Reflections on JEN...
After performing with my band (and my hero and mentor, Randy Brecker) at the annual conference for the Jazz Education Network, several thoughts come to mind.
First, with COVID, how this even happen? Getting a band together for the show was challenging, but COVID made it worse. MUCH worse. And, it's no one's fault, except COVID. It seemed as if I replaced half the band three days before the conference, though it was just a few members. One of my members tested positive the morning of the concert and had to isolate. And, that's what they should've done. It was the right thing to do (even if my blood pressure spiked).. But, with the help of my friend/lead trumpet player/former student/current UNT doctoral student Chris Van Leeuwen, we managed to find excellent replacements. After all, the show must go on, or something like that...
Second, I think the Jazz Education Network is an excellent organization. It has its detractors and critics, as do all organizations, but it is deeply invested in jazz education. It is my national organization, and I will invest in it. Those who criticize should join and try to make it better instead of complaining from the outside. Nothing is accomplished from complaining.
Third, this was one of the more high-profile shows in which I've been a leader/performer/composer, and my first time as a leader at JEN, and I was honored to have been chosen. I've applied and not been selected, and I've been fortunate to have my college ensembles selected for performance. I may have been disappointed in past decisions, but I didn't throw a fit on social media - I just applied the following year. It's a competitive process. Perhaps I won't be selected again - I hope that's not the case, but I don't know. In the meantime, I'll keep recording, teaching, playing, and getting better. And, I'm so flattered that my friend, the founding mother of JEN, Mary Jo Papich, volunteered to introduce my goofy ass. Twice. She's the best. And, my band was kick ass. What a honor it was to bring colleagues, mentors, former students, and complete strangers together to celebrate music.
I got to see so many wonderful people and meet a whole bunch of new wonderful people. Some of the best guest artists I've hosted at schools are JEN people: Sean Jones, John Clayton, Randy Brecker, Kim Nazarian, and others, These are my people. This is my organization. I am excited for its future, and I am excited to get more involved.