Friday, May 21, 2010

If You Only Knew - The Rite of Swing Story

Bonjour mes amis, (Hello, friends!)

If You Only Knew how much Monteton means to me. That tiny village in southwest France, home of the Dordogne International Jazz Summer School. Two years ago, I arrived as a student, thanks to a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Within a week’s time, this classically-trained pianist and composer learned how to play jazz with new friends from all over the world. While there, I also wrote my first jazz piece, Midnight at Monteton. It was a week of hard work and little sleep, a time to truly focus on music. And yet, there was still time to share lots of laughs and make deep friendships. It seemed like I had just arrived, and then, Just Like That, it was over.

When I returned home, I definitely had the Monteton Blues. I talked to my closest friends about my experience, and it was a No Brainer – I had to go back. I wrote to Dorian, the director of the school, suggesting that I return as composer-in-residence. It would be a risk, he said. Jazz musicians are more comfortable playing standards from the 40’s and 50’s. But he loved the idea. It would be a first for them – a focus on composition with a living composer presenting her work. In order to make it happen, The Rite of Swing was born.

Through the support of Global Peace Initiatives, Inc. and a host of friends here, I went back last summer, to teach composition and perform my music with students and teachers from around the world. Seven pieces, some world premieres. The risk paid off, and the students were truly inspired by the new music. I worked hard and hardly slept. I felt like I was on top of the world (or at least, on top of a hill, overlooking the gorgeous French countryside.) Of course, I had moments of rest with my friends, sipping wine and eating local delicacies such as roast duck, foie gras and Egg, Chips (and Beans). (Ok, admittedly, I’m not really a fan of foie gras, and egg, chips (and beans) is a UK thing, not a French thing, which happens to pertain to the composition class I taught there, but I Digress. . .)

Is This The Real Thing?, I wondered. Is it something I can only experience here? Or is it something I can attempt to replicate in my home town? My time there gave me energy to start thinking about new projects.

When I returned home, I had some obstacles to face. I didn’t know if I could possibly get back to Monteton. Life kept handing me lemons, so I decided to make Lemonade. I threw myself into my writing. . .and. . . I’ve been invited back to present the new material! I hope you can join me on Thursday, June 10, for the second annual The Rite of Swing, a presentation of my latest work and fundraiser toward this composer residency. In case you’re wondering what we’ll be performing, you’ll see some of the titles in bold in this note. I will also be sharing my dreams about upcoming music education projects here in Indianapolis.

See you soon,

Please visit my homepage at for more info!