Do your dance. Shine. Nobody can do you like you can, so do it big and proud. Someone, somewhere will love you for it. Even if YOU are that only someone.
Many questions, joys and disappointments line this lesson’s path. I’m still on it. Still learning. Like everyone else, I am a life-long project.
From my father, I learned respect for all cultures, the beauty of natural landscape and the power of music, dance and being yourself. Those last three are forever entwined with him and one of my most humiliating and joyful childhood memories.
It was a hot, early summer afternoon. I was playing alone in the garage. Likely making something out of nothing, curious in ways I should not have been, like using dad’s chisel as a screwdriver to disassemble a radio.
When I’d inspected the insides to my 3rd grader satisfaction, I put it back together and turned it on. It worked, much to my surprise. Not many parts back then so, no, I was no engineering prodigy. My abiding curiosity flew just under the danger radar.
I turned the dial. Pop, R&B, and country music skipped in the air as I flew over stations playing familiar and unfamiliar music. I stopped far left on the dial into unknown territory; a classical music station. The music swirled and danced in rising waves. So many instruments. So much was going on, like in jazz, but different. Extended, strung out notes. Like someone laying a run of silk fabric over hills and valleys. A long carpet rather than jazz’s cobblestones.
My parents listened to jazz. That and contemporary R&B. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery and Quincy Davis were staples. My love for the complexities of jazz improvisation eventually influenced me to study guitar and flute.
The phraseology and inside/outside conversations of the jazz form are still a favorite. When I took up the flute, I made sure Carole, my teacher, taught me classical as well as improvisation. Something she was ecstatic to since her students rarely requested jazz. I guess that’s what happens with your student is a 40-something doctor with no goals beyond playing to her heart’s desire at home in rooms with reverberating wooden floors.
I grew up with Jazz. I know Jazz. I understand Jazz. Classical music, I’d only heard in movies, elevators, on telephone hold tones. It was out there. Someone else’s music. I didn’t know it, and I didn’t understand it. It was for people I didn’t know or understand, either. And please don’t ask me about opera. I confess I’m a bit afraid of it.
A symphony or opera may never speak to me as jazz does, but on that breezy, summer day, my ten-year-old tomboy-self felt like a ballerina. I lifted up on my toes, arms to the sky and posed, swayed and pirouetted, just as like those feathered dancers on TV. I leapt out of the garage and across the backyard.
I moved in ways molded by neither dance class or natural ability. The music lifted my head in delicate repose. Turn after turn, I followed the violins, clarinets and booming timpani deep into dreamland. When done, sweat-drenched and winded, but still electrified and oh, so pleased with myself, I gave a bow.
That’s when I heard it.
Startled, I looked up and saw my father leaning over the backyard gate clapping and beaming with a smile that could part the seas.