As a young boy, I had the privilege of attending school in Southern California while spending my summers in New York at a wonderful place called Brant Lake Camp. My mother and father were the directors of the music & dramatics program there and, in between swimming, playing sports, hanging with friends, and enjoying the beauty that surrounded me, I got to watch - and ultimately appreciate - the joy my parents got from creating together, working with kids, and making people (including each other) laugh.
This summer (2016), I had the pleasure of sending my own daughter to that very same camp where she got to point to the guy at the piano and say "That's my Grandpa!". This makes her the 3rd generation of Cohens to attend Brant Lake Camp. Naturally, my Dad was over the moon. The fact that my daughter had "the best summer EVAH!" made for a really good feeling all around. I'm pleased to report that she already plans to return next summer.
My reflections on this summer as it draws to a close are punctuated by a sense of nostalgia. I think about my experiences as a boy and as a young man and I realize how precious - not to mention formative - those years are. Having that bicoastal childhood made a big impact on me and I see it already having the same effect on my child. At 10 years old, to see such maturity, independence, a broader view of the world,…it warms me to see these things happening right in front of me. It also opens my eyes further about my responsibilities as a father. But not just the nuts & bolts stuff of being a provider, helping with homework, instilling discipline/guidance and so forth. I've become very aware that the depth, compassion, and intent I bring to my parenting is something I should give a great deal of consideration as well. How much more effective in connecting with my child might I be when drawing from my own experiences? How about my father's, my mother's? When I choose to insert a little humanity into my role - into the way I communicate - as a father, it allows my daughter and I to connect on a deeper level. Which bring me to the musical connection to all of this...
As I reveled last night playing in the company of the three terrific musicians I had the pleasure of keeping, I realized that the aforementioned level of communication I seek with my daughter (and other loved ones, for that matter), is what I should strive for as a musician as well. When I draw from my experiences, my surroundings, my humanity, I create the opportunity to connect with listeners on a much more profound level. I thought of this as I frequently had the unenviable task of following one great soloist after another with my turn to solo. I realized that beyond the "nuts & bolts" of notes, scales, rhythms, etc. lies the one thing that makes me who I am, different from the previous brilliant musicians I and the audience had just heard from; my humanity. If I can find a way to dig deeper, to get past the "licks", I can put a smile on some people's faces. By trying to make a connection, as opposed to competing, I allowed myself to relax and give myself a chance to tell a story.
So, as we ease into autumn, and summer slowly fades, let us not forget the humanity in all of us. Behind the faces we see - love, anger, sadness, joy, admiration - lies the experiences and human needs & desires that bind us. Remember our shared humanity.
Until next time; your friendly neighborhood bassist,