UNIFYING MY IDENTITY AS A PERFORMER AND MY IDENTITY AS A TEACHING ARTIST
Two key moments: maybe three, or four
Key moment number one: Frank and Kathy Jackson came to see me perform at Jazz at Pearl’s – before my band was named TWIST, in May 2007.
I was honored to have Frank and Kathy there at Pearl’s for many reasons, including that Frank was one of the first musicians I knew when I came to San Francisco and he had always been an inspiration to me.
PHOTO below: I’m singing with Frank Jackson and his trio at the (now defunct) Cinnabar underground cabaret on Geary Street in the mid 90’s.)
The May 2007 show was at the legendary (now defunct) San Francisco nightspot, Jazz at Pearl’s. At the time I was calling the band the Jason Martineau Jazz Quartet, with my music director Dr. J at the piano, and including Tony Malfatti on sax. I remember that specially because we had started to perform Pink Martini’s Una Notte a Napoli, and Tony was so much fun to play off of. We had a guest appearance by Bobby Weinapple, who played guitar as we sang a duet with the band, Two Sleepy People, and also joined us in the closer — Tom Waits’ sweet and lovely song, Take Me Home.
Anyway, Frank Jackson saw me a few days later at the (now defunct – yes, they’re all defunct) Octavia Lounge, where he was playing with his trio, and I asked him I think to describe the genre we were doing. I have to check with him on this, but I seem to remember him saying something like, ‘whatever it is, I like it.’ I asked him what he thought the next instrument I added should be; I could feel there was another layer I wanted. Should it be Latin percussion, I asked? And he lit up and said, ‘yes, Latin percussion!!’
So we did that, we added Latin percussion, (and jazz accordion) named the band TWIST, recorded a CD at Laughing Tiger Studios in San Rafael,
released it at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York, performed in Bangkok (with brilliant producing by Candace Forest, superb music direction by Jason Martineau and advice and help from Robert Russo,) and began a cultural exchange with Candace and bassist Albin Suffys in France, following my 2009 debut in Paris with Sheldon Forrest at the Swan Bar and the debut of our French Connection show at San Francisco’s Rrazz Room.
So thanks are due to many, but YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT WAS A KEY MOMENT IN HELPING ME TO DEFINE MY IDENTITY AS A SOLO PERFORMER AND A BAND, FRANK JACKSON, so I thank you. You continue to inspire me, as you did so recently onstage at Yoshi’s on your 85th birthday.
Key moment number 2:
On the heels of a class on social networking that I shared with vocalist Clairdee, I had a brief and important exchange with vocalist Faith Winthrop. I admire both of these women, as musicians, as teachers and as people. My exchange with Faith took place at the Bliss Bar, a performance venue we both appear at.
The message from both exchanges was that I was going in the right direction with my work and with our mutual profession as teaching artists. When Clairdee told me she read my blog I almost fell over. That’s how honored I was.
I understood from Faith and her supportive words that my performing artist life could blend with my teaching artist life and that they could reinforce each other. She said, this is how we do it. FAITH, THIS EXCHANGE WAS 2 MINUTES, BUT IT WAS A KEY MOMENT.
You have to have your brain and heart set up to have a key moment – the seeds need to be planted in fertile ground.
I had just returned from performing in France, where I had surprised myself by delivering a master class on the Great American Songbook – in French. Well, French and some English and a lot of acting it out, but that’s what we were there to do anyway, and they all got it and took the coaching, making changes before our eyes in stage presence, mic technique, lyrics interpretation. Thrilling. KEY MOMENT – THAT MAKES THREE.
It was stupendous to make contact with the community in Lille and Lomme – our students, the musicians, the Suffys Family who hosted us, and the queen of cultural exchange, Candace Forest. On the heels of TWIST’s sold-out performance at New York’s landmark Cornelia Street Café in April 2010, the French performance and class gave me new assurance about my ability to communicate to an audience and to my colleagues.
Meanwhile, in another universe, at the moment of this great French experience, the trumpet player and friend, Gil Cohen, who had been staying in my studio in San Francisco was elated to be moving to a location where he could live and practice in his own studio, and we were elated for him. My studio was now empty, and I started to think. And it was early June 2010.
But in the meantime, I was slogging my way back to the States with all the amenities a frequent flyer ticket can provide. (not) Never mind, I’m grateful. We’re here to be challenged.
I returned from France, but not the easy, direct way I would like to, as I am exhausted. Oh no. Because I am ALSO a ‘studio teacher’ for kids in the professional performing arts, I HAD to go to Los Angeles on a very specific day in early June, YES, coming home sooner than I wanted to! YES! And so for spite on the Department of Labor Standards for making me come back EARLY to renew my studio teacher license, I decided to perform in L.A. That’ll show those tyrannical bureaucrats!
The lovely Dolores Petersen was so gracious to invite me to perform at the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill (I love that name because I am a bit of an Old Hollywood freak) and I got to do a set with her terrific trio, further reinforcing my conviction that I would teach my master class students to count off and lead a band. Without that skill, how would I have pulled off a set with a trio I’d never met and no rehearsal?
So I felt lots better about being shlepped to L.A. and even more since my buddies Shawn Ryan and John Ainsworth were in attendance, sitting there cheering and sending out tweets about the show; sweet that they are, in addition to talented, smart and hard-working. And come to think of it, I would say that when they invited me to teach at their Young Actors Theatre Camp, it was THE FIRST STEP TO UNIFYING MY IDENTITY AS A PERFORMER AND MY IDENTITY AS A TEACHER. Shawn and John had done just that, continuing to burst out as performers and also mentoring the next generation through their camp. SURPRISE KEY MOMENT – that makes four. Sometimes they jump out at you as you write. Thanks, guys.
So it is July – August 2010, also known in my mind as the summer of the U.N.,
in which my partner Hamilton Everts and I joyfully hosted dinners for visitors from Switzerland, Vietnam, Japan, Italy as well as Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. I was finally home, feet on the ground,regrouping. What next?
Teaching artist work started to flow in from 3 different sources to work with youth – San Francisco Opera Education, Young Audiences of Northern California, LEAP Imagination in Learning. It was during this time that I had the KEY MOMENT experience with Clairdee and Faith Winthrop, about being a performing and teaching artist.
I had been teaching Sing Out Loud classes for vocalists for about 5 years with Linda Kosut, Barry Lloyd and Dave Miotke. Linda and I had decided that we would go forward teaching separately.
My Potrero studio was empty; awaiting a construction timeline.
In 1990, I had established my sole proprietorship, NEW PERFORMANCE GROUP, upon my return from a 5-year performing and teaching residency in Italy. Here now was the chance to fulfill a long-term goal, to establish a space where teaching, project development, cultural exchange and community building could take place. With the security of the new teaching projects, I decided to take the leap.
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I decided to begin, to make the first move. I invited my music director, Dr. Jason Martineau to become my co-master teacher, and set up a schedule for my new Singers Master Class to take place in the New Performance Group Studio, with a final performance downstairs at Thick House theater, where I had held events many times. The class registered quickly, bringing in several new students and several with whom I had worked before. The show on November 21, 2010 was a triumph for the students, for our concept, and for the studio.
We were launched, and plan to teach another series in Winter 2011, with a final performance on April 3, 2011.
If you build it, they will come – Dear friend and respected colleague Allison Lovejoy decided to bring her baby grand to the New Performance Group Studio and teach piano lessons and classes from there, giving up her studio in the Richmond.
To continue christening the Studio, singers and friends gathered on the New Year to sing around the piano, with pianists Sheldon Forrest, Allison Lovejoy and Jason Martineau. Bill Belasco dropped in and brought his small drum setup, and we were jumping and jiving.
More events are in the works, and we hope more partners are in the wings, waiting to enter.
And just the other day, we received one of those we regret to inform you letters about the French-American Jazz Grant, to which I gave much effort and investment in September and October 2010.
TIME TO REGROUP AGAIN. All of this has been fueled by my commitment to Buddhism, and by the Buddhist philosophy that we are masters of our own destiny. I realize no one is going to make it happen FOR me. I must make it happen for myself.