Another Blog

It seems like the year has gone by a lot faster than my years in grade school. Maybe it’s because this is better? My first year at the California Jazz Conservatory ended very well. Of course, there were the “dreaded” finals that everyone talks about, but I think that I did pretty well in all of them, and in addition to that, I had one excellent end of the year concert with my trumpet teacher’s arranging ensemble (in which I was asked to sit in and play within short-notice). I couldn’t have been happier with the fact that I accepted this opportunity to play with this ensemble, as it turned out to be the closest thing to a Jazz Big Band that we can get at the time (which is what I want). I was very impressed with the arrangements that these students were able to compose, as before, I was a bit questionable about their experience in a big band versus their experience in a small ensemble/combo. These arrangements clearly showed that these students had a clear understanding of Jazz big band music and arrangements, and gave me confirmation that if we started an adult big band, we would NOT have to start from the bottom of the Jazz repetoire pot -also known as the terrible “Real Book” big band arrangements of simple/boring Jazz standards that we played so much of in middle school, and high school. The other concert, sadly, did not go too well in my opinion, but what can you do? Finals were “finals” -nothing much to say about them. The toughest one for me this time was Jazz Theory -a final that was a breeze last semester. The reason is because I just simply did not review ALL of the material beforehand. But because all of the knowledge I soaked in when it was being taught, and the notes I took, I was able to “wing it”.

First Semester

In the fall of 2014, I started my first semester at the recently accredited California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. Needless to say, it has already exceeded far beyond my expectations. The levels of music education here are strictly accustomed to the level of the musician. Unlike high school, where most teachers don’t even care if you fail or succeed, all of the instructors here are very well-known professional Bay Area musicians, who are willing to spend every second with you to help you improve and gain a higher understanding of the extremely intricate music known as Jazz. Going here has also given me a totally different perspective on what college is. It is literally the complete opposite of what many teachers in high school and students that graduated told me. (This is likely because everyone here has the same interest, and professers do not have to stress over teaching so many different subjects for so many different students.) The students here are the MOST RESPECTFUL, kind, and down-to-earth students I have ever met. A majority of them are older than me. Classroom sizes are decent -not too big and not too small. There are roughly 10-20 students per class. And like every other college, yes, we have mid-terms and finals, and yes, they are still tough, but fun. All ensembles within the conservatory also have a performance at the end of each semester, which counts as a final as we are graded on how much we have progressed. As a side note, I have had the privilege to personally work with the TOP Bay Area musicians and even meet a few famous people who were just coming in for lessons. To many of the musicians, afraid of “missing out” on the on-campus experience, -as that is what many mentors/teachers and olther students tell them- don’t be afraid. You are not missing out on anything. The conservatory itself is such a great school for musicians that by the time you get here, you won’t even care about “campus activities” and parties. Our campus is basically the city. You’ll get much entertainment there.

Overall, I feel I have definitely made the right choice, and couldn’t have it any better.


Traveling abroad helped expand my expectations!

This summer, I travelled to Europe for 14 days with the El Cerrito High School Jazz Ensemble. We visited four different countries in Europe: Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. In Germany, we were treated like family, and welcomed to stay in a community hostile, where we were fed, and entertained for three days. We did some sight seeing in a small old town, called Luebec. This is the home of the music conservatory Big Band (OGT), who we later performed with. It was nice getting to listen to their interpretation of Jazz. It really broadened my view of the different ways to articulate the music, which can be useful in the future. We travelled to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where we performed and watched many performances at the largest Jazz festival in Europe, the North Sea Jazz Festival. This festival was not restricted only to jazz. It featured a variety of music, including R&B, pop, rock, and fusion, but in a Jazz-like fashion to implement that all of the genres originated from Jazz. We got to see many Jazz greats, such as  Joshua Redman and Tom Harrell, as well as a few popular American artists, such as Sheila E. and Pharell Williams. We went to Black Forest Germany, to rest and enjoy great views of the forest and mountains that soar over Germany. Next we went to Montreux, Switzerland, where we performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival and got to see the most beautiful sights ever. The amazing views paired with the peoples’ support and appreciation for Jazz music, made this the highlight of my trip. The next two days were spent in Perugia, Italy where we performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival.  The sightings were almost as beautiful as Montreux, but in a different way (more of an old beauty than modern). Not to mention, the food was also delicious! Perugia was definitely another one of my favorite places and another highlight of our tour, not only because of the views, people, and food, but because it was where my family came and joined us on our tour. For our final two days, we stayed in Rome, where we stood on the grounds of one of the oldest structures in the world; “The Roman Coliseum”, and where we visited one of the most religious buildings in the world; “The Vatican.” Everything in Rome was basically all I thought it would be, with old narrow streets, small cars, cobblestone roads, old hole-in-the-wall stores and restaurants, and street musicians. It was very historic and beautiful, and I really enjoyed it!  These 14 days of traveling broadened my mind and opened my eyes to the world and everything that is out there. In my opinion, it prepared me for what is to come if I end up traveling as a professional musician.