New students and experiences

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It has been a busy couple of days here at the jazz workshop in Frydlant. Last evening we had a faculty concert--it lasted for over four hours (with no intermission)! The Frydlant Castle was a beautiful setting for a concert. Here is a picture of Rosta and I rehearsing at the castle and another of the castle couryard.

Most of the students are in the 16-24 year-old range. There are some adults as well, such as the drummer in my band, Igor, who is the same age as me, and Kristoff the bass playuer from Berlin who is also my age. Some of the students are still in Gymnasium (the Czech equivaloent of high school) while other have begun college or technical school. Some of the students are studying to be doctors, civil engineers or economists. Some are going to attend (or are already attending) conservatory (studying music). There are even a few students in the workshop that are professional musicians in orchestras. I have a saxophonist in my class who is principal clarinetist in a radio orchestra in Poland, which is a very prestigious job here. And last night I met a bassist with the Prague symphony. They have come here to learn to play jazz.

The students vary in level--all are very proficient on their instrument, but their experience in jazz can vary greatly. They are all very hungry to learn and are excellent students. They pick up ideas very quickly and those students that are in conservatory work very hard and are very excited about the things I have shown them.

I must tell you about a new experience for me: the other evening the drummer in my band, Igor, and a couple of other students took me to the Czech Tea Room in Frydlant. There were raised platforms (about a foot off the ground) with low tables where people sat around on pillows and blankets. We were served special teas (I had green tea with jasmine) and a Turkish waterpipe was prepared with flavored tobacco (fruit and peppermint). We sat around and talked about how popular teahouses are in the Czech Republic. Igor's wife then disappeared into a back room and re-appeared a few minutes later in a belly-dancing costume. As she dance, I sipped my tea and took my turn with the others using the waterpipe. I thought to myself: "I am not in Bethlehem anymore!" It was an amazing experience and one of the highlights of my trip so far.

Tonight, the student band that Gary and I direct will play on the student concert. We have three numbers prepared. I am confident that they will play well. But before that, the American Ambassador to the Czech Republic will be visiting Frydlant today, we will have a small reception with him and the tour Frydlant Castle.

More on that later.

Doctor Neil