November 25, 2023

2023 and Me

I love language. When I run across a word that is new and interesting to me, I collect it, adding it to a running list I keep. The most recent addition was "dulcify," which means to calm or soothe. Isn't that a beautiful word?

I get a kick out of wordplay (ask me sometime about how I summed up my sister's errant-lizard story). And like a lot of people, I play a couple of word games every day on apps.

I love a good writing instrument and collect beautiful pens, although it usually turns out that my favorites for everyday writing are inexpensive Japanese gel pens (like many things in life, it's all about feel and flow, right?).

Great-quality paper gives me a happy feeling, too. I like a stock with a nice weight that feels good to the touch and that takes ink well.

Simple pleasures.

At the end of each year, I sit down with pen and paper and write words to myself that reflect on the previous 12 months. What "yays" can I celebrate, what "almosts" hold promise still, what "nopes" happened and why, what challenges came up (this year: health issues, project delays, booking changes, oh my ... ) and how were they handled. And what can I learn from all of this to carry forward into whatever is to come?

I think about what I'd like to create, pursue, accomplish and enjoy in the coming 365 days that peek with promise from my brand-new calendar for the new year (which I buy in September after hours of consideration because I'm kind of a planner nerd).

And I write it all down.

Looking at 2023 musically, there were concerts nearly every month with the amazing musicians I'm privileged to work with. We visited many places in the state where I live, Georgia, bringing jazz to communities of all sizes: Statesboro, McRae-Helena, Gainesville, Peachtree City, Newnan. Concerts in the Atlanta area included Callanwolde Jazz on the Lawn and the Balzer Theatre, plus several private events. There were concerts with my Kennesaw State jazz faculty colleagues and a night of Latin music at the Earl Strand Theatre in Marietta with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra (GSO) Jazz Ensemble.

The hospitality extended at each event has been so welcoming and thoughtful -- and so appreciated. Every place I go, I meet many kind and interesting people with stories to tell.

There was the museum curator in McRae-Helena who took us through the intriguing history of the venue where we performed, Telfair Center of the Arts, including tales of a little ghost they say hangs out in a room off the balcony section. (No, I did not venture up.) 

And there was the GSO benefit luncheon where civil rights icon Andrew Young spoke as we all hung on his every word. It's also where I sat with one of my all-time favorite tablemates, Miss Nancy, an early organizer of the arts in Marietta, GA. At 95-years-young, she was vivacious, full of anecdotes, and absolutely inspirational.

There was some further touring in 2023, too, including a return to the great Middle C Jazz club in downtown Charlotte, NC, with the Joe Alterman Trio. We welcomed a full house of people who braved some fierce thunderstorms to come on out and enjoy the music. Before returning to Atlanta the next day, I made my pilgrimage to Amelie's, a favorite French bakery and cafe a few blocks from the club. Candy for the eyes, espresso and tartines and pastries for the palate.

The end of October brought a week back in Oregon, this time touring with pianist Tyrone Jackson, where we worked with old friends of mine from Portland for a special concert benefiting the arts in Springfield, OR. Then it was off to Siletz on the Oregon coast to perform as a duo at a house concert where, upon our arrival, our host led us to a gorgeous grand piano he'd restored himself by hand over two years. Fascinating story there, too.

The year also brought more jazz-education outreach. While in Oregon, we conducted a master class at Springfield High School for 150 highly engaged band and choir students. Last August, it was a thrill to bring an afternoon jazz camp to Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Creative Camp in Atlanta along with the Joe Alterman Trio. We worked with a few dozen energetic campers, introducing them to our instruments and some basic elements of jazz. At my October Jazz on the Lawn concert, three of those campers joined us onstage to sing a swinging "This Little Light of Mine" for the crowd.

There was also a November visit to Jacksonville State University in Alabama to consult with their School of Music's brand new contemporary vocal ensemble and sing a couple of tunes at their concert.

And I enjoyed a Saturday afternoon last June at one of my favorite places to be ever since I was a little girl -- the library. Wolf Creek branch, part of the Fulton County, GA, library system, invited me to present a community concert where the band and I combined a discussion of the history of jazz with songs demonstrating different eras and styles. A fun, family-friendly event for jazz lovers and the "jazz curious."

This fall marked my seventh year as instructor of Applied Vocal Jazz at Kennesaw State University, working with amazing, big-hearted, talented students learning to sing this music. They inspire me every day.

Songwriting and recording advanced this year, too, with another new track written and recorded for an upcoming collaborative release of all-original music. I'm also dreaming up material for additional recordings I want to create over the next 18 months.

So ... 2023 and Me. It was a positive year of performing, of creative growth and collaboration, of sharing good energy through the music with both little 'uns and grownups. Through it all, I remain so often dazzled by the fact that I get to create music with such talented artists and sing songs for so many wonderful people. What a privilege! I'm grateful that you give and receive in this energy with me.

Thanks for taking the time to read these words. I appreciate you.

Much Love,