Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Deep Blue and INDIA AGAIN!!

Hello,

On Friday I played with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix again. It was a really fun gig. My wife came with a Korean family that she has been toutoring, and Nick Joseph, one of my students came and sat in for a set on hand drums. The night flew by and everyone in the place seemed happy, or perhaps it was just me. I have been beaming lately. A little over a week ago I bought a ticket to Calcutta!! I was invited by my Guruji Pandit Samar Saha (www.samarsaha.com) to a tabla mega festival in Calcutta happening in December. It is a week long festival showcasing the great tabla players and musicians of Calcutta. I don't know what to expect, other than being surrounded by the worlds greatest tabla players for a week straight on their home turf. (insert howl of joy here)
Of coarse, going to India is putting the crunch on some of my current endevors, such as my classes at Eastern Michigan University, and my teaching job at Go Like the Wind Montessori in Ann Arbor, but I have written to everyone involved and they are all very understanding and willing to work with me. It just means that I have to do 2 months worth of work in about a month and a half. No problem, I would do it any day for this opportunity. I am very greatful to everyone involved for being so supportive, and I hope to bring back lots of good things.

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

John

p.s. Check out the new guestbook on my site (http://johnchurchville.com). Please sign it if you are a regular, semi-regular, or one time visitor to the blog. I would love to know who is stopping by!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Light gigs, and thoughts on practicing

Hello Again,

Well it is good to write again. October has been a very eventful month. I am getting excited about the traffic on the website! Last I checked there were over 3000 hits so far this month. I have just a few more things to figure out before I consider it a complete package, including a passsword protected section, easier listening choices, and some more content. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I never expected so many hours at the laptop in wi-fi coffee houses in Ann Arbor between lessons, gigs, and classes. I always keep my bike in my truck in case I get too cross eyed, but I think, for the most part that it will be worth it.

So let's see, last weekend I did not have one single gig. It felt like the first time in a long time. I was a happy guy just sitting at home resting, practicing, and resting some more. I did play a gig with Lamar and Anthony of Gratitude at some corporate office party. It was a bit strange though. The party was on the second floor and they had us playing on the third floor on a balcony type thing. We were about as ambient as you can get. We didn't even have to change into our signature matching tropical shirts because no one could see us. Oh well, it was fun to play with those two guys. They are awesome musicians and we always have fun. Tonight I play with Deep Blue again in Ann Arbor. I am looking forward to it after a very busy week. On Saturday I bought a plane ticket to INDIA!! I will be going in December for a tabla solo festival showcasing all the great musicians of Calcutta. I was invited by my Guruji Samar Saha. I will write more on this later. In the meantime, I need to start practicing!

I actually have really been missing practicing lately. I have been talking to students a lot about this. For many years I had a notion of practice in my head that made it difficult to want to go sit at my instrument. I thought of it as a daunting task that absolutely had to be done, reguarless of what I felt like. If I didn't feel like practicing, it was easy to ignore because it is easy to ignore things that hang over us in demand. Now I think of my time to practice as time to sit and reflect on what I really want and love to do. If I sit at an instrument and feel tention and resistence, then, when it comes time to perform, and I want to showcase my work, tention and resistance would be all I can produce, unless I just let my body lead the way and play completly without abandon, (or thought). I have done this many times, once I played so crazy that I cut my finger on a cymbal and didn't realize it until I saw blood on all my drumheads. I was playing with the host band at an open mic in my hometown of Marquette. I had to get up in the middle of the song and go to the hospital ASAP. 7 stiches on my left middle finger. For the next 2 weeks I was constantly flipping my emergency room bird, (and not playing the drums). To play like this is fun and the kind of crazy that can get people excited, but it doesn't bode well for the long term. Practice is how we perform when there is no gig. It is the sacred time a musician has with their instrument to build a relationship that lasts till the next performance. It is not always about building the skills, which is definitely important, it is also about the ease to which you play with the skills you are trying to attain. Practice is easy, nice, stimulating, and important, and if you approach it with a truly open and focused mind, it can be as nourishing to your mind as food is too your stomach.

thanks for reading,

John

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gratitude sandwich with Tabla, Recording, Jazz, and a side of Birthday.

Hello,

What a week! It started off on Sunday when I played with the Gratitude Steel Band at a big church in Novi. It was a fun night. We had a 12 piece band, and were booked as the feature performers. It was the first time we were all able to get together since the big Life Fest show in Oshkosh earlier this year. This was a much different setting though. Most church gigs we play are in a big open high celing cathedral where the sound bounces around forever and the volume must be kept very low. This was no acception. It was a good thing we got there early to do a sound check so we could get a handle on how low we had to be to make it sound good. I had to play very soft, like using only my wrists and fingers. This is a challenge when you are playing pieces and songs that are so fast and high energy. I think we pulled it off well. We heard nothing but good things and the band sold C.D.'s. One funny thing happened....the music director from the church came up in our last set to play the piano with us, I think we played the caribbean version of Cannon in D. When the song was over, she went over to a mic to thank us and then speak to the audience a bit. She said, "You know, my favorite part of tonights show was the intermission!" Everyone chuckled a bit, but it was a strange comment. The room got quiet and she said, "well there are other parts that I liked, but....wait, let me explain!", she continued, "I was down in the music room where they were taking their break and the whole time they were on the piano and singing, and I couldn't believe that after playing such a high energy set that they wanted to keep playing." She finished by saying that, "it is wonderful to see people that truly love making music as much as this band and I thank you for coming to our church". Everyone clapped and I felt proud to be a part of it all.

So with a great start like that, the rest of the week was bound to be good. In Ann Arbor all week there were two Indian classical musicians giving workshops, lessons and recordings. I got to go to a few with the tabla maestro. His name was Harshad Kenetker. He is over in the U.S. for a 3 month tour with various other artists. Inbetween workshops and during the day I got a chance to spend some time with him. We talked alot about the music business and how exciting, hard, and huge it all is. I told him that one of my students, Nick Joseph, had a little recording studio set up in his apartment and I wondered if he would like to record a tabla, drumset duet. He was very excited about it and we made plans to record on Thursday after his final lecture/performance. We had no idea of what it would be like, but we just started to play and ended up with a half hour of a duet. I still have not listened to it all the way through, but the experience was truly amazing. We were both trying to figure out how to blend and make these two very different instruments into one sound. I think that the next time he comes to town we will want to do this again. I will try to post a clip on my website soon on the Audio page, so check it out.

Last night (Friday), I played again with Deep Blue. I was so happy to see about 15 of my students and their friends and family show up. It really charges me up to have friends family and students at my shows. I feel like, even if we don't get to talk much at the actual gig, that we are communicating somthing the whole night, and it seems to make it all worth it.

In an hour I will be leaving to go play at a high school homecoming dance with Gratitude in Detroit. It should be loud, high energy, and a ton of fun...A perfect way to end this incredible week. Oh yea, did I mention that my birthday was on Tuesday, which just made the week so much sweeter.

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

-John

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