A Pianist’s Story
I really had no idea what to expect when I signed up to attend the 2014 session of Jazz Camp. My wife had been hearing me talk about attending a jazz camp as one of the few things left on my “bucket list”. Interestingly enough, however, was the fact that it was actually the Jamey Aebersold camp that was on my list. My wife found information regarding Jazz Camp for Adults on the internet, and convinced me that it would be a better experience for me. I wasn’t so sure.
All doubt disappeared very soon after my arrival at Jazz Camp. The opening event, a jazz jam session, opened my eyes (and ears) to the fact that I would be spending the next few days with some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. And not just for my listening pleasure, but getting to be an actual participant. For the duration of the camp my head was filled with the wonderful sound of jazz.
Even though I have been playing the piano my whole life, I found that I was somewhat of a “beginner” when compared to the competency level of many of the musicians at the camp. I was placed in a small combo (a nonet) with players, some of which were professional, or a least semi-professional musicians. One was even a graduate of the jazz program at Julliard! In spite of the high competency of my fellow musicians, I was always encouraged to learn, and do my best. I never felt like I might have been looked down upon for my limited musical experience level. I feel that a jazz pianist of any level would have been comfortable playing with this group.
One of the most rewarding features of the camp is the ability to schedule private lessons with any of the wonderfully talented staff musicians that are there working as band leaders, or guest artist. It turns into a seamless transition, going from a combo practice session, in which I may or may not have been struggling with certain musical components, to a private lesson to help me with those struggles, to hearing those same instructors performing their craft in one of the evening jam sessions. True total immersion in jazz, the greatest American art form.
In addition to the musical exposure, I was very impressed with the willingness of the camp staff to go “above and beyond” to make my camp experience the best that it could be. After the first day or so, I realized that I was going to need to spend some personal practice time in order to get up to speed on some of the tunes that our combo was working on. When I mentioned this to Byron, he had a portable electronic keyboard delivered to my room. I was able to practice, using headphones, to my heart’s content. This is but one example of the “ask and ye shall receive” attitude that the camp’s staff seemed to be instilled with.
The hotel accommodations were first class. The food was excellent. At every turn I realized that I had made the right choice in selecting a jazz camp experience. An experience that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone that loves jazz.