Saturday, August 22, 2009

::10 years on::

Last weekend, I happened to take Dora with me to downtown Langley, where (I had forgotten) Arts Alive was taking place. This annual event shuts down the one-way strip of Fraser Highway and it becomes a pedestrian-only area where local artists can display and sell their work. I was taking Dora to the Big Dog Little Dog Bakery for some marrow bones and training treats, but was surprised that I couldn't access the street by car. So we parked behind Fraser and walked into the crowds among the kiosks, which is always a good opportunity for her to test her heeling skills among the chaos of people and kids and strollers and wheelchairs, etc.

After buying what we needed at the bakery, we continued down the street to see what else was available and I eventually heard the sound of a jazz combo playing. We wandered over to the old Coast Capital Savings building and, lo' and behold, who was playing but my local jazz idols, Campbell Ryga (sax), Jodi Proznik (stand-up bass) and Brad Turner (trumpet)!

I was quite the band geek in high school and while I excelled more in my concert band ventures than my jazz band skills, I still prefer to watch/listen to jazz/big band. I played the trumpet and while I was no prodigy, our band did win some pretty prestigious awards and was invited to represent Canada at the 2000 World Exposition in Hanover, Germany. But I still remember the days of the Surrey Jazz Festival and the UBC Honour Bands, where we'd sit in awe of Brad Turner, et al., as they flawlessly, and effortlessly, created the sounds of pure genius with their ensembles. I remember doing a master class with Mr. Turner and being so nervous to play in front of him - I felt like the biggest fraud because I may have been good at hitting the high notes and reading what was on the page, but I was embarrassingly bad at improvising, which is a "must-have" skill as a jazz musician.

While Dora and I stood there and watched, Brad and Campbell were sitting out on one number, hanging at the rear of the open-air stage while the other members of the combo played a tune. Now, I may be 38 weeks pregnant and I know I looked haggard that day, having just planned to make the one stop at the bakery without putting any thought into my housewife-ish appearance. And it has been 10 years since I last "worked" with Brad Turner. But I'll be darned if, when I spotted the players and realized who I was watching, Brad didn't look straight at me and recognize that we had met before. I wasn't about to approach him to chat after their set because I looked so gross and sweaty (no makeup, you get the picture - I really just shouldn't have been seen in public that day!). But it was the coolest thing ever and it made me wonder what would have happened if I had pursued music education after high school instead of journalism? If I had chosen what I loved rather than what I was good at? Being recognized by someone so influential from that time in my life, who knew me only from that "scene," made me think about how different life can turn out based on one decision. Where would I be? Would I have even been able to learn the things he teaches now at Capilano College? I honestly don't know if I had enough talent. But it would be so cool to know.

That one glance we shared last weekend is probably a glance he shares with former "students" all the time - "I think I've taught that girl/guy," he must say to himself, as he goes on with his day. But it was much more meaningful to me. I am so grateful for the way my life has turned out - and I'd really have it no other way! But wouldn't it be neat to know if we had what it took? If we would have succeeded somewhere else? If I could have spent my early 20s playing in smokey cabarets in Paris and Zurich and Barcelona and Dusseldorf? If music would have become my life?

I guess I'll never know...


  1. Hey! I know this guy, too. For the past couple years, Brad Turner has come and played with a guy at my church (and his band) for a Christmas-time jazz benefit concert. If he comes again this year, you'll have to come out for the show! It's always fantastic music and the proceeds go to a good cause. And it's a fairly small venue, so maybe you could even chat with him.

  2. Oooh, that's awesome! If we're still here... I love Christmas-y events like that.