HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE AND SUCK IT JUDGES
Easter has always meant Tauranga Jazz Festival to me. And more importantly, the band competition that the festival centred around.
Since I was in 4th form (otherwise known as year 10 or 9th grade in the US) the first part of each school year was devoted to preparing for the competition; forming combos, untangling tricky parts for the big band and nurturing our “friendly” (deadly serious) rivalries with the other good jazz schools we knew we were going to be up against.
Some of the strongest friendships I had in high school were formed and then galvanised by those groups and the competition gave us motivation to work hard, be creative, build strong teams in the bands we formed, and gave us a wonderful goal to work towards.
I was part of bands that won best combo, best song, best arrangement, best big band... the list of accolades was long and I know I had a part in the success of the groups I was in. But the only award I ever really wanted was “best bass”, the glorious pinnacle of the competition that I never attained.
I joke about it now, many years on, but at the time that prize meant everything to me and I felt a real pain at never quite managing to win it. It made me feel that I wasn’t good enough, might never be good enough, and those feelings of insecurity, during the already insecurity-wracked years of high school, were hard to shake.
Which brings me to what I’m reflecting on today.
Acclaim, admiration and awards can’t be the reason you pursue something, especially music. Despite never winning the elusive “best bass” prize (curse you again Tauranga Jazz Festival), I still love playing the bass and I’m incredibly grateful that all these years on I get to do it for a living. I love the full body contentment of locking into a great groove, the joy of feeling your voice blend in perfect harmony with another, the energy of a crowd when they are swept up in what you’re creating and the impossible to explain, floaty, sparkly, caramelly bliss that is musical connection between two people.
Having said that, making a life out of something you love (versus choosing a job outside your passions because it provides you with financial stability) can be tough. There’s very little job security, the hours are weird, you’re constantly traveling and you often have to spend weeks (or months in my case) away from your family and the people you love. And on top of that once you make your passion your job it’s easy to let the joy that drew you to it in the first place slip away. So you can’t do it for any external reason. You have to do it because you truly, deeply, madly, unequivocally love it.
Living a creative life is something I believe strongly in. Whether it’s as a musician, carpenter, financial advisor, stylist... I believe that whatever your passion, if you pursue it with creativity and gusto you will ultimately have a happier existence. And if I could tell my 18 year old self one thing, as she was mourning the loss of yet another “best bass” prize, it would be that in the grand scheme of things these prizes mean nothing. That whether someone else thinks you’re the best is subjective, hollow and has zero effect on how your life will roll out. And in adult terms, those “best bass” prizes you might seek (big pay check, fancy car, touring gig with some famous artist) mean nothing if you’re not happy in yourself and loving what you’re doing every day.
So Happy Easter everyone and suck it judges! I win that damn best bass prize every day I get to live my passion and do what I love: playing music for a living.
(Blu: L-R, me, Susie, Hollie, Helen)