After this upcoming Saturday, Brass Connections will be wrapped! It has been an incredible experience, with ups and downs (thankfully, mostly ups). I am sad to see it go, but happy with what we accomplished.
The participants have been really, really incredible. I’m not saying that because every administrator has a responsibility to praise their participants. It has been a privilege to invest in these young people. I never saw this like some other seminar hosts did: floodgates open to anyone who paid, and offer up some experience for them to do what they will with. This was always meant to be a close mentorship— I wanted to hear their voices, hear about the background that made them who they are, and dive into that sometimes messy place and help them become who they envision themselves to be. Sure, every educational experience requires personal investment, but I wanted to reward their time and attention ten times over. I wanted them to know that their work matters, that they can have a voice in their community, and to earnestly help them hone that voice.
Over the course of this project, I have gotten better at investing. I have become more sensitive about when to speak and when to listen, when to let a student steer and when they need someone else to take the wheel for a minute. There is a group of people out there who view this process very differently— basically, teaching as a vehicle for profit. Although I do have an opinion on that, it is safe to say that getting paid is important, and there *is* a transactional nature to the content/craft of what musicians do. But as teachers, I have heard from the people I admire and attempt to model, to “do no harm.” That means that when I accept the intersection of my time and that of my pupils, I also take on some responsibility for their self-fulfillment. In this way, I don’t see teaching as a syndicated megachurch feed, but as something a little more personal. That’s because it is impossible to separate who we are from what we do, and so to be effective teachers, we have to spend time addressing each other personally.
I mentioned the transactional nature of our craft. Pay money, get a lesson, be a participant, hear a concert, etc. I would caution any administrator of such things that this relationship is not very robust. I think there are people who see what is happening with meme stocks, blockchain, and NFTs, and see themselves as entrepreneurs in this space, like it’s some kind of confluence of Tony Robbins and bitcoin. But while music can be digital, music is not only digital. I think its intrinsic value is not rooted in its aesthetic, distribution potential, or even its return. To try and define it in those terms is, in my opinion, going to disappoint everyone. I think that when audiences pay for music or instruction, they are really paying for a connection that meets some emotional need. I have been struggling to define what exactly that connection element will be in this new digital space, but I think it will be persistent, and very, very real.
One of the finest trumpeters I know, Craig Morris, pointed out that music is not like art because its medium is sound over time— it is only with us for a few brief moments, and when it is over, it is over. Even if it was a recording, a recording only captures part of the audible spectrum of a performance. I sense that the internet will increasingly allow us to do this across geographical boundaries, although some of that exchange is still hampered by fidelity and timing concerns related to technology. We need to be cognizant of that going forward. There is also a reallocation of the “sunken” parts of our investment— before, we had to get in a car/train/plane and travel to go hear what we wanted, and it demonstrated some resolve on everybody’s part. Instead, we need to spend time and energy on our presentation over a network connection, to share our investment in a different way.
All of this to say, the title of the seminar, Brass Connections, was sort of unintentionally revelatory. I did spend time and thought coming up with it, but I didn’t know how right I was. The program is *probably* done after this weekend, because I am working on some other things that will allow me to invest in my connections on a larger scale. But I am happy to report that it was a resounding success, and I feel strongly that we made the world a better place to be this year.