Here’s my final formal post on Django In June ’07. I’ll try to encapsulate how this experience has changed me, and which direction I’m likely to take in my musical development as a result. But first…
what was it like?
Well… read my other posts, for starters. The details describe the experience fairly well. Nevertheless, here are a few final verbal snapshots, in no particular order:
- The way the camp “energy” goes… the days seem basically split in two: the structured day offerings vs. the informal evening jams. Both are opportunities to learn and apply new ideas and skills, but in different ways.
- Love the “horseshoe” shape of the dorm for wandering around, from group to group!
- We were blessed with great weather, overall. I’d rather have a bit if grey and light rain like we did for a couple of days, than excessive heat.
- The teachers were amazing people, and fantastic musicians! Yes, I made new friends at Django In June, with both staff and participants.
- Kudos to Andrew for making sure we had mandolin, accordion, fiddle and bass players in this Ã¼ber-guitar jamboree!
- Seems the gypsy jazz revival is as testosterone-heavy as the old guard. The male/female ratio at the camp? Jeez…
- It was fun to mix around and chat at the cafeteria. The wonders round tables can do for socializing. Imagine if they set up airports like this!
- Cafeteria: definitely not “cafeteria food”! Really healthy stuff, lots of options. Loved that picnic, too. Bravo kitchen staff!
- There was a curfew for playing music up at the dorm level. By day 2 it wasn’t being respected much. And some people talk real loud at night, man. C’mon fellas, this ain’t Oktoberfest.
- Jams: when you let these guys loose, they can unleash energies for hours. Even after three instructional sessions, and an early morning wake-up. Chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop, goes Sweet Georgia Brown.
- A nice moment: violins under my window as I drifted into an afternoon nap, welcome respite from the seemingly endless giant ukulele fest on floor one. Informal practice groups were also part of the camp experience.
- Really loved the acoustics at Helen Hills Hills Chapel.
- Northampton = Paradise City!
That’s it for the snapshots. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter, why we all came to Northampton with our instruments. To be sure: to meet and to learn. Essentially, did Django In June satisfy your expectations?
on having expectations…
In all immersive learning experiences, there comes a point where the participants feel saturated, even overwhelmed by what they have been so focused on. Came day 3 or 4, and many of the people I talked to at the cafeteria were experiencing a mixture of elation and exhaustion. Some even mentioned they were assimilating so much that a lot of essential learning content was already escaping them.
Perhaps it’s out of experience, but I found having my blog to have been pretty helpful in this instance. Yes, come day 4, I was pretty tired and “feeling full” like many others, but I managed to stay on top of my learning process by doing this:
- taking short notes on paper during most seminars
- doing a quick summary of what I had learned in a session as soon as it was over on my laptop, while the details were still fresh, to put up later on my blog in the daily post.
Result: I could bookmark for later the technical issues I knew I needed more time for assimilation and experimentation, and be ready for the session ahead.
what i got out of it
Which brings me to my main point here, in terms of having such an approach to begin with. I came to Django In June not to become an overnight virtuoso – or even to have my playing substantially improve. Rather, I came to this camp to save time for the future. I have enough experience in learning music to know that it takes a lot of (fun) sweat, and to be a good musician you need to establish a lifestyle habit of systematic practice, over the long haul. All real improvements in music – as with most endeavors that are intrinsically their own reward – take time.
Therefore, I was looking to jump-start my practice habits (and not merely my playing) and – just as important – to find other players who share similar goals, who don’t live too far, hopefully.
In other words, I believe I had realistic expectations.
So there you have it. Recreational pursuit jump-start. Motivated musicians to practice with. Musical epiphanies. Django In June rocks!
Further, I’m now part of a network, belong to a new “music tribe”, a loose association of like-minded musicians with whom I share a deep involvement with a (life)style of music.
Above all, I have a renewed sense of optimism about the long, fun road, ahead to becoming a good, if not even a great player (if such be my path). And as Andrew Lawrence told me, this was the basic point of Django In June: to make sure participants were making satisfying musical connections with one another, around an opportunity to share their passion for music-making.
advice to myself
In terms of the future, there’s a lot of specific advice I’ll be giving myself. For example:
- Practice regularly and meet up with other gypsy jazz musicians regularly as well. Regularity!
- Now that your learning notes are all organized, regroup together areas of development and make a practice plan for the next three months, six months, etc.
- In anticipation of audiences (imaginary or real) you’ll be playing to, start to put really interesting sets together. This will ensure that all your learning is focused on the Holy Grail of repertoire. Put deadlines on you song list learning goals as well.
- With respect to your musical ideals, make sure your goals are also realistic. For example, if by looking at all your life commitments, you see you’ve only got three half-hours time slots to practice a week, then formulate your goals and plans around your lifestyle.
- Focus equally on accompaniment and lead playing.
- Be nit-picky about your problems, before they turn into bad habits!
- Seek external advice as much as you can, from a teacher pr mentor, if such a person is available to you.
- Good lord: have fun!
Ahem. The more I look at the list, the more it looks like New Year’s resolutions. Promises, promises. So maybe I should just keep it simple: go to next year’s Django In June!
the end of isolation?
Ending our isolation: isn’t that the basic point of Django In June? A week has past, and looking back, and there are moments where my experience in Northampton seems almost like something I dreamed up. And this perhaps is where our basic challenge remains, to ensure that we bring conscious change to ourlifestyle as a result of our time in Northampton.
For the moment, geography is still the main barrier. Unless we participants take the initiative to establish continuity with each other, then this great week remains an amazing dream once lived, later a treasured memory.