So how am I doing in my quest to re-invent my life, follow my evolving Blisses and create the life I really, really want? Usually posted on Saturday, Review #14 is a couple of days late because I was far away from internet access all last week. Read on…
Imagine that you have a ticket to utopia. For just over a week, you get to leave your daily worries behind, and hang out in a little slice of heaven, pouring your heart and soul into your Bliss (or one of them, if you’re Multi-Passionate, like me). Eden on earth.
Pretty awesome, yes?
The only problem: your stay only lasts 8 days, and then you’re unceremoniously booted out of utopia, and back into your normal life.
That’s what it’s like to go to music camp. A week of heaven, and then wham, back to normality.
(Complete with annoyances such as non-functioning computers, which were supposed to be fixed by the new hard drive that was installed during your absence, but are instead even worse than before, making it utterly impossible to work on urgent client deadlines.
But let’s not go there, or this post will turn into a moaning stress-fest.)
Can you tell I’m in post-camp let-down? In fact, right now I feel rather like a wrung-out washrag. If past experience is any indicator, it will take a good week to recover.
So why put myself through it, you may ask, if re-entry is so difficult?
It’s rather like Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam: 27, 1850:
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Tennyson could have been writing about music camp.
Music Camp: my little slice of heaven
I have three little islands of wonderfulness in my year: my Spring Retreat with my calligraphy guild in March, Jazz Camp West in June/July, and CCMC (California Coast Music Camp) in mid-July. Each one is magical in its own way, and each inevitably results in some degree of letdown after I come home. Sometimes it feels like the rest of the year is just marking time until I get to head to utopia again.
If you’re wondering what’s so wonderful about music camp, here’s a list that represents just the tip of the proverbial iceberg:
- I get to completely retreat from the stresses of daily life (no cell phone service! no internet!)
- I get to focus 100% on music all week (a Bliss of mine that lately has gotten short shrift)
- I’m around people, feeling connected, rather than my usual state of isolation, working home alone
- I don’t have to cook – all food is provided
- I’m out walking – in the woods! – every day, multiple times a day
- I get to perform and get feedback
- I get to mark how far I’ve come since the last camp
- I get a much-needed reminder of how important my Bliss is to me
- Since I went to Jazz Camp thanks to a generous work-study scholarship, I get to help with the running of camp, which means I get to feel useful
- I get to push myself in ways that are less likely to happen in a less intensive setting
- I get to try new things (this year I took a looping class with Kid Beyond)
- I get to witness some of the most amazing live music on the planet at the nightly faculty concerts
- I get to support other campers at the student performances
And to paint a more vivid picture for you, imagine this: you wake up to a brisk, misty morning in the mountains that caress the western edge of Silicon Valley. You step from your cabin or tent to head down to breakfast, and on the path to the dining hall you pass a piano and a drum kit sheltered in a grove of redwoods. (There are – get this – 40 pianos scattered throughout the camp, many of them outdoors in the woods. A full-time piano tuner on staff keeps them in tune, with the help of dehumidifiers and tarps to protect them from morning dew.)
Later in the day, as you walk to your class in an outdoor amphitheater or redwood grove (or, yes, an actual indoor room), you hear the strains of a gospel choir from around the bend, a salsa dance class behind you, conga drumming on the dining hall deck.
Close to 300 other jazz lovers take over the woods for the week: vocalists, pianists, brass and woodwind players, guitarists, violinists, dancers, drummers, percussionists… If you get a chance to perform, it’s in front of the most musically knowlegable audience you can imagine, but also the most supportive.
People often refer to Jazz Camp (and CCMC) as a “family,” and it does have that feeling. Warm. Loving. Connected.
The imperfect part of utopia
Okay, okay, it’s not all roses and light. Or shall we say, the roses come with some thorns.
Sharing a cabin with 8 women means not a lot of privacy (tenters have a leg up here), not to mention the inevitable sleep interruptions from snoring, stomping around, getting up early, coming in late.
And the bunk beds, with their pathetic so-called mattresses, leave me longing for the comfort of my European Sleepworks bed.
And although I love that I don’t have to cook, I have to admit the food leaves a little to be desired.
Then there are the mosquitoes, the raccoons (an intrepid specimen invaded our cabin one midnight, plundering one of my cabin-mates’ stash of chocolate), the cold (believe it or not, I dress for a New York winter at the outdoor evening faculty concerts), the long walk to the (very rustic) bathroom in the middle of the night, and the ever-present dirt.
Did I mention the dirt?
It does make one appreciate the comforts of home. Still, given my druthers, I’d rather be there.
Ephemeralness: a required ingredient?
But of course, part of what makes utopia so utopian is precisely because it is limited to one week. Much as I might fantasize about Jazz Camp lasting for weeks, months, even years, I know the reality wouldn’t be as sweet as the brief week I long for during the rest of the year.
Personalities would no doubt grate. The beds and the food would be intolerable. The sleep deprivation would be more than my system could handle.
As it is, the week has a lovely arc. A perfect, and perfectly sweet, beginning, middle and end. Always with unexpected growth, revelations, connections and lessons.
A few highlights from this year:
- a breakdown that led to a breakthrough in the second day of the Vocal Intensive class with jazz vocalist and teacher extraordinaire, Kellye Gray
- singing my friend Ron Karr‘s song, Seventh Street, at the Monday night open mic
- helping the camp videographer record the open mics and final night performances
- several singers (including faculty and seasoned pro, Denise Perrier) asking for the chart of my song, He’s Just Not That Into You, after hearing me perform it on Thursday night at the Vocal Intensive concert
- selling a dozen copies of Online Dating Blues and donating all of the money back to the scholarship fund
- Grammy-nominated Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto calling He’s Just Not That Into You “the coolest song ever!”
- dancing like a mad woman at the Friday night dance party
And, as always, just refocusing on music, and reminding myself how important it is to me.
This last one is perhaps the most important, and lasting, effect of my week in utopia. The slings and arrows of normal life, the frustrations of trying to get gigs and keep motivated in the face of so many obstacles, including the efforts of having to make a living – all of these make it hard to keep my Blisses, particularly music, at the center of my life. Music camp is a little burst of energy, propelling me forward just when my energies are starting to drag.
Yes, the week after is always hard, but it’s more than worth it. Besides, I get to spend another week in utopia at CCMC in less than two weeks.
Needless to say, all other Blisses got put on hold for the duration of camp. Now the challenge is to get back to work integrating and balancing them. I’ve got my work cut out for me.
And right now, it’s off to bed, where I hope to dream of music camp.