Saxophonists Miguel Zenón and Mario Castro return to the Gallery stage this Thursday, August 7th, 2014, for the third of four installments of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series, Vol. 1, Edition 2. Their final performance in the series will take place next Thursday, August 14th, 2014.
The Jazz Gallery: When you work with younger musicians, what do you hope to impart to them?
Miguel Zenón: In terms of teaching, I see myself as someone who’s had specific experiences and has a specific point of view about a lot of things. It’s not necessarily something that’s right or wrong—it’s what I could share, so when I’m working with younger musicians, I’ll share what I feel has worked for me. But, at the same time, I feel that music education and jazz education in general is still a great platform for acquiring information, especially in this age when there’s so much information out there and so much stuff that you can work on.
If you think about 50 years ago when Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker were working on their stuff, their process had to be totally different. They didn’t sit in a classroom listening to somebody teach them harmony; they had to figure it out on their own or in a community. Today it’s a lot more like you feed yourself information and hope that you find opportunities to put it into practice. It’s not replaceable, though, with experience on the bandstand, getting to play and getting experiences with older musicians, going through struggles on the bandstand—like real-life musical situations that you’re not going to get in school.
In school you’re comfortable: you’re in a combo with people who listen to the same records, you do concerts, and it’s really good. But, at the same time, I think it’s important for younger students and musicians to know that the eventual reality is going to be different. When you’re not in school you’re going to have to deal with responsibilities on your own and not just as an assignment, or get better because you have a test. It has to become a lifelong thing where you’re committed to getting better.
At the same time there’s all this stuff connected to being an artist. This is how you’re going to make a living, so you have to be on top of that: you have to know how things work, you experience situations where you’re going to have to say, “Okay, this is my job. I’m going to have to take this seriously from that point of view, also,” and, to tell you the truth, I wish it wasn’t like that.
When we started playing music, we played it because we liked it and we were in love with the music; it didn’t have to do with how much we were going to get paid, but eventually, because it becomes your line of work, you have to consider that, also.