I guess I lied! I said I would be updating this blog more often, but I didn't! Haha.. I guess I won't be as free as I originally thought. Well, I'm definitely much more free-er than when I was back home, but school work's piling up quite a bit. Lots of practicing and learning (duh!) to do. Anyway, I just want to update a little bit about what's been happening in school the past month. I'll try to make it brief, so it won't be an eyeful to read.
Well, school's been pretty interesting, to say the least. Just FYI, classes I'm taking are Jazz Arranging and Composition, Jazz Piano Workshop, Jazz Ensemble, and Private Instruction (sax).
Private lessons have been really interesting, and really grueling, too. I'm trying to work on some Barry Harris bebop playing concepts that AH's given me, and it's quite a new process to digest. Now, it's trying to refine some of the things I already know, and I've always known my playing (at least on the bebop side) has always been rather.. messy. I see this as a good opportunity to polish up my ideas. So in some ways, it's sort of starting at a very basic level again.. learning major scales and arpeggios, etc. But it's also an extension of what I already know, so it's new in that respect too. I'm now trying to use these basic ideas to apply to songs that I have to learn week after week. But to say the least, AH's been crazy on me (and all his students anyway!), so it's all hard work like crazy. But that's expected, and I will probably do as well as I can!
Arranging and Composition is pretty interesting also.. but quite a shitload of information. Although I wasn't sure that it's my level to go in yet, Mike M assured that it's fine. Somedays I still feel like I don't know anything, and I'm b/s-ing my way through. Ok, so how the class is run, is that he'll get us to write a short arranging homework every week, and we have to play them in class. So every week we'll have a bunch of horn players, a pianist, and a bassist, and they'll run through as many students' assignments until time runs out. After that he'll comment and correct, or improve on them. Mike's teaching via a "mentoring" system and not with any textbook, so that itself is interesting! But he's been great, and judging from Mike's arrangements we're playing during ensemble, we know he's on HELL of an arranger and composer.
Jazz Piano Workshop is taught by David Berkman, which I know is also one heck of a killer pianist. And as we also found out, he's a real funny cat, too! He makes everyone feel real comfortable in class. So anyway, we're learning some basics of being able to play some piano in a more jazz context (and possibly even for other music too). We're learning some basic skills such as being able to voice out chords using basic root-based chord voicings, play basic voicings with melody on the top, etc. I've definitely learnt quite a bit already, just from this class. So I've even got myself a keyboard to try to practice at home some of these basic techniques. So I guess the goal here is to be able to play on the piano, although not as good as an actual pianist, but at least for practical usage, such as learning the harmonies to songs, and eventually learn to compose (that's my goal!).
Jazz Ensemble is basically split into two sections - Big Band and Combo. I'm in the Big Band class that Mike M runs, and AH runs the combo. I'm on second alto chair. Basically we play arrangements from Mike M (and some of them are his own compositions), some latin-jazz type arrangements, and student arrangements as well. In addition, we have to learn a standard jazz tune or two every week (usually quite a killer one, too), and sometimes we back up the vocal students. For this semester, we've got one killer sax section.. all the fellas (me probably being the worst one) are so damn good! To say "talented" is a freakin' understatement! But thankfully all of them have been really cool, friendly cats, and pretty down to earth. Quite inspiring to that end. It's always really interesting to listen to them play, if anything, it makes me want to play better, too!
So far, that's what school is. It's probably not half as interesting as working life, but then, it's interesting in a totally different respect. I have to say, I was having a slight tough time to assimilate myself back to having a student life, not having to go to school for the last 7 years. But it's starting to kick in a little now. I still miss home quite a bit. I'm starting to make some friends with my coursemates. But since it's only been a month plus, we'll see what happens along the way. But I do agree with Chern Hwei on one thing, can beat our own Malaysian kaki's lah... can relate more, for sure.
Anyway to leave off, I've got some nice pics of snow that took place about over a week ago. Enjoy. It's snowing again, at the time of writing.