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My week: a combination of Jazz and Violins

What possible connection can a dance class, Paris between 1890 and 1920, Harlem, and my violin recital last night have? You’d be surprised.

This was a crazy week for me (resulting in far less sleep than anyone should ever have), but it was saved through a series of bizarrely connected events and discussions. First of all, I started my Jazz Dance class this week! I love dancing, and have slowly been working by way through the college’s listing of dance courses. Jazz dance was one I hadn’t taken yet, and it’s with my teacher from hip-hop who is really fun. So why not? It’s loads of fun, combined with my body being ridiculously sore after stretching to lengths I didn’t know it could… We’ve had two classes so far, and each one has had a far amount of stretching to increase our flexibility and learning new dance moves- even starting some choreography! It’s a great work out, a lot of fun, and a great excuse just to dance for an hour and a half.

Speaking of jazz, my Paris class has been exploring how Paris was introduced to jazz by black Americans at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. Despite our extreme amount of work this week, it was fascinating to learn about musicians like Louis Armstrong and Sydney Bechet essentially invaded the Paris music scene in a big way and completely changed the music of the time. Jazz was discovered in Paris, and clubs sprang up everywhere. People like W.E.B. du Bois and Langston Hughes came to France, attracted by its equal treatment of black Americans, unlike those states following the Jim Crow laws in the US. There was also a man by the name of Stéphane Grapelli. If you don’t know who he is, don’t worry, neither did I. Why should you? Because he was an incredible musician. A violinist in fact. A jazz violinist.  Pretty sweet, right? I heard a bit of his music in the documentary we had to watch for class, and he was amazing, improvising solos all over the place and generally jazzing it up. And, as my violin teacher told me this week- completely self-taught (so unfair).

Unlike Stéphane Grapelli, I am not self-taught, but I do play violin! I’ve been playing for about twelve years or so now, and I absolutely love taking private lessons here at the school. I’m paying for them, so I actually practice-a lot- to make them worth my while. And as a result, I’ve improved a lot. This Friday night was a chance for me to show off a bit for friends and family at the String Ensemble concert. A total of eight students played a mixture of solos, duets and quartet pieces for a lovely evening of string music. I still get nervous before recitals. Can’t help the whole pulse-racing, sweaty-hands thing; but suddenly it was my turn and I played a duet. Then a nerve-wracking solo that went really well, and a quartet piece- and it was all over. My mom came up for the recital and surprised me with a bouquet of roses! Then, as per tradition now of my mom or dad and some of their friends coming up for my various music concerts, we went out for a treat- this time, to Birdie’s Café on Main Street.

A delicious Irish-cream, hazelnut latte and a chocolate muffin rounded out the fun evening in Birdie’s with my mom and her friends. And after saying goodbye, I headed over to my friend Autumn’s apartment to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” for the first time in my life and called it a night. Time to catch up on that missing sleep!

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