Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, finally

Well, it looks like we (that is, the UM campus and all its peoples) made it through the first week of classes. That did not seem very possible as of Tuesday, for some reason. But as busy and frustrating and tiring as the first week of classes can be, we always seem to make it through. At this point, it shouldn't be much of a surprise. But here we are, waiting for Friday to end with plenty of energy (ha) to make it through the weekend.

Some things I've learned this week:
-I suck at practicing. When it's not on my schedule, or if I have to use my lunch hour to talk to professors or run errands, I just don't make the time to practice. One of my favorite teachers suggested to me this week that I mark off the time I would have been in class and spend it practicing. A good idea. There's a reason she has a PhD. So, my practice time can't exist on a generic "to-do list." It needs its own special spot on my calendar.
-My combo sucks at practicing, too. I mean, we only have an hour or so to get all of our shiznit done. And we often spend about 30 minutes or so talking over things that, while important, take time away from playing music together. So, I think we'll need to get a bit more organized and go into practice sessions with an idea of what we need to do. Maybe I could even make a list. Because that's how I do, yo.
-I get more done when things are busier. I never notice (in the moment, at least) that I slow w-a-a-a-y down during the break. But I definitely do. Something that would take me 30 minutes during the semester can take days when no one's around. I am not very good at self-discipline (see first point). I guess this is just something I need to be aware of so I can manage it better.
-I have the best professors ever. I was hesitant to talk to them about my decision to move to New York. But every single one I've talked to has been surprisingly supportive. The ones I'm taking classes from are trying to find ways to help me achieve my goals. It's pretty fantastic, this.

So. I think it's about time that I buck up and get excited and maybe slightly more motivated to get some of this jazziness done. I've been on break for long enough. Now it is time to move my patootie.

Monday, January 23, 2012


It's good to have goals, I hear. I suppose I missed the boat on New Year's resolutions, but I never think those count anyways. But since I'm off on this hardcore adventure towards jazz, I've developed some pretty extensive wishes about what I can get done this semester. So now I want to write it out so I can have something to come back to and say, "oh yeah, I was gonna do that, too."

Every day goals
1. Practice my voice: tunes, improvisation
2. Practice jazz piano: chords, then voicings
3. Transcribe, even if it's just a little bit

Semester-long goals
1. To arrange a few pieces: horns, bass, everything.
2. To get 200-300 songs in my book, if not more.
3. To work on my stage presence, especially in between songs
4. To get some kick-ass outfits to wear on stage

By the end of the summer goals
1. To have 400-600 songs in my book
2. To have transcribed Ella's solo on "How High the Moon"
3. Find a job in NYC
4. Move to NYC

That may not be complete. But I think it's a good start.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Sometimes decisions are hard. Like the decision to drop all but two classes in your final semester.
Sometimes decisions are easy. Like the decision not to get a second BA.
Sometimes decisions are complicated. Like when example A coincides with example B and then you feel like you might disappoint some professors and maybe some parents. Or professors who are somewhat parental.
Sometimes decisions are obvious. Like the decision to move to New York.
Sometimes decisions are embarrassing. Like the decision to tell people why I'm moving to New York.
Sometimes decisions should not be ignored. Like the decision of whether or not I should go sing jazz.
Sometimes decisions are exciting. Like the decision to spend over 20 hours a week working on jazz.
Sometime decisions are gut-wrenching. Like the decision to not move back to Seattle.
Sometimes decisions are comforting. Like the decision to make a warm, fuzzy scarf.
Sometimes decisions are oddly important and informative. Like the decision to tell your boss why you're changing your course load.
Sometimes decisions are unexpected. Like when you wanted to order the duck, but the server says they're out of duck. NOW what will you do?

Life is so full of deciding. It can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe that's why I like naps so much.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cowl scarf

By the way, I made this scarf the other day. I'm kind of loving it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Turn, turn, turn

There is a time for everything. And this, it seems, is the time for me to start pursuing music.

"Music?" you ask sarcastically. "Really, Shannon? How long, exactly, has it taken you to figure this out?" My answer is: 24 years, good sirs and madams. Even though I've been actively musician-ish since the tender age of... oh, probably 3 or 4. Who would've thunk.

It's true. It took me almost 24 years to realize that music was what I wanted to be involved in. That singing, in particular, is what I want to dedicate myself to. Granted, there were little signs and hints along the way. I minored in music at PLU, playing in the wind ensemble and (in my last semester) singing in combo class. I was in our church choir when we lived in Seattle. I took a smattering of vocal jazz lessons. I joined the wind ensemble when we moved to Missoula. I conceded that I wanted to study music - in an academic vein, the philosopher in me insisted - and started working towards a second BA in music history so that I could apply to graduate programs in musicology. And I enrolled in jazz combo instead of wind ensemble when I officially became a student.
That last step, it seems, was my downfall. Jazz just swallowed me up and kept me comfy and incredulous at the same time. And this fall, things started happening that woke me up to the power of this music in my life. Our combo was performing. I liked singing. I started taking lessons regularly, practicing... practicing! I had never practiced singing before (at least, with any sort of rigor). And suddenly, something said "New York" and I didn't immediately dismiss the thought. "New York," the idea said again, expanding itself in my consciousness, and I allowed it to make its way through my mind. I poked it a little, but not much. Let the idea expand, I thought, and we will think and hope and pray and maybe be able to do this in a rational way. There were, of course, the "what are you thinkings" and "be logicals" and "really, you are going a bit crazies" that lashed out, on instinct, at this idea. But the idea didn't care. It had grabbed hold of the other parts of me that wanted, wanted, wanted the possibility of jazz to work. As it turns out, those parts are fighting harder against the unbelieving parts every day. And they're starting to win the logical side over. Now it butts in with "oh look, there are plenty of administrative assistant positions available in New York, and they actually pay a decent wage," and "oh look, apartments in New York would be affordable if I had a day job" and "New York is really the best place for this sort of thing, so it's the most logical choice." Funny how things change. Or assimilate. Or evolve.
Jazz is like a weed, tunneling through the soft dirt of my life. I could try to rip it out, but its fractured roots would hang around, biding their time to erupt back into bloom.
And so, it seems that I have decided to cast aside academia (at the moment) and abandon a second degree. As prestigious and useful as a BA in music history is. she said sarcastically.
I clung, for a while, to the academics. It's more reasonable, I told myself, and performance is no real career. Getting a PhD shows that you've made use of your time. Becoming a professor means you're smart, educated, etc. Singing does not do that. Singers are not generally considered PhD-level intelligent. No offense, singers, but I was asked if I could read music by a saxophonist last year. Because that's what instrumentalists think of singers. (I can read music, by the way. I started playing the clarinet when I was 8, for goodness' sake.) But the idea in my mind was that only unreasonable people would choose to perform rather than... y'know, do something else. Like get a real job, etc.
I suppose it's all folly, though, in one way or another. Performance isn't necessarily a stable career choice. But neither, really, is getting a PhD. Not until you get tenure, and even then... in this economic climate, even tenure isn't a guarantee. And I don't want tenure. I don't want something that says, "congratulations, you're here for forever!" Not right now, at least. And I'm realizing that I don't necessarily want to teach in that mode, anyways. If I want to teach at all (which is not really all that certain).
I remember thinking when I was little that I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to be a teacher. That conception has morphed somewhat in the last several years, but still. I think I tricked myself into thinking that being a professor would be the type of teaching I would like. Probably because it means you're really smart, and I would like to show people that I'm really smart. And again, singers don't really exude intelligence. Or I don't feel like they do. Because I'm an instrumentalist, gosh darn it, and me and all my instrumentalist friends KNOW that those singers are the lazy type of musicians.
But y'know what? I'm a good singer. There. I said it. I don't say that almost ever. Because I want to be humble. And humble people don't boast. I know that I am not the best singer. I still have a huge heaping ton of things to learn and work on. But I'm good at singing, good enough to work on it, good enough to devote myself to it - for a time, at least. And if I don't, I realize now that I will wish I had. So, in the interest of not turning into someone who wishes their life away on things they never do, I am moving. I am moving to New York. I am moving to New York to become a gigging musician. A singer of Jazz. And I will work and I will work until I'm awesome. And I will get paid to be awesome. And I will fall in love with New York and do my best to get New York to fall in love with me. Small parts of it, at least.

I don't think I've ever dreamed this big. Even though this is still the small type of dreaming big. But it's bigger than I'm used to. I've spent all my time thus far trying to be reserved, keeping things in check, holding on to reality. But something is changing, and I want to change with it. So. Here goes.