Monday, October 6, 2014

Driving to Buxtehude

The story goes that a young J.S. Bach heard of a great organist named Buxtehude and walked 200 miles to check him out. He knew the path he was on and was willing to do whatever it took to get a bit further on. But 200 miles? That’s dedication!

I thought of that as I drove three hours from Hartford, Connecticut to Livingston, New Jersey to meet with jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris about possible future collaborations in jazz education. Not quite as impressive as Bach’s 200-mile walk, but hey, I did have to battle traffic around the George Washington Bridge. But that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make in the service of getting quality jazz education to young kids. And truth be told, I would have considered the 200-mile walk for the chance to work with Stefon, a world class jazz musician who also happens to be a brilliant educator, not to mention one of the nicest guys on the planet.

The philosopher-poet Goethe once said that once you commit yourself to a path, the world begins to work in your favor and the stars align to guide you. That seemed to be the case here. In late August, a long-time school family unexpectedly moved to Connecticut (a can’t-turn-down-job-offer) and when I mentioned I had a workshop there in October, we made a vague plan to connect. In a series of last-minute communications, they ended up coming to the workshop. I told them about my plans to go to New York the next day, they offered their second car and oh, by the way, they were living temporarily in a hotel 2 minutes from mine. In the sprawling outskirts of Hartford, the chance that we would be two minutes away was slim— but not when Serendipity has your back. Long story short, I never could have done that trip without their help!

After the thrilling meeting with Stefon, I met my niece Zoey in Greenwich Village. More unseen hands helping me, as I found free parking on the street at 12th St. and Greenwich, three blocks from where she was lunching with my wife’s cousin who unexpectedly showed up. A lovely day to walk through the Village, stroll along the Hi-line, see if John’s Pizza was still there and peek at the Village Vanguard Jazz Club. Back in the car for the three-hour return trip in my high-class Prius with i-Pod plugged in. One moment creeping along on the West Side Highway with Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand singing Smile, the Empire State Building lit up to my right and the moon almost at its point, a quintessential New York jazz moment that made it effortless to take Tony and Barbara’s advice.

I wonder if Bach had as good a time as I did. 

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