Monday, May 19, 2014

Challenges Are Good

This photo was taken at the Clemson Unitarian Universalist Church
where we performed in "I Played With the Band".

I have had a busy couple of weeks.  My show, Textile Constructions 2014, opened at Upstairs Artspace in Tryon, NC, I played piano with a band Friday evening and drummed with my djembe drum class at the Clemson Arts Festival on Saturday.  Lucky me.

Preparing for an exhibition is certainly a long term sometimes stressful endeavor but it's one I'm familiar with and enjoy.  I am not much of a collaborator when it comes to making my work so there is lots of alone time in the studio.  My art is not performance art.  It is made, installed and viewed.  The primary interaction I have is at an opening or reception when you have the opportunity to talk about your work and see how people respond.  I did an artist talk for this show and enjoyed that very much.  I actually wrote out some questions for myself and responded as a way to prepare for the talk.  I won't say I don't have some nerves when I do this but I've done it many times so it's not really stressful.

Playing with a band and two singers was another story.  One of my fantasies has always been about being a jazz pianist and playing alone or with a band and singer so I suppose I can mark that off my bucket list.  The event is planned each year by Elaine Fredendall who is my piano teacher.  Elaine is fantastic, she's fun, knows her stuff and loves to perform.  She invites a group of musicians who have a group and they come and play with her students.  Each student prepares one piece.  There is no practice with the band/singers, you just go up give them your tempo and play!

I was about number 16 on the playlist and as I watched the kids go up and play I began to have a minor freak out.  I think I am her first adult student who has played in this event.  Students are not asked to memorize the pieces, we have music, but of course in preparation you play the piece so much you do end up knowing the piece by heart.  As I sat there all of a sudden I couldn't think what the first few chords were.  Very un-nerving.  But my time came, I played and I did very well.  I played a nice version of Danny Boy and the male singer was fantastic as well as the female singer who backed him up.  I'm hoping that next year there will be other "kids" in my age group.

These are West African djembe drums.  The one on the left is authentic and was made in 
Ivory Coast.  The one on the right is also a djembe but was likely made in Indonesia 
as a tourist drum.  I bought the one on the right 5 years ago hoping to find 
a teacher.  I had to wait a while but it was
worth the wait. 

On Saturday I played with my drum class and that was far less nerve-wracking.  In this situation you have many people playing the same music with you.  If you miss a beat no biggie.  Most of our audience had no idea how we should sound anyway.  Again, it was fun.  I will continue with both the piano and drum.

I'm sharing all this with you because I think it is stimulating for people to have some range of activities in their lives.  I also believe it's wonderful to interact with other people in a creative activity.  The drumming and the piano playing are an event.  Yes, I put in time practicing alone but I had to be present and demonstrate what I could do in "real-time".  It was great to see the people respond.  It was a different type of challenge.  It was a different kind of reward.  It called on me to summons my courage and step out of my comfort zone.  

I'm already thinking about what music I want to learn next and what I want to play.  

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  1. Oh you!! Being a jazz pianist has been my dream for many years as well. I had five years of classical when I was very young, and was quite good although nowhere near being a prodigy. I haven't had a piano since way back then, and no room for one now...and overused fingers that I'm sure wouldn't take to the piano any longer. But man, I'm so excited for you! How cool, and way to go, Terry! xoxo

    1. Thank you Connie. I have enjoyed my instruction and having a chance to play with a group was over the top! Great to hear about your history and interest. You might be surprised what you could do. xo, t

  2. I love my piano lessons, too, and am soo happy to have found a new teacher after separating from my former one half a year ago (she found me 'difficult' - and so did I with her, but I was paying!) To have music in one's life is very important, and I wish I had more of an environment for my viola playing, too...

    1. Having the right teacher is very important. Learning should be a pleasure not a trial. Thanks for sharing your experience.