Last night, as part of my “being bold” campaign, I did something I haven’t done in years – I got to sit in and play in a rehearsal of an excellent, professional big band. It was a chance to play with the “big boys”, to move ahead in my plan to find more playing opportunities, and to rekindle an old love.
In high school, when I first started really playing trumpet, I had a fantastic teacher by the name of Bob Williams. He taught us excellent concert band repertoire with great skill and gusto, but his first love was jazz. We always had at least one jazz band in school, and it was an honor and privilege to be in the top group.
We played with abandon and joy, had boxes of numbered music for each part that we called “books”, and could pretty much play anything anybody called from the book. The high school where we live now doesn’t even have a jazz band, and when they did, they’d learn four or five pieces. We had hundreds. We even played the music for our homecoming dances each year – that’s three hours or so of playing. Those of us in the band would spell each other a little bit so we each got a chance to dance with our dates a couple of times. That didn’t work out as well when our dates played the same instrument in the band as we did, but I was lucky. “Willie” played a mean trumpet too and would cover for us when we took a break. I have played in many jazz groups and been a member of several dance bands since college, but it was that experience that set me on the road to a life in music.
Last night was a little tie back to those times, and another avenue for me to explore here in my present incarnation as trumpet player. I was not sure whether I’d be eaten alive by trying to play with the regular members of the band; the phrase ‘sink or swim’ came to mind occasionally on the drive up to the rehearsal. I didn’t swim Olympic times, but I didn’t sink. The other trumpet players were gracious and funny and overlooked the times I came in a bit too early or fluffed a lick. Somehow I’ll move from keeping my head above water to being able to really move, and it’s only by taking chances and getting opportunities that I’ll grow.
It’s all in the journey.