Author: Schwartz, Robert

Notes from High School

The last month has been a musical turning point for me. After attending the Mandolin Symposium at UC Santa Cruz by myself, I realized just how hard I have to work if I ever want to be on the same level as any of the instructors there—people like David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Mike Compton, and jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg. Aside from the overwhelming power of that realization, the experience was AMAZING. Never have I geeked out so hard in my entire life. Everyone there was just as much of a mandolin geek as I am, and everyone understood each other as if they’d been friends for years, even though most of the people had just met each other. I made friends with kids from Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Luke Abbott came by the Symposium for some late night jamming and brought a little diversity to the jam instrumentation (mando-mando-mando-BANJO-mando-bass-mando-mando).

The fact that I attended without my parents meant that I was able to walk around without having that feeling of always being watched by an omnipresent, omnipotent sentience. So, I was able to relax and build a reputation for myself among new music faces on my own terms. It was pretty nice. I think I did an okay job of staying out of trouble.

The fact that there were so many different musical styles available for study at the Symposium meant that I was right in my hypothesis that people are allowed to like more than one kind of music! There was Choro from Brazil, jazz, klezmer, bluegrass, classical, and progressive-new-acoustic-chamber-explosion. I dug all of it! Seeing people like Mike Marshall, a master of bluegrass, jazz, choro, and classical music, made it clear to me that I really don’t have to choose any one genre or style to focus my attention on. Learning all of it is where the fun is, because it allows for hybridization between them, which leads to crazy and innovative new sounds. That’s exactly what the music world needs, in my opinion, because for some reason critically acclaimed jazz saxophonist Chris Potter can only half-fill a 600-seat theater, Justin Bieber can sell out an arena in 22 minutes.

Okay, enough ranting. I got off-track. After the Symposium, my family hosted maestro guitarist David Grier in our living room on July 10. As soon as he started warming up, my jaw dropped. The sounds coming out of that guitar were otherworldly. But wait, they were IN MY LIVING ROOM. My friends from the jazz band at school made up a significant portion of the audience, and they were blown away by what David was accomplishing on his guitar. The jokes he told were not only funny, but they were clean! I appreciated that, because I would have felt pretty awkward if I had invited people over to hear dirty jokes…

All in all, the last four weeks have served as a giant inspiration to me as a musician. The new friends I’ve made and the artists I’ve met have watered the seeds in my brain with super-powered nourishment. Now I’d better wrap this up so that I can go practice…
Posted:  7/22/2011

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