Greetings from Bavaria

Finally got some rest here in Germany. I think I’m starting to recover from the jet lag. However, it seems to keep coming back now and then. Immediately after we arrived yesterday, I thought I was going to die of exhaustion. I got very little sleep on the flight, and to top things off, it took forever to get everyone together in order to move on to our hotel. We arrived at 7:30am, but we had to wait around until about 1pm before we could go anywhere. The main reason for this was that our tour guides were actually arriving after us. They were not already waiting for us like a professional would be. Anyway, we are here, and things are much better today. The food is good, and the beer is great!

Today we visited the Farmer’s Museum in Amerang. It was really quite interesting because it celebrates 500 years of farming, an amount of time that would be very foreign to even the oldest and most experienced American. It was amazing to find out that 500 years ago, people lived in conditions where in order to heat your house, you needed to light a fire inside the house, but that the materials used to hold the fire were made of wood. Essentially, a wooden fireplace! To keep fires from burning down the house, they coated the wood with mud. On top of all of this, there was no such thing as a chimney, as it had not yet been invented. So you basically walked around inhaling smoke all over the house. It’s a wonder that there are descendants of these people! They must have been very strong!

However, in all of this, as time marched on, technology, however crude, made people’s lives better. That was its goal. And even now I couldn’t say that I would have been brilliant enough to even think of the crude advancements that were made way back then. It took a certain kind of brilliance, which was probably pretty rare then as well.

Overall, it showed me that the point of advancing technology has always been the same: It exists to make our lives easier. And so we should never be afraid of it.

Well, we just got done playing a two-set night, and we have to leave tomorrow at 9:30 to go for a lake cruise and look at castles! Ah Europe! Good night!

Best Concert Ever!!

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Well I just got home from the most amazing concert ever! John Williams conducted the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl! What an orchestra, and what a genius! The program was full of fantastic music: Lots of pieces written for the Olympics, since we just finished up with the London 2012 Summer Games. Bugler’s Dream and Olympic Fanfare and Theme opened the concert, after a prelude of The Star Spangled Banner, of course. John Williams also brought out The Olympic Spirit, and later Call of the Champions complete with chorus.

A few other memorable notes were music from War Horse, music from Tin Tin synchronized to film of historic sword-fighting scenes, and guest violinist Gil Shaham playing music from Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof.

But the greatest of all the night was a rare treat celebrating the 30th Anniversary of E.T.! Maestro Williams actually conducted the 15-minute Finale, Adventures on Earth, synchronized to the film!! This made my entire lifetime! I think it is the greatest piece ever written, and I got to see it performed live at my first John Williams concert! Unbelievable!

I can’t believe that he is 80 years old, and that he can still conduct with energy and passion the way that he does. I can only hope that I could aspire to be even one-tenth what he has become! He encored with music from Star Wars, including the Main Titles and the Imperial March. I felt like I was attending a nerd rock concert. There lightsabers and Star Wars t-shirts everywhere you looked!

Back from the Most Amazing Place

Yes, it’s that time again. A very, VERY sad time. Are you sitting down?

Jazz Camp is over…………….

I know. It’s a tragic thing. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to experience this truly unique and inexplicable path into the center of human creativity will tell you that we have no idea how we are going to survive the next 51 weeks of our lives without being able to be around each other. Thank goodness for social media! I am always reminded at this time of how difficult it was to keep in touch with my best friends from camp many years ago, when I was attending as a student. I think I only managed to have one single pen-pal who mattered to me, and to whom I mattered enough to be able to keep in touch on a semi-regular basis. I still keep in touch with her today and refer to her endearingly as my “little sis”. However, in remembrance, it truly is quite amazing that we were able to stay in touch.

I also had local friends that attended the camp, and I managed to see them on a regular basis, so that was helpful. Still, there were also the standout musicians that I got to see about twice a year, and who returned to camp every year until they graduated. I have laughed, sweat, and performed with them many times over the years. It’s never enough!

Currently, there are even more people who continue to enter and leave my life through the wonderful medium that is Jazz Camp…. Even more than before. And the best part is that I never have to lose them subsequently throughout the year. Anyone who has made a lasting impression on me at camp (which pretty much amounts to nearly everyone), including those who have attended only once, will always have a special spot in my heart. Not only that, they will also have a constant spot in my thoughts. I will never have to forget about anyone. I really didn’t know how well the human brain actually works until I experienced the wonder of social media.

Years ago, I would never have had the capacity to keep track of even one-tenth the people of whom I can do so now. It is astounding. In addition, I have been able to reconnect with the camp friends of old. Still, even though this is all in place, it definitely does not lighten the heavy weight on my heart every year when we all–campers, counselors, faculty, and staff alike–part ways again after having spent the most amazing and gratifying week of our lives together. I will never forget the laughing, music-making, breakthroughs, and friendships to which we have all contributed!

Here’s to a great camp, and to a wonderful 51 more weeks to wait. May it be speedy! I can’t wait to see you all again!

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YES!! It’s time for Jazz Camp!

Got my shirt on!

Well, here I am! The annual event that made me what I am is finally happening again! I have been looking forward to this for the last 51 weeks. This is the greatest time of the year for me, and I can’t wait to get started working. I’ve been hearing from all of the campers for the past 3 months, intensely counting down the days, and now hours, until the start of camp. It really is like coming home for me.

I just realized that after this week, I will have spent 36 weeks of my life up here for Jazz Camp! That includes 23 weeks of youth camp plus 13 years of adult camp! Another eight years of this, and I will have spent an entire year of my life here! That is sheer dedication, and it goes by so fast! I love this music, and the passing of it down to the next generations of musicians. In my 23rd year at the camp, I’m starting to feel my age a bit. It’s a good thing I started so young!

I just heard that the bus is on its way! Here we go! Bring it on!

Making a Difference…

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These are my Band One kids! They’re awesome!

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The whole Mammoth Group

The ability to make a difference in people’s lives is something that we all hope to have one day. I am so lucky because I get to do it every summer, continuing an already very long legacy in which I was lucky enough to be included many years ago. I was inspired then, and have had the desire implanted in me to inspire others. We continue to inspire, and the legacy lives on.

I know it works! I have seen it in action, and I have experienced it first hand. As long as I am around, it will never go away. I’m talking, of course, about the summer jazz camps here in California. I attended them as a student beginning in 1990, when I was 12 years old, and since 1996, I have been on the faculty. Our job is to inspire people to find the creative passion inside of them. Our medium is music.

This year, here in Mammoth Lakes, I have seen what our inspiration is doing on a grand scale. In my teachings this week, I have seen more lightbulbs turn on and more outbursts of creativity in my students than I ever have before. I had the beginners for band this time, and though they came in as beginners, today on the last day of instruction they have become creative stars! My kids are playing music at an ability level far beyond what would have been expected at their level even as recently as last year. I have never seen anything like it!

All but one of my students are here for the first time this year. They have been inspired, and will continue to do great things. If they return again next year, they will become part of the chain of inspiration. All of our veteran students inspire the newcomers on an entirely different level than the faculty can. The ability to show teenagers that they are not limited, and that their world is very open and waiting for them to contribute something, is one that permeates all of us who take part in this great event. It truly is a beautiful thing, and I plan to make my contribution a thousand times over. If we are able to show others what is possible in this world, then it becomes our duty to allow ourselves to be seen.

Let’s keep contributing!

Flying to Mammoth

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What a great day! I had the best trip into Mammoth Lakes ever! The reason for this is because I flew. Driving here from San Diego is the worst thing in the world. Actually, that’s not true. The worst thing in the world is planning to fly to Mammoth from San Diego, only to find out that the flight was cancelled at the last minute, meaning that driving there is necessary. That’s what happened to me last year. On top of that, I missed the Jazz Camp auditions last year.

Not the case this year! The flight was short and sweet, and I was able to audition my piano players just the way I like to. We’ve got some good kids this year! I had a tough time placing everyone into bands, but I think the results will be great.

It looks like I’ll have Band One this year. Not only am I instructing, but I will also be playing in it, since there aren’t enough pianists to fill all the bands. I even auditioned myself. Yes, the students beat out their instructor for band placement! Maybe I’ll make Band Five next year. 😉

It’s the Little Things in Life…

I had a fantastic day yesterday! I went in to teach, and had only 3 students, so the morning was super-easy. And then the best part: I got home only to find that there was no one there. I had the house to myself for 5 hours. I got to work undisturbed on whatever I felt like, a luxury that I love. Then Denise came home and prepared to give a piano lesson to one of our neighbors.

Then came the bestest part! Little old Joey walked into my life when Denise was about to give the piano lesson. Joey is a cocker spaniel, probably about 10 years old I would guess. He was wandering around trying to find his home. He came straight to our house and would not leave. It was as if he knew I would help him out. He looked tired, but could not have been lost for more than a few hours. He had a bandana and a chain collar on, but no tags or license.

I leashed him and took him for a walk, trying to see if he would eventually find his way home, but making sure that he wouldn’t get hurt. He took me through and out of the Monet complex (our condo area), through Treviana (the adjacent condo build), and into a single-family-home neighborhood, about half a mile away. He walked as though he was on to something. After about 200 yards, he stopped and laid down on a patch of grass near the street in front of an abandoned house that was for sale. I figured he was pretty tired after walking so far, and at such a quick clip. He had literally been pulling me along, tethered by the leash. I let him rest a bit, and then decided he needed water, so we went back to our house.

He hung out with us for a little while longer, and I decided to walk him again. Wouldn’t you know it, he led me at the same quickened pace to exactly the same spot as before. How odd… I knocked on the door of one of the houses, no answer. The abandoned house obviously had no one in it. I asked some passers-by if they knew whose dog I had, and everyone I talked to said they had never seen him before.

OK, time to be a little more scientific. No license, no tags… Maybe he’s microchipped! Alright, time for Denise and I to take him on a quick trip to the vet. It turned out that he WAS in fact microchipped! That was good news. We called the number to match him up, and found that the code didn’t match anything in their records. What were we going to do?

The company behind Joey’s microchip was called “AVID”. We gave them a call. They found a match that had only been put in their system that morning. Hmmm… the owners must have reactivated the code when they found their dog was missing. Avid contacted the owner, who in turn contacted us. We gave them directions to our house, and they came by to pick him up. That’s when I learned that his name was Joey. I also learned that his owners live over near where he had stopped on his two walks with me. Apparently, Joey was staying with a friend about 3 or 4 miles away when he got lost. He had traveled a long way and crossed a lot of very wide, very busy streets to find us. He was literally finding his way home. I’m so glad he didn’t get hurt.

The owners were overjoyed and very thankful that we had taken the time to take care of Joey. It made me very happy that we could help. It’s the little things like this that make you feel better about yourself. Thank you, Joey, for entering my life yesterday! 🙂