• Thomas Doggett

Moving while not moving


When I bought a house, I couldn't have predicted a pandemic. I mean, could anyone? It's not something anyone I know discusses: "Think we'll have a pandemic this year? We'll...maybe?" It just doesn't come up in conversation. But now it does. It'll be the thing we use to connect: "Let's go around the room and say your name, your favorite food, and what you did during the shelter-in-place." Kids on playgrounds will play Coronavirus...and they'll sing songs about it, too. We'll have quirks, as well. Like my great-aunts and uncles that lived through the Great Depression that used everything and never threw anything away, we'll have a quirk that future generations will identify us by. Maybe we won't shake hands...maybe face masks will become a fashion norm? The unique thing is that everyone is experiencing it. The entire world is experiencing it. The 2020 senior class of every school around the world is experiencing it. It'll be our shared experience that we'll all talk about in the years to come.

The house is great. I'm still in the city but on a quiet street. I like being surrounded by trees; they're comforting. Moving is always a time of self-evaluation. It makes me decide what's important in my life. What do I really need? While emptying boxes today, I found the floor plans of my last two apartments. Living in spaces less than 750 square feet makes frivolous belongings pointless. But as with material things, what do I need mentally? My thoughts also define me. What do I really need to think about? What's important to me?

With no one performing or touring, many musicians have taken to online teaching and performances. Snarky Puppy has organized a series of online masterclasses. I attended Bob Reynolds and Chris Potter discussing Standards. It was great to hear two master musicians discuss why jazz standards are relevant. Of all of the great things said, Chris Potter brought up a point about learning...really learning. To emphasis his point, he shared a story about a conversation between Plato and Socrates that he had read. Plato was complaining to Socrates that "kids these days don't have The Odyssey memorized, they have to read it." Fast-forward 2500 years, and we're still only scratching the surface of information. There's a distinction between "knowing about" and "knowing" something. I wrestle with this concept as a teacher: "How do I know my students are learning?" At the end of the clinic, Chris Potter listed 12 Standards he felt would be good to know. Always needing something to keep me motivated and engaged, I took the 12 songs and added them to iRealBookPro. I now have 12 songs I practice everyday.

I also have another eight songs to practice...and develop. It's been a while since I've composed. These past few years have been a form of research in composition by way of surrounding myself with great musicians and music. Working with Courtney Krause, Chris English, Scot Sutherland, and all of the great music I teach my students, has added to my musical language. I've mentioned a few times in conversation with close friends, "I've got some music I need to get out" but I hadn't taken any action until Lisa said: "You're always talking about your family, you should write songs about them." That's all I needed to hear. Like that, ideas were forming. In a matter of months, I had eight songs. Everything is captured but now I'm in the editing process. The goal being to get my ideas organized to share with musicians. When they're ready, you'll know about it.

And on the topic of "developing music", English is moving right along with our EP. Instruments are all recorded. Next step: vocals. With the pandemic keeping us in our homes, we video conference meetings to discuss ideas about mixing. I can't wait for you all to hear this music. I'm so proud of the tones we're getting.

That's all for now. Stay healthy and safe. Keep music and art in your life. We'll get through this.


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