In this age of instant gratification that is fed by Facebook posts, easy video uploading, and overnight YouTube sensations, it’s tempting for us to long for the easy way. As a culture, we’ve always celebrated those folks who achieve overnight fame: love him or hate him, Justin Beiber is a great example. And it seems everywhere you look, there’s some young whipper-snapper who’s already on Ellen or American Idol, or has a bazillion hits on their YouTube video that they put together in just a few hours.
We watch these rising stars at our house for talent inspiration, and because, well, it’s fascinating and somewhat alluring. But you have to be careful; quick success isn’t always the best route to take. One of my favorite mottos is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Though Ian certainly participates in activities with more instant gratification – he’s made and uploaded quite a few rough videos of him or him and a friend belting out pop songs and hoping for overnight viral status – it’s the harder work that takes longer that I admire most.
Last year, Ian started taking private music theory lessons with Dr. Anthony Williams at the University of Mary. To begin, his professor gave him just a few bars of melody of John Coltrane’s jazz classic “Bessie’s Blues.” Over the course of the year, Ian worked on that piece, broadening and arranging it for a full jazz band. Jazz is a fluid, generous genre, and it leaves a lot of opportunity for personal interpretation some original composition within the larger frame. Ian worked and worked on this piece, and there were some days he felt like he’d never see the end. His professor used the exercise to teach him music theory (another plug for making education relevant to the student!). The result: a much fuller understanding of music theory, and a kicking jazz piece to boot.
Because Ian’s professor is Awesome, and he directs the university Jazz Ensemble, he had his ensemble debut Ian’s piece last Friday as a part of their larger community jazz concert. He even invited Ian to sit in on the drums as a special guest. To finally hear his piece like we had all been “visualizing” in our minds for a full year – to hear it played by a full, smokin’ jazz ensemble – was, well, there are no words. We were beaming, all of us. Dancing in our seats. Hootin’ and hollarin’.
Perhaps the best part of the evening was that it got even better when we got home. Ian couldn’t sleep – a frequent occurrence after a gig – and immediately began composing a new jazz piece for the university ensemble next year. He knows it won’t be easy or fast. He knows it won’t be instant gratification. But he’s on fire, and he knows the hard work will pay off. I couldn’t be happier.
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