One of the more - what's the word, interesting? challenging? - aspects of online school over these past few weeks has been helping our 9-year-old edit her written and oral presentations. She has a tendency, which may sound familiar, to add words - or, when working on an art project, to add elements - just for the sake of making the work longer, or busier...but without actually enhancing the content.
Josh Grossman's blog
And so, here we are. The end of 2020. My last blog post of the year. As I've heard others say, what a decade this year has been.
In my second year of the Jazz Performance Program at the University of Toronto, I had the good fortune to play co-lead trumpet in the 11 O'Clock Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Phil Nimmons. Our first gig of the year was in the Arbor Room at Hart House, and the first tune of the night was a Sammy Nestico arrangement of "Smack Dab in the Middle." Phil counted off the tune and I absolutely pasted the first note.
Exactly four bars early.
Usually at this time of year we'd be in the thick of planning the upcoming festival, making offers and even getting certain shows ready for sale. But until we have more clarity on several fronts, we're in a bit of a holding pattern. I'm doing the usual agent outreach, but the conversations are a bit, well, absurd: "So what's the plan for the Festival?" "Don't know. Got any artists looking to tour?" "Don't know." Repeat.
You may have seen this week an excellent but heartbreaking New York Times article, by Nate Chinen, on the legendary pianist Keith Jarrett. In the article we learn that after two strokes, Keith will likely never return to the stage. Now 75, Keith's last performance was at Carnegie Hall in 2017, and while I had concerns about his silence since then, reading of his health struggles - in what is a very personal interview - was in many ways devastating: another legendary musician silenced and, selfishly, gone was the opportunity to see a legendary performer in action once more.
Live performance is coming back. It may not look or sound the same as it did eight months ago, but musicians are heading back to the stage, and audiences are heading back to venues. Given the increased efforts required from all involved to follow the health protocols, weigh the risks of being out and about, and even make less money, I thought I would offer a few thoughts on what, to me, makes a good performance.
For just over two years, before I started with Toronto Downtown Jazz, I had the privilege of managing a local children's choir. It was a fantastic experience - as the sole administrative staff for an organization of 120 choristers, I got to work on my managerial chops; but I also got to see the effect on the choristers of singing together, and learning from the inspirational artistic staff (headed up by the incredible Zimfira Poloz).
As much as possible, I try to maintain a positive outlook on life in general, and the various facets that make up what I do every day. I'm grateful to be surrounded by supportive colleagues and family, to have stable employment (which I recognize is a privilege at this time), and to be doing work which I continue to find challenging and stimulating. But I'm going to be honest - these past six months have been difficult. From work to home and everything in between, nothing feels normal, and in many ways I've been feeling "one step forward, two steps back."
It's right around now - the beginning of August - that we typically dive into planning the next TD Toronto Jazz Festival. And although there may be nothing "typical" about Festival planning this year, it is time to set our sights on next June - the pitches from agents are already coming in.