Each new experience is usually socially bound. The background of the new experience is either something one has heard about, or a trusted friend is making the intrucuction.
When I was a kid, mom would bring us to places around town to expose us to new things (and probably get us out of the house for a bit.) I remember feeling empowered as a teen when I would hop on my bicycle and ride all over town, usually passing by the homes of boys in my class. Those rides also gave me a sense of adventure with no end. I had my typical route, but once in a while I would take a different turn and see something new.
My first college experience was in a new town without personal vehicular transportation. I was pretty confined on campus. Adventures off campus were either walks across the river on the rail bridge or “doing the avenue” with a group of fellow Lawentians from Illinois. That’s a bar crawl and it got old pretty quickly. But I tried my first import beer with an upper classman bass player at Pat’s Tap. I will forever thank Pete for the wide mouth Old Peculiar. To discover good beer has taste at 18 years old meant new respect for the beverage. (note: 1983, the legal drinking age in Wisconin was 18)
New music was introduced by folks I lived with in the dorms. English Beat, The Cure, Talking Heads, REM, Tower of Power, David Sandborn, Al Jarreau – all artists exposed through someone else’s vinyl. Or listening to the college radio station. Or going to the campus coffee house. Or going to the guest artist series in the Chapel. New theatre was the same – attending the productions in the convseratory. New art was the same – seeing the senior art shows on campus. Every one of those new experiences is a life long memory for me now. I remember hearing Bobby McFerrin in his early career. I heard Art Blakey play drums with the Jazz Messengers. I met the Indigo Girls and got to hang out with them after their coffee house show.
It takes opportunity, time, and trust to try something new. As an arts adminsitrator, I fully understand this formula. But does attitude and inclination also have greater influence on reaching today’s campus?
My work is constantly trying to find the connectors to encourage students faculty and staff try something new in the arts. When it comes to music, it seems this community is trapped in classic rock, which is not a bad thing. But by itself, makes it difficult for new music to find its way. I explored this phenomena in my doctoral thesis when I studied tribute bands in the mid-90s. I compared audiences of tribute bands to orchestral audiences. Both seemed to expect the music to sound “just like the recording.”
Last night, Zoellner presented a fabulous singer, Lisa Fischer. She sang incredible jazz arrangements of classic Rolling Stones tunes (Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Miss You, and Gimme Shelter). These tunes, and one really interesting Amy Grant song that opened the show, was a chance to hear musical innovation at its most creative. She played her incredible vocal instrument between two microphones; one with reverb, and powerful timbral shifts with the other. She even invited the audience to sing with her. JC Maillard’s arrangements with the Grand Baton trio were incredible. The drum solo by Thierry Arpino was one of the most complex drum solos I’ve ever heard – fully committed; brilliantly executed.
I was washed over in this amazing mix of sound waves; transported to a place of being in the moment with her. All I needed was a couch, an entire bottle of Shiraz, and a sandalwood scented candle; which my imagination provided quite well enough.
But let’s get back to that audience. Yes, I know it is Pacing break, and most students go home. But not all of them. Zoellner even offered a $10 student rush to see this A-Ma-Zing singer. Why weren’t students or faculty or staff there?
Why don’t people try something new?