Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

Finding Lost Enthusiasm

(Subtitled "An Encounter with T.S. Monk")

I'm an enthusiastic person. I get easily excited about things, and tend to dive in head first to topics and projects, which usually then ends up with me being burned out and either leaving something unfinished or wanting to avoid the topic forever. I dislike this aspect of me, and one of the things I work on constantly is to level out - not my enthusiasm, necessarily, but how much work I do, so I can sustain it. "It's a marathon, not a sprint" sort of idea. (That's one reason I like this Rachmaninov quote so much: "I have never been able to make up my mind as to what was my true calling - that of composer, pianist, or conductor. I am constantly troubled by the misgiving that, in venturing into too many fields, I may have failed to make the best use of my life.")

With it being summer and having free time from classes, I'm trying to find time to catch up on things or finish things I've put off for a while. (As I posted earlier, you'll be seeing more updates to my website.) Today, on my day off from work (my first day off in at least a week), I'm doing some much needed cleaning and organizing around the apartment. I'm catching up on Talk of the Nation podcasts and listening to some old(er) jazz albums I used to love but haven't paid much attention to in the past few years.

One album I'm checking out again is one I adored when it first came out, in 1997: T.S. Monk's Monk on Monk. It's an all-star line-up of Monk and others playing the music of his father, Thelonious. This was my first real intro into the music of Monk. My favorite track of the album was Bright Mississippi, a typically Monk-esque head written over Rhythm Changes. I also liked to album because it was "interactive" - it had online information and doubled as a CD-ROM. It was the wave of the future!

Then I remembered: I saw T.S. Monk on tour to promote this album. He came to the Civic Center in Madison (now the Overture Center), and, with a youthful excitement even more present than today, my friends and I went to see him. As we did with most concerts there and other places (Wycliffe Gordon, Ct Basie Orchestra, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, etc.) we went backstage afterwards to try and meet the artists. I found an email I sent my dad the day after that I printed out and placed in a scrapbook (forgive the 11th grade speech qualities):

(Dated Oct 23, 1997)

Oh my god, do I have news to tell you. I am still on a high from it all. Last night (we) went to the Monk on Monk concert, T.S. Monk playing his dad's music. It was, one of the best concerts I've ever been to. Anyhoo, afterwards, we got to backstage and we talked to T.S. Monk!!! Man, wow, he gave us the best speech I've ever gotten. He told us to act like ourselves, not to listen to what others tell us. And he told us how much courage it takes...that, if you are ready to solo, and the guy playing plays all the fast Bird-type runs and everything and the crowd loves it, not to do do what you Miles and and runs, complete opposites...he also told us that we are up there telling stories, and once we lose that, we should give up. We are there to tell a story. We walked out of there like..."on man, that's the best thing anyone's ever told us". We were awestruck the whole way home, and today in school I was telling everyone about it. I'm positive that that was one of the, if not the, best experience in my life.

What does this have to do with the title of this post? Well, it's a long-winded way of saying that I feel like I'm spreading myself out too thin these days, getting too excited about many different things and thus not really focusing on anything. I'm at a crossroads in my life, and pretty soon I'll have to figure out what the next direction I want to take is. I'll finish my Masters of Music Ed in a year, and I'll need to decide some things relatively quickly. On the plus side, I've got a lot coming up to help motivate me and help me figure some things out. I'm conducing/playing in Jason Robert Brown's Songs For a New World in July at the Eau Claire Children's Theatre. I have an assistantship at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts as a stage manager for the upcoming school year. I'll be working a few hours a week at the Bands Building (check out their updated website!). And I'm kicking butt at my job at Express.

My jazz band director in undergrad had a saying about finding something that excites you and makes you enthusiastic, then keeping that energy and motivation going long after the event. What has been a motivating factor in your life? What's gotten you enthused about your works, your passions?


This post also reminds me of the great experiences I had in high school - I should share some more of those stories at some point. (Like playing with Wynton Marsalis in front of 2000 people, or talking with "Tain" Watts as he smoked a cigarette in our choir room ...)

Meanwhile, I'm about to revisit some Joshua Redman, Branford Marsalis, and Marcus Roberts, to name a few. To paraphrase Seinfeld, "It's the summer of jazz!"

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