When my Jazz Camp week was coming to an end I began to worry. I was living and sharing and breathing the same air with all these musically like-minded people. How was I going to get through a normal day without playing my saxophone for 8-10 hours a day? How was I going to pay attention to life that doesn’t revolve around daily rehearsals, workshops, sectionals, and musician camaraderie? I am a wife, a mother, a granny, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a school crossing guard, aspiring audio recording engineer, running enthusiast, a saxophonist. All those that know me, know that I cannot immerse myself enough into making music with my saxophone and musical friends. Recently a band mate of mine told me about a jazz camp for grownups that he has been going to for the past seven years and he thought it would be something I might enjoy. I have camped with my family in the great outdoors and had never dreamed there could be a camp at an upscale hotel dedicated to the development and nourishment of an adult musician’s Jazz soul. Heaven? I did some research and decided the time was right to step out of my norm and experience something extraordinarily different for me.
The anticipation was thrilling. I arrived at the lovely Crowne Plaza Hotel with some moments of uncertainty and doubt; I didn’t really know anyone except my band mate who was going to be in a Nonet and I was signed up for a Big Band. Well the fear of the unknown disappeared at the wine and cheese reception/jam session as friendly people with smiling faces were everywhere; the musicians were having a ball, and the wine was cheerful.
That evening, after dinner, we had our first rehearsal and I got to meet my band leader Steve Davis who is not only an amazing trombonist, he is also a super nice, knowledgeable and experienced person (Google him). My diverse band mates and I were off to a good start.
After that evening’s rehearsals I went to the after-hours jam session to see what that was about, and as I was standing in the back listening to the freedom of instrumental expression, I felt the flesh on my arms rise up as my consciousness became aware that everyone in that room shared the same state of mind and outlook as me. It was a remarkable realization that left me feeling reassured that the days ahead were destined to be awesome.
As I headed back to my room that evening, I picked up a schedule for the following day and marveled at how full it was going to be. After the day I just experienced, I was totally energized even though sleep was beckoning. Once tucked into my luxurious king sized bed, I glanced over at the gleaming appendage that would be completely mine for the week, smiled and closed my eyes.
The first thing I saw when I awoke was my Baritone Saxophone sitting in its stand just waiting for me to say good morning and breathe some life into it. Mornings were begun eagerly.
But first I had to go eat some breakfast (that I didn’t have to prepare) with my new friends. Every meal was stimulating because there was always someone new to meet from near and far, and to swap histories with. My new friends came from North Carolina, New Hampshire, Westchester, Argentina, Florida, Dallas, Denver, W. Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine and so many other interesting locations. Our hometowns were a distant memory as we each departed for our daily assignments and chosen destinations.
Schedules were circulated daily and our routine was a perfect harmony of band rehearsals in the morning until lunch, followed by workshops, lessons, and instrument sectionals, dinner (that I did not have to prepare), rehearsals, jam sessions and/or staff concerts and after parties. There was still a window of time where I was able to spend late afternoons with my new friend from Argentina, playing classical duets in the Rotunda. Sleep was definitely overrated. Fun while learning and honing one’s passion was the order of each day.
I was led to this camp because of my passion, and for the week I spent in the presence of so many expert, educated, talented, and humble leaders/teachers who shared so much of themselves with us, I was both enormously inspired and motivated. I have been infused with a new fervor for Jazz and have also added some new and interesting insights and terminology to my vocabulary. I share with you just a few of my favorites (there was so much more): from the great Jerry Bergonzi (Google him too) “embrace your own sound” & “melody trumps harmony, rhythm trumps everything”, and with smiles and thanks to Steve Davis “tempo d’learno” and “play it greasy”, and from Rich Davidian “you have Bari exemption” (which I now own).
I am in total amazement that this entire happening could never have been experienced had it not been for the vision, careful planning and attention to details of my new friend Byron Siegal, a fellow saxophonist with me in the Warwick Wailers, our band’s name for the concert.
Concerts were performed on the night before check out, on two stages that eight bands rotated on and off from. Did I just say CHECK OUT? Following the concert we all gathered at a cocktail party where we got to bemoan the fact that the week of Jazz Camp was over and the next day we would be returning to our realities. Who was going to make my breakfast and my dinner? Who was going to make my bed and fluff my pillows and keep me stocked with clean towels? Who was going to ensure that my only job was to play my saxophone every day for hours and hours? How was I going to handle not having access to live Jazz music every night? I had just experienced something new and exciting and I thought for sure I would need some kind of therapy to help me readjust back into my other life.
Thankfully my loving and supportive husband along with my adoring sweet pup was anxiously awaiting my return. Balance has been restored.
Jazz Camp 2015 here I come!
by Sherry Ferraiolo