Video: Everybody’s Musical

In About Music for People, MfP Stories by jan_mfp

Jim tells about how he met David Darling 30 years ago and how being part of David’s vision of an organization to help everybody be a participant in music, rather than a witness, has changed his life.

Jim Oshinsky: Hi, I’m Jim Oshinsky. I’ve been doing this for probably 30 years, since the beginning. I had the privilege of meeting David Darling through Paul Winter because I was a fan of the Paul Winter Consort. It was great to see a musician as free and as broad as he was, especially when he played with the Consort because they just invented world music in a popular way. What world music became, they were the pioneers.

At any rate, I wanted in my musical fantasies be part of that jam band. I was not enough of a player to hang with them in that way, but when they started offering workshops, I went. And that’s how I got to play with people. Because there are musicians who are that excellent and that generous that made affordable workshops open to the public and anybody could play with these luminaries. Soon after, I was involved because Paul Winter ran Music Villages that were week-long retreats that were multifaceted in a lot of different ways. But David Darling was a guest at the First Music Village, and he put forward a vision of an organization that would affect people and children and everyone and make music accessible so that everybody could be a participant in music, rather than a witness. It would break down the barrier between the elite performers and the general public — that everybody’s musical. That just took root in me because I was an amateur jam band kind of guy. But what came from that, in terms and how that is alive after doing this work for 30 years, is that I teach [music] improvisation at a university. I teach at Adelphi. I’m the only person on the music faculty without a music degree. I teach the improvisation ensemble. I’ve been doing that for 5 years, and we do all-improvised concerts at the end. This is a required class for music education majors. And music ed majors aren’t the only people who take the class because the other folks who come in are some music performance people who like doing improv and some folks who actually have more experience with improv, who are the jam band guys from the rest of the university.

Just in terms of the model. Just like we teach that contrast between Ooo and Yea, or sound and silence, is part of the compositional elements for music. As a leader, group size between whole group, half-group, small group, solos and such are among the compositional contrast that you can use to sequence a concert.

I show them how during the semester by modeling that in the group. By the end, they are doing that with each other independently. They do an hour and a half improvised concert going organically from whole group to part group. They rise up — because they are listening that well for what’s needed next. We know there are a couple of things we’re going to pre-stage and include so that everybody gets to play and that the things we want to feature gets featured. Then I get up at the end. They say thank-you, and I come up at the end and include the audience. This group of 15 folks who have been improvising together the whole semester is in some hot jam or whatever, and then I bring in their parents and their friends who are sitting in the audience. We find a way of including them — vocal or body percussion or something – and then I fade out the class, and it’s just the newbies playing and they’re cooking.

This is what I mean that everybody’s musical. That lesson that I’ve been teaching at university level never would have happened if I didn’t go to the Music Village and if I didn’t start following the vision that David Darling started. Just to hang out with him as often and as long as I could to learn at his feet and pass along this part of it.

About Jim Oshinsky

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