Color and Classical Music In December

theatre-audience_3133209b-800x305Sometimes I look out into the audience when I perform music. I don’t mean to take an subconscious pole of the demographics of the audience, but it’s hard not to notice. The picture above isn’t what I usually see, in fact the picture below is more of the reality of I tend to notice. Often I am the only person of color in the room, and after 20 years of holiday performances I started to wonder about those numbers.

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I didn’t grow up going to classical music concerts, especially not during the holidays. So why and how I came to the place where I love classical music and am a performer of this music is a mystery to me. Either way this is the common ground under which the audience and I share community.

Small Neighborhood Music School

The Bloomingdale School Of Music is the place whimg_2092ere I took private trumpet lessons, started loving chamber music and starting learning about music composition. It was one of the most important paths set before me.

hall4I had my first moments of personal success at this small neighborhood community music school. Perhaps this is the place that has given me my first opportunities to succeed and fail in a safe place.

Picking a high school in New York City

Many of my middle school students already know where they will be attending high school. When I was their age I had no ideas where I’d be spending the bulk of my teen age years.

There were only 3 real choices for me at the time. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, mainly because it’s one of 5 specialized public high school in New York City. LaGuardia was the only one of those schools who featured the performing arts as it’s identity. The others were all about science, engineering or math.

Stevenson High School was an obvious choice for me, hqdefaultpartly because a lot of the people that march in the drum and bugle corps I was a member of went there. I knew they had a marching band and that was a big factor in my appreciation of that school.

Finally my other choice was Julia Richman – Talent Unlimited High School. They have a great performing arts department and were competitive with LaGuardia. I also knew a few of the students from my drum and bugle corps went there as well

The main reason for picking any of these schools was because they had music programs and members of the New York Lancers went to those schools. I guess the arts and like minded people to attend school with was important to me. In many ways that is still true today.

fiorello-470x240I was accepted to LaGuardia and I was very relieved to be going to a specialized HS in NYC. The movie FAME was about that school, so I was secretly humming that tune to myself when I got the news.

I was not a very good student, but I devoted myself to all my music performance classes. Music history and theory seemed like math, science and humanities. Not a good fit for me at the time. I had trouble putting into context why they weren’t as stimulating at the time, they were more of a hurdle I had to jump to graduate.

Eventually I got my act together as a student, and now I’m a teacher!

Safe places for me

My kid has anxiety, and I had anxiety as a kid until I started doing music. 4th and 5th Grade I was in Mr. Osborn’s boys choir. I took a few ass kicking those years. In the 6th grade I did my best (with a great deal of success) to not be seen at all. I was robbed a few times that year. During my 7th grade year I was transferred into a class that did music, then I joined the marching band. That’s when things started to change.

jhs_22_jordan_l_mott_157_st_morris_av_jehMost people who we recognize as important, carve their own path. Me, well… I’m just lucky the path set before me was the right path for me. If not for one thing in my life, I would be a totally different person. What is that thing you ask? Fear…yes fear has shaped me and molded me into the man you see today.

I’m not going to advocate living your life full of fear and hesitation, however my case it worked for me. Fear and safe places to practice being a person. Where ever I played music felt like a safe place.