Some Observations on A Workshop & Performance: music as community
Your friendly web master here attended a performance and work shop last night at Prairie Music and Arts in Sun Prairie. The musicians on hand to perform and lead the clinic were Milwaukee-based Jamie Breiwick (pictured left), who plays trumpet, and Mark Davis, on piano. Both are Wisconsin natives, both are fabulous musicians, and the duo perform to great appreciation by the audience.
They played a wide range of bop, ballads, and other pieces by various composers including, Thelonius Monk, Barry Harris, and Bud Powell. For me, the incredibly intimate setting (you are so close to the musicians, you can almost envision sitting in with them) combined with their beautiful and at times haunting interpretations of the charts generated a strong emotional connection to them and the music.
Prior to the show, Mark and Jamie led an informal workshop for a group of aspiring musicians. Both are music teachers in various capacities in and around Milwaukee. There were a number of dynamics going on throughout the workshop that struck me as interesting…and vital to jazz. First, the two of them were incredibly accessible. Here they are successful musicans at many different levels teaching a group that for most part ranged from beginners to intermediate players (including yours truly). Yet, I believe they made everyone in the room feel important. Second, they brought a joy and enthusiasm to their teaching (as well as their performance later!) that was downright infectious. Finally, the workshop participants ranged in age from (estimating here) eight to 59 years. Both genders as well. And here we all were "jamming" with Mark and Jamie to Sonny Rollins' Sonnymoon for Two. While I can't say new heights were achieved, I can say that everyone played with enthusiasm, and some of what we played sounded downright authentic! The highlight in my opinion came when the youngest, (Elliot, again guessing he was eight years of age), played a soulful solo including a lick Jamie had just taught us to play from one of Sonny Rollins' live versions of the tune. Wow! The boy could have a future.
Of course I can't say what the other participants were thinking or feeling, but for me, I came away from the workshop moved and even inspired. Here we were in Sun Prairie, WI, where a night of music, teaching, and sharing brought together a wide range of people of different skills and abilities into a single community…with jazz as the common bond. What power. What promise. What potential.
Before closing, I must urge all readers to check out the Prairie Music and Arts, a non-profit organization committed to bringing music and arts to people of all ages and stripes. They have lots of programs and performances across all of the arts. They are bringing in some serious talent. They are doing something very right.