After almost four years of filling my class schedule with required journalism, business and gen-ed classes, I finally took the plunge on my very last term as a college student to take the freebie credit class I’ve wanted from day one: Jazz History.
Since before I can remember, my dad and older brother Joe have quizzed me on music. Even though mostly classic rock, my ten year old self was being trained to obsess over the details of music history in every aspect. It started with a fascination for my brother’s fascination. I remember spying on him obsessively organize his CD’s into categories and ask my dad to confirm his understanding of the backstories and musical intricacies of Pink Floyd.
My interest for Jazz came about in conjunction with my passion for jazz dancing. I’ve taken jazz classes since the age of four, and grew up hearing songs like “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck for days and weeks and years on end. Jazz music is so much about sass, character and communicating without words – I couldn’t help but stay fascinated.
I’m currently heading into my fifth week of my last term in college, and my fifth week of my first official introduction into Jazz History. Week one, our teacher brought in a full jazz ensemble to perform and familiarize us with the instruments and sounds. Week two and three, we watched a brilliant Ken Burns documentary on “The History of Jazz.” Our teacher is not only a passionate and shall I say “diehard” jazz enthusiast, but he practices what he preaches and performs the jazz rhythm guitar nearly every night at local music venues.
We’ve been assigned to not only listen to music for homework but go to local speakeasies and concert venues to listen to jazz for class projects. For those of you who don’t know me should know that I would give a limb to be able to listen to music for a living.
Taking this class has definitely confirmed my love for music, but even more so has confirmed my love for Jazz. Jazz music is about the grit and heart of American culture. The original sounds of jazz are outlets of the purest wordless emotions of the 1900’s. The roots of jazz and the inflections in the music are so colorful and full of life – the concept is endlessly infectious to me.
I’ve caught myself turning my morning radio alarm clock and roomate’s car presets to jazz stations without intention. I’ve downloaded half a dozen albums full of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane. And it’s still only Sunday before week five.
I think the real reason for being so compelled to write this post is because I’m looking at my daily grind differently since this class began. I’m really paying attention, just like I am with these familiar Jazz songs I heard for years in the background of hotels and restaurants.
I’m trying to be more present and aware of the passion among my friends, people in general, and the things I’ve once enjoyed. I hate that once sparkling concepts, ideas and art forms lose their freshness like Jazz sometimes can. I’ve been pulling out old diaries and playlists to remind myself that things shouldn’t lose their sparkle because it’s no longer novel. And for the maybe “already said” ideas and concepts of the people around me, I’m listening now with a sharper ear – believing something new will spark from it. You have Jazz to thank for that.