A year ago in the French countryside

I spent some time learning a little jazz.


The Domaine de Belair

Indeed, it was the first time I had truly organized myself to study one particular style of music outside of my adolescent influences, the Nine Inch Nails, the Sarah McLachlans, the trashy Euro trance that fills my iPod even to this day. It could just as very well have been opera or folk music but no, I chose jazz.

Recently, a fellow attendee of last year’s workshop dredged up my memories of the event. First he announced via Facebook he was off to the Loire Valley once again which sent a twinge of longing through my being, then he posted his photographs of this year’s on Facebook. I creeped them shamelessly, eager to see if I recognized anyone. Happily and sadly, it was only a few.

As I was browsing the album, I thought about the people I didn’t know and what it was like for them. Did they have as much fun as we did last year? What was the group dynamic like? Were the late nights as late as ours? Did the group study as hard as we did? What sort of connections did these people make with each other?

I think about my own life and what sort of progress I’ve made since that eventful trip. The first obvious change was that my musical education began in earnest after my return. From attending weekly Wednesday night open mics where I’d be lucky to sing one or two songs the band knew, I turned my attention to theory. I built on the education that the Loire Music School merely introduced me to in that short week. I hired a tutor who patiently introduced me to the potential of music theory. (“That’s why it’s called theory, because they can’t call it the rules.”) I fumbled through identifying chords on my keyboard and I worked on my repertoire and I began to listen in earnest.

My music collection has increased tenfold since that week, mostly in the vein of jazz. I now own albums of Ella, Chet, Django, Duke, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington (the first jazz singer I took my inspiration from), Brad Mehldau, Melody Gardot, Amy Winehouse. These are just some of musicians I turn my attention to gain inspiration from. And I’m constantly seeking more.

What’s the next step to take in this path? Go to music school? Some would say so. But when I think about all the things I want to learn in music school I can’t help but feel like I’m already well on my way to learning all of those things, and I didn’t have to pay a huge tuition to get them. My next “step” is taking a seven-week piano course from the Royal Conservatory of Music, so I can actually learn to play the piano decently. It’s inexpensive and it would be foolish of me not to capitalize on the facilities I have available to me for practicing.

And then? What after that? I suppose I could entertain the idea of taking that walk down the garden path towards higher education. But I’d just as rather see if I can move to London and find work as a musician there. So I suppose that means the future is open, which makes me uneasy, but as I’ve proven in the past, that’s not an uncommon feeling in my life.

Now that I’ve written all of this out, though, I feel much more like I can move confidently down this unknown path. I mean, it’s not really unknown to me; I’ve spelled it out for myself in plain English through my keyboard. It’s rather exciting now.

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One thought on “A year ago in the French countryside

  1. Alex August 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm Reply

    Amazing stuff, Olga. I’m so inspired by this. You’re going to do great musical things in your life.

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