How do I begin to tell what this year has brought me? The last day of May, 2016 marked the day I entered a new fantastic phase of my life. What a landmark year for me! It was a special gift to me because after a near death experience in my 20’s I had never dreamed I would still be living and experiencing so much life. What a roller coaster ride! Growing along the way brought me hurdles I thought I’d never be able to overcome but now I have been given the opportunity to see it was all a divine growth experience—and yes, those growth experiences are still happening. I have been given grace and gratitude.
Allow me to speak of gratitude for those things that happened when I decided to tell my three children what I would like for my 80th birthday. I had thought long and hard and weighed the possibilities, I finally decided rather than a large party or concert with family and friends from across the country (which could be costly for many of them to attend either physically or financially New York) I would like to have another adventure. I love jazz and travel. I told them I wanted to attend Barry Harris’ Jazz Workshop in Rome, Italy in September. I had never been to Italy (though I did step over the border in the 80’s on my first trip to France). But Rome; magnifico! When I announced my desire, the three of them said together over (quite appropriately) pizza, “You’re going to Rome!”
Two weeks or so later I learned they had set up a GoFund for the trip. Through social media and emails to our friends, acquaintances and total strangers the money was raised. No words can I utter or write that tell how much those contributions meant to me. Many people gave me such great wishes and love for this trip even though some were unable to contribute financially. Those meaningful expressions are wrapped in much love and appreciation my heart could hardly contain.
I would like to share memories of the experience with you all as to how much this meant to me. Now when our country is experiencing so much unrest, tragedy, uncertainty for the coming year, I can look back and constantly recapture feelings of love and appreciation.
Firstly, I have adored Barry Harris since meeting him in the 1980’s at Jazz Cultural Theater. He became my inspiration when I was gaining courage to pursue a passion I did not yet realize was within me. I consider him my mentor. I learned so
much about the music I had I had been exposed to through my parents and loved since childhood: Jazz, America’s Classical Music. I also met and sat with and listened to many musicians I admired who shared their gifts there at JCT. At that time, I was an actress and singing was a sideline as I pursued that career and raised my three children. I began performing and eventually singing took over in my life. I never lost touch with what my mentor was about and how his life had touched mine though I stopped going to Barry Harris workshops for more than twenty-five years. My love for Barry and his gift never diminished. The gift he gave me only grew during that time as I became more and more seasoned.
The trip to Rome, the workshop and participants truly were a blessing to me and my spirit. The atmosphere immersed me in the music and the camaraderie of the musicians I met from 24 represented countries. Barry’s energy infused us all with enthusiasm for the music and our abilities to elevate in skill, appreciation and understanding of what was being taught. The immersion is total and the atmosphere provided by the Felt Club Sponsors made it such a great experience. Here, I rededicated myself to my music. There is a piano class, a vocalist class and instrumental class during the day. There are concerts and jam sessions at night and a glorious picnic in the mountain foothills with jam session and endless food and drink at the end of the week for all attendees. It is glorious!! It is Harvest Time in Italy in September which makes the food taste unusually succulent! I was in heaven! I also stayed in a quaint, inexpensive hotel within walking distance of the workshop venue. Barry has a workshop going on there now (March). I am unable to attend that one, but I intend to return in September (September 8) for my second Roma Workshop!