who could hear their pleas for mercy as you were sentencing them to death through starvation. You are weak cowards, mere puppets of the aristocrats. You do not truly care for the people, the people I represented and bitterly fought for. You will not stop the revolution. Fifty years of anarchy await you, and you will emerge from it only by the power of some dictator who will arise – a true statesman and patriot. O prating people, if you did but know how to act!

[Retrieve blade, stab self and die]

*End note – the last sentence is a Marat quote from his newspaper L’Ami du peuple. It’s amazing how prophetic this is – Napoleon united the people through a vision of an all-powerful France. And he also declared himself the emperor.*


In-Depth Post 1: The Beginning

And so the second main pillar of the TALONS program begins!


For my in-depth project, after a few days of deliberation (and several voices of input from family members, as well as my interviewee for my eminent person) between recording music and jazz piano, I chose the latter. I have played classical piano for the last ten years, and played jazz pieces once or twice, and I was intrigued by the art. I would occasionally hear “Tonic”, a jazz radio show, at night on CBC Radio 2. I believe that jazz piano will make me a better overall musician, once I have embraced different types of music. Jazz represents a very different style than classical music, and I believe it can make my interpretations more rich, creative and personal. Jazz piano, in many ways, is more accessible to general audiences than classical music, which will be an advantage when I’m in a more comfortable and relaxed setting, such as Coffee House. Basically, it’ll offer me a opportunity in which I can learn a new genre, improve my classical playing, and also help for future performances and gigs.

My goals for this project are to accomplish the above, but I also set out more skills that I want to learn by the end of May:

  1. Be able to learn basic jazz “notes”, scales and rhythms
  2. Be able to learn basic jazz accompaniment, and briefly explore styles of jazz (bebop, swing, stride, etc.)
  3. Be able to learn basic, short melodic improvisations based on a set of chord progressions
  4. Be able to play in a jazz ensemble, and learn various skills to work together with the other musicians in weekly sessions
  5. By June, have performed in various different settings (for individuals, in small groups, and before large audiences)

The jazz ensemble I’m part of is run by Ben Sigerson (his blog link is here), and includes a few grade 10 TALONS and other students. I had my first practice with them this past Monday, and it was fairly nerve-wracking to sight read music I had never seen before. It was especially difficult because jazz piano notation is made of a melody line with chords above it, which is very different than classical piano scores. But I was able to adjust by the end, and Ben helped me by playing a bassline.

For my mentor, after some searching, I connected with Chris Sigerson (yes, Ben’s dad!) through a mutual friend. His biography is very extensive, and here is just a short portion of his website bio:

He has played many gigs over that time from small jobs playing background music to concert halls and recording studios. Chris has collaborated with a wide range of artists, Canadian and international, and feels fortunate to have worked with many of the world-class musicians and vocalists in Vancouver. Chris has been featured on many CBC radio broadcasts over the years as a sideman and leader and continues to work in the recording studio for others’ and his own projects. He has produced five albums. They include; “Heritage”, “A Father’s Dream”, “Merry Chris, Chris, Christmas”, “A Christmas Tribute”, and “Live At The Thomas Ave. Grill”.

Chris also teaches jazz piano at Capilano University, as well as students in his home studio. I went to his house just yesterday to have my first lesson with him. Here are some of the materials he gave me:


In just one lesson, we covered some basic jazz chords and progressions, and how to read jazz notation. By the end of our lesson, I did some basic improvisation over a chord progression that he played. I found that his laid-back, conversational nature of teaching was very easy to interact with, as he was able to make connections between classical and jazz piano and was knowledgeable in both areas. I didn’t find that there were any difficulties I encountered, other than the improvising. During it, I noticed that I ran out of ideas after a few bars. But this lesson was mainly to introduce the art of jazz piano, so there should be more concentrated focus on improvising in the near future.

Overall, I thought that I accomplished a sizeable portion of the introduction to my project – making goals, practicing with the ensemble, finding and starting to meet with my mentor. I’m excited to see what will happen in the next five months!

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.

-Louis Armstrong


An Introductory Post to Jean Paul Marat

I don’t feel too uncomfortable writing on here. After all, I have been writing for most of my life, and just recently discovered this new amazing platform known as Twitter. I’ve already caught beef with nearly half on France by now on there, so make sure you go check it out @

The following is a short biography of my life to date:

I was born in 1743 in Boudry to Jean Mara and Louise Cabrol. My father was an immigrant from the island of Sardinia, and I left to find the house to search for job opportunities when I was 16. After briefly studying medicine in Paris, I moved to London for several years, befriending artists and dabbling into philosophical writings. In 1770, I published my first major work entitled “Chains of Slavery”, in which I thoroughly attacked absolute monarchy. I returned to medicine, and worked as a court doctor as well as publishing several papers about science. Benjamin Franklin visited me multiple times (and I asked him if Hamilton would consider sailing across the Atlantic to meet me, but he seems more interested in visiting Lafayette).

But I felt my talents were required in another field: politics. I wrote an essay declaring that every citizen should be given food and shelter in a properly functioning nation, as well as equal punishment among all classes and the king should be no more than a representative of the people he governs. And that’s why I’m leaving my previously wealthy life and picking a pen to support the people. Because they need someone to speak for them whose voice will be heard around France. Everyone citizen deserves a new start, and the only way that can happen is through total overhaul. We can’t have pacifists attempting to negotiate their way around a revolution. But the problem is represented in most of the people: they don’t want this. We need to fight back unequivocally and unconditionally, and show the king how powerful the people united can be. And their voice will be heard through me: L’Ami du peuple.

And my job? I’m going to sit in a bathtub and write.


#HamilTALONS: A Theme Map

After catching the Hamilton bug (it seems to have spread throughout Room 111 in Block 4), I was excited to start on our final project for the American Rev. unit: a theme map surrounding a statement that is mentioned throughout the musical. Having previously studied the song “Helpless”, where Point of View is extremely prominent when coupled with the following song “Satisfied”, it seemed to be the suitable choice for me.

As for the presentation aspect of my map, I originally planned to create a spin-off from the Hamilton logo, putting my theme statement inside of the star and using the “Hamilton” font (Trajan Pro) to give the map a poster-esque atmosphere. Upon browsing the maps of those who have already posted theirs, I realized it would be an incredibly popular design, and decided to create an interactive Prezi.

(Please turn on sound to listen to music overlays on Prezi)


Instead of clogging the page up with words, I decided to photoshop pictures of characters, and when the next slide is featured, a quote from the musical is played. (It makes a lot more sense when you’re watching the presentation)

Since I only have one complete sentence of text on the Prezi, here is a more detailed description of the mind map:

Theme statement: Interpretations of historical events and figures entirely depend on who is telling it.

With no consistent narrator throughout the play (as seen in my pie chart on my Prezi), the narrative is constantly shifting. That means that such contrasting characters (particularly Burr and Hamilton) will provide significantly different accounts of historical events. For example:

  • Helpless/Satisfied: Both songs are about the exact same event: Hamilton meeting Angelica and Eliza. In Eliza’s number, there are only a few allusions to Hamilton and Angelica’s mutual attraction to each other. But in “Satisfied”, Angelica puts a whole new spin on the story, revealing a detailed (and fast-paced) account on how she and Hamilton were perfect matches for each other right away, but Angelica realized that Hamilton had to marry Eliza. (If this sounds confusing, it is. I put a link to the Genius page about each song above)
  • The Room Where it Happens: Narrated by Burr, the entire song is basically about how there was only Thomas Jefferson’s account of the famous dinner between Hamilton, Jefferson, and James Madison. Jefferson made it sound like Hamilton was pleading for a compromise, and Jefferson and Madison grudgingly accepted, when in fact none of his story could be true. But since we only have Jefferson’s point of view of the dinner, it seems as if Hamilton really was “in distress ‘n disarray”.
  • The World Was Wide Enough: The age-old question of the Hamilton/Burr duel is not exactly answered in the penultimate song: who shot first, and who aimed to kill? Burr saw Hamilton wearing his glasses, and fiddling with the hair-trigger of his pistol, leading him to believe that Hamilton would fire at him. But in his last monologue, Hamilton realizes he is to go to the “other side”, and clearly raises his pistol at the sky. Historically, Hamilton did shoot several feet wide of Burr. But did he do it because it was an involuntary action after being shot, or did Hamilton clearly shoot wide first and Burr killed him anyway? Lin-Manuel Miranda himself revealed in “Hamilton: The Revolution” that he didn’t want to clearly answer the question.
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: Because Hamilton was outlived by most of the Founding Fathers, his legacy was tainted for most of the years following his death (as seen in Angelica’s quote “Every other Founding Father’s story gets told/Every other Founding Father gets to grow old”) In the final song, Jefferson and Madison both admit how well his financial plan worked, yet do not say more about his other accomplishment. However, Eliza attempted to shed light on Hamilton’s countless accolades, yet her work was mostly forgotten for decades.

Because of its occurrence in any historical event, there are several connections between this theme and our curriculum:

Big Ideas:

  • Disparities in power: sometimes one account becomes the widely accepted one because the person who is telling it has a better pedigree or a higher social ranking than the opposing story’s narrator.
  • Collective identity: because of how one story becomes more mainstream, it can even shape a whole group’s identity (how people believed for years that Christopher Columbus was a hero)
  • Emerging ideas: when a different historical account becomes popular, it profoundly changes our opinion on a person (i.e. Columbus and Hamilton)


  • Basically EVERY SINGLE HISTORICAL EVENT (because there will always be two completely different accounts of anything that every happened)

This theme is perhaps the most important of the musical: it teaches us that no matter how convincing something sounds, there is always a historical interpretation that says the exact opposite. In Hamilton, through the stories of Eliza and Angelica both falling for him, Jefferson’s bragging account of an infamous dinner, what exactly occurred in Weehawken on a sunny July day in 1804, and how Hamilton was quashed by his political foes for years after his death, we learn to take every single sentence of any historical account with a grain of salt. Because we know that even protagonists aren’t always right, and learning both sides of a story are crucial to becoming a better historian, a better student, and a better person.