Thursday, September 6, 2018

Zen And The Art Of Mentorship

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I had never thought the countless, painstaking hours in my father‘s auto repair shop would translate to the life skills needed to not only be an artist and musician, but a human being. Work ethic, ardency, patience, creativity, integrity, and determination, all leading to the transcendence of a running machine is a priceless experience we can apply to anyting. We seem to take for granted the importance of mentors in our lives. Especially today, with social media, YouTube and the sort of simulation disconnect, we seem to have lost real value in mentorship. I’ve been reflecting back on all my teachers- from my seventh grade band teacher to my high school English literature teacher, to all the music sages and coaches that I am so grateful to have learned from in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to study with some of the greatest artists in the world. Joe Porcaro, who is basically the father of Studio drumming and percussion. To John Riley and Jeff Hamilton, who are simply masters at their craft- the art of jazz and improvisation. The Takeaway is something far deeper than tools and craft. It’s a human transmission of an art form that just can’t be conveyed through iPhone or computer screens. It’s literally a touch that you have to be there to feel, hear, and experience. It is very much like the Zen concept of “dharma-transmission” from a Zen master to a disciple. There is no other way to attain this knowledge and wisdom but through direct experience. For example… my time studying with Jeff Hamilton was not only a master class in jazz drumming, but ride cymbal sound and analysis. I must have went through hundreds of prototypes with Jeff trying to recreate the old "K" sound. Comparing them to vintage cymbals that Jeff owned and revered. Jeff definitely has a particular taste of sound in jazz rides. Fast forward 20 years later- I am in a drum shop in New York City going through tons of new rides, not paying any attention to brand, model, etc., only sound. After a painstaking search I bring a Bosphorus 22 inch ride to the counter for purchase. The clerk turns the cymbal upside down to show me that is is actually the "Jeff Hamilton Model" ride I picked out, with his signature right under the bell! Coincidence or divine transmission? You can decide. But If progress is ultimately at the source of any art form, than human to human transmission is something we should revere deeply and understand as a bedrock.
I know the value and truth mentorship has brought into my life and work. I simply would not be me without them.

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