morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!
Well readers, there it goes: 2011. It was an awkward number really, didn’t roll off the tongue. Now that it’s over,… I’m not sure what to think, except “Fuck, man! That went by fast!” Let’s see. Looking back, I had my head down for the 1st 8 months just trying to finish my degree at McGill, and then the last 4 months saw my head down again, this time trying to finish two recordings and a new record label.
Speaking of McGill University, the other week I stepped outside to get my mail and found I FINALLY GOT MY MASTERS DIPLOMA! Now, because I wasn’t at the convocation to accept it officially, I didn’t do the cap and gown thing. Actually, I did the slippers and bathrobe thing (which seemed oddly appropriate for accepting my Masters Degree in Jazz) but in my head Pomp & Circumstance was booming loud and proud as I walked in slow-motion in the morning sunlight past imaginary applauding neighbours, tail-wagging dogs, and singing birds flying a makeshift crown of branches onto my head. It was beautiful.
So now that I officially have my piece of paper and nobody can take it away from me, let me tell you what I REALLY think about McGill…
It was great.
Really, it was.
Gordon Foote and Ron Di Lauro were fantastic resources for big band music, and Gordon in particular taught me so much about big band directing. Joe Sullivan was great for hands on, get-your-hands-dirty arranging,… “Just do it, and then I’ll tell you what you fucked up later” is what I imagine Joe’s mantra would be. Kevin Dean was the man for insight into the whole “teaching jazz” world; his jazz pedagogy course taught me (among many other things) that it’s REAL easy to be a critic, however, in the interest of continuing the art form, jazz education does play an important role, and teaching creativity alongside basic fundamentals?… thems are tough waters to navigate. Andre White was a player’s player, and was the guy everyone looked to for a reminder that, Oh yeah, we’ve gotta get our heads out of our asses and just play! Last but not least, Jan Jarczyk knows everything there is to know about music composition, a deep well of information and insight.
I know what you’re saying… “Come on Danderfer! Stop kissing everyone’s ass and tell us what it was really like!”
Listen people, like any music school, it’s a resource. It is there for you to benefit from as much, or as little, as you like. If I have one complaint to make, it’s this: The hands-off teaching approach can (for some) lead to a lack of structure, which can lead to under-utilizing the excellent faculty.
That said, I wouldn’t want an overly structured method either because I loved the freedom they allowed me to work on my own direction. Basically, I just needed someone to tell me what I’m about to tell all you future McGill jazz composition grad students (and I know you’re all reading this)…
– Research the faculty and their recordings before you show up to your 1st day of school. Do this so you can hit the ground running and learn what you want to learn, who you want to learn it from.
– Show up to your 1st day of school with new charts ready to rehearse (preferably for a larger ensemble because you’ll never find an easier place to get large ensemble charts read).
– Don’t do what I did and piece this stuff together once you’re already there because things move fast and before you know it you’ll have one semester left to try and make the most of the opportunity.
I did get a lot out of it, I just feel that I could’ve gotten even more from the experience had I been prepared.
Also recently received in the mail was a letter from the Canada Council for the Arts explaining that they would not be funding my recording of The Hummingbird Brigade. Naturally, I completely respect their decision, and so all I can say is
WHY YOU GOTTA DO ME LIKE THAT CANADA COUNCIL!? I’m sure the best man/woman won, and I DEFY YOU TO SHOW ME A PROJECT MORE IMPORTANT, MORE SOULFUL AND INSPIRING, MORE ESSENTIAL TO THE HEART OF THIS GREAT NATION THAN THE HUMMINGBIRD BRIGADE congratulations to all the recipients!
Thankfully, I never bank on receiving a grant. That would be foolish. So it’s on to plan B… I just need every one of my 9 SMNP readers to donate $2,000 by Springtime. Great. Thanks!
And finally, my New Year’s resolution: TO BE FAB!
And by that I mean, to follow (at least some of) FAB.com’s tips on productivity. Click on the link below to see for yourself…
Thanks for reading and HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! PS I’ll be away next week.