“Accent on Youth,” by Sam Bishoff

February 26th, 2013

 

Sam Bishoff, a high school student from Bainbridge Island, Washington, is the 2012 Jerry Jazz Musician Accent on Youth writer. His passion for jazz and the challenges he faces as a youthful fan of it is the focus of the column.

_____

This column was originally published on April 9, 2012

*

Listen to Dinah Washington sing Accent On Youth

__________

Practice and Performance: The True Test of Dedication to Music

*

__________________________________________

 

 

I was reading a number of blog posts and articles the other day on improving my practice routine. In the process, I came across a really awakening idea. One such post said that basically the only musician who was born with the talent was Mozart. Everyone else had to work really hard. Miles, Trane, Bird, and many others all had to work countless hours to get where they were. Everyone in the jazz world has heard of Charlie Parker’s practice routine. In an interview with Paul Desmond, Bird once claimed to have practiced up to 15 hours a day for several years! While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is probably not far from the truth. There is a reason Bird is remembered as one of the greatest musicians in history. He had an unparalleled virtuosity with the music thanks to his dedication and self-motivation towards his practice and development.

Self-motivation…that seems to be the key to many things in life, including jazz. Parker certainly had natural talent, but with the situation he was born into, it took much more than a knack for the music to get to where he got. It is the same story for almost all musicians. You can have all the lessons in the world and all the playing opportunities you can get, but to become a real master of the music, you must have that drive to get where you want to go. No one but you can really ever understand your goals and dreams; subsequently you are the only person who can help yourself achieve those desires.

And so, in this blog, I bring you my insights into how this motivation is critically important to the two elements of a successful jazz musician: Practice and performance.

Practice:

The practice of musicians is very different from other types of practice. While a football player will, for the most part, practice with other players on the team, a musician will, for the most part, practice alone. This is special, and in some ways, difficult. Without someone there to push you to the next level, a musician who is out alone in the woodshed must have great focus and motivation to stay on track. There may be some teacher in your life, telling you what to practice, and checking your progress on a weekly basis. However, when you finally get in the practice room, all you have of them is some words scribbled down on a page. They are not there to help you with every moment of your practice session. What you make of your practice time is up to you and you alone. If you are going to get better, it will be because of your own drive, rather than the hope of your teacher that you will improve.

When musicians become professional and have steady work, there is no time for lessons. Instead they become their own teacher. Their assignments become their own goals in playing. As they become more and more entrenched in music, the responsibility for their own improvement falls with increasing heaviness on their own shoulders. No one is there to scold them if they don’t get that tune down by next week or memorize that scale in thirds by Friday. As the small consequences disappear, more large consequences appear. “What, you haven’t memorized those songs for the gig? Well then, go find yourself another band!” No band leader will care if a musician worked for years to get where he was, or if he was some child prodigy. They just want to know if they can play what is required. Everything a musician has depends on their actions and dedication in the practice room.

There is also an element of perseverance in practicing. Because practice is meant to improve upon the things you are bad at, often roadblocks and frustrations will be encountered. It’s always way too easy to revert back to the easy things, the things you’re good at. It may feel good in the moment to doodle your way around the blues for half an hour, but in the long run it always feels better if you accomplish something new and difficult. This is really where the real musicians separate from the casual musicians. Real musicians have trained themselves to persist with the hard stuff and to not be satisfied until mastery. Casual musicians show up to practice the fun stuff while real musicians show up to work. They know that the reward is much greater if they put in the work beforehand.

Performance:

Performance is the true test of someone’s musicianship. You’ve been practicing a certain technique for months and it’s finally time to show it off. The question is can you pull it off in the heat of the moment? Often times you can’t. That’s natural. There’s something wrong if, every time you get on the stage, you do everything you went up there to do. Every single musician has had some time where they screw up really badly during a performance. It’s only human. However, the people who are serious about their music don’t despair. They don’t hang their head and recede to the back of the room. Instead they go home and practice what they messed up. They practice it until they have mastered it. And then they go back. That’s the hardest thing of all. As humans, we want to stay away from bad experiences. However, the true musicians have such a love for the music that they go back again and again. Just like a boxer, they get knocked down but come back with twice the intensity and passion.

Once again, Charlie Parker, that hero of jazz, comes back into the story. As a young saxophonist, Parker faced many humiliations on the stage. Shortly after dropping out of high school to pursue music, Parker played at a jam session at Kansas City’s famed High Hat Club. When he tried to play the ballad “Body and Soul “in double time, the crowd laughed him off the stage. While he initially put down his horn for a couple months, Parker had an inner drive to become great, and so went back at it. Unfortunately, this was not the only humiliation he was to suffer. In 1937, the Count Basie band came to Kansas City and while there, hosted one of its famed “cutting sessions”. Parker went up and played a tune, but soon got lost in the chord changes. As legend has it, Basie’s drummer, Jo Jones, threw his cymbal to the floor in the middle of Parker’s solo, indicating it was time for him to leave the stage. This is a traumatizing experience by any account and many who lack the drive that Parker had would have promptly quit after such an event. That is what made Bird a great artist. He loved the music and it showed. Because he had to work hard to get where he was, everything he played was filled with mastery and soul. There is so much we can take away from Parker: beauty, mastery, passion, creativity… However, one can also take away a lesson from his story. Bird has showed us that motivation is the key to success, and that the first step in making it is just showing up again.

______________________________

 

 

 

Sam Bishoff

*

Sam Bishoff, a high school student from Bainbridge Island, Washington, is the 2012 Jerry Jazz Musician Accent on Youth writer. His passion for jazz and the challenges he faces as a youthful fan of it is the focus of the column.

 

You can contact Sam at: [email protected]

You can read Sam’s previous column on the next page

Share this:

One comments on ““Accent on Youth,” by Sam Bishoff”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

The cover to Nina Simone's 1967 album "SIlk and Soul"
“Brown Girl” by Jerrice J. Baptiste

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician

Interview

Michael Cuscuna in 1972
From the Interview Archive: Jazz Producer, Discographer, and Entrepreneur Michael Cuscuna...Few music industry executives have had as meaningful an impact on jazz music as Michael Cuscuna, who passed away on April 20 at the age of 75. I had the privilege of interacting with Michael several times over the years, including this wide-ranging 2019 interview I conducted with him. His energy and vision was deeply admired within the jazz world. May his spirit for the music and its culture continue to impact those of us who remain.

Poetry

Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Three poets and Sketches of Spain

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive