Lessons from my Father

I had an interesting experience last week. I sang at the monthly Jazz Jam, the same one from my last post.  I sang three tunes, (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, I Could Write a Book, and In a Mellow Tone) and even had charts for the one tune that I don’t sing in the original key. It went very well. I was extremely comfortable, and people seemed to enjoy it.

After I sang, another vocalist got up to sing. He took control of the situation immediately, asking folks to clap, drawing attention to himself. It was very clear that he expected to be the center of attention.  He was good, and it worked for him. However, this is the polar opposite of what I aspire to be as a jazz vocalist.

I was describing this experience to my sister, Nancy, and she reminded me of something our father taught us as we were learning the craft of music. And that was musicianship.

Dad (John Howard Reichart) was a jazz trumpet player. He was also the band director at my local high school. In his role as teacher, he didn’t have much patience for those students who expected to be the center of attention, but didn’t have the time or discipline to practice. He expected all his students to put the work into being a musician (myself included), and to respect others who did the same. In his work as a jazz educator, I can only remember one time when he played with the high school jazz band (called the Esquires).  His students were always wanting him to play, but for him, it wasn’t the time or place. He never wanted or needed to be the center of attention. It was always about the music, and teaching musicianship to those in his bands.

Fast forward to today. Since I started learning to sing jazz, I have aspired to be a not just a jazz vocalist, but a jazz musician. This means practicing, learning the form of a tune, and respecting the talent in myself and others. It also means that, when singing or playing jazz, that I am part of something that’s bigger than myself. Yes, there are moments when I am given the opportunity to solo. And then there are moments when others shine. It is this give and take that makes music, especially in jazz.

So thanks, Dad, for teaching this lesson again. Even though you haven’t been around for a while, you still continue to teach. And for that I am grateful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>