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:
- Be able to learn basic jazz “notes”, scales and rhythms
- Be able to learn basic jazz accompaniment, and briefly explore styles of jazz (bebop, swing, stride, etc.)
- Be able to learn basic, short melodic improvisations based on a set of chord progressions
- Be able to play in a jazz ensemble, and learn various skills to work together with the other musicians in weekly sessions
- 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.