Singing the Blues

I played jazz piano in high school. Rather, I played piano in this jazz ensemble -- an award winning, state-renowned group -- the first foray into this genre for me. I was nervous and out of sorts and completely in over my head, with my decade plus of purely classical training. I didn't have the ear then, or language for jazz. It would be another almost decade until I discovered and fell in love with Miles Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Kermit Ruffins. It was a rough year (precocious teenage angst aside, or included), made tougher by my struggle to understand and decipher the music. I could read the notes; dexterous fingers and quick muscle memory did nothing to allay my blind searching for the music's soul.

I understood classical music. Separated by centuries and the wide expanse of culture and heritage, I nevertheless connected on a visceral level with the music of Beethoven and Schumann and Chopin and Liszt. With young hubris, I played their masterpieces with depth and feeling, with my own interpretation and meaning layered on top of theirs. Jazz was a completely different animal. I couldn't get past the syncopation and odd rhythms; even when I could, the discordant chords and minor progressions perplexed me. All in all, it was too much for me to comprehend, let alone try to emulate. Needless to say, it was an unsuccessful year for me as a jazz pianist. At the end of the year, I gave back my folder -- relieved, but also defeated.

Years and years later, after college and graduate school and numerous friendships, heartbreak, challenges, and living life -- it was only after growing up, that I could understand the language of jazz. In a way, I had to learn its language through piecing together its alphabet.

I've been painting since I was a teenager. Art always served as an out for me, or a way to express my deepest self without words or explicit emotion. It's only been recently that I've learned that the creation of art forces you to not just look inward, but outward. Through opening my heart, I create work that can foster better dialogue -- with others, but also myself. For me, my understanding and appreciation of art and jazz are similar. It's been only through unobstructing my heart & eyes, and living life with openness and love, that I've grown as an artist. Aging is a blessing. The experiences I've gained through the years has built so much more depth in the art that I'm able to create.

To life.