American People, Culture, Music and All That JAZZ


Music preference reveals quite a lot about a person’s character. How people create music, how others like and enjoy that music, how people think about and develop that music reflect how people like to enjoy, as amusement-seeking and emotional beings, their leisure time or express their feelings. The type of music a certain group of people commonly make and enjoy reveals the cultural characteristics and identity of that group. To extend this logic a little further, a real American music can reflect the true cultural essence and identity of America. And one of this ‘real American music’, according to my GW jazz piano professor at least, is jazz.

Here in GW they offer quite decent music classes or programs even to non-music major students or exchange students too (For GW students some music courses require extra fee to take that course, but since exchange students pay tuition fees to their home university we exchange students are free to take any music course we like 🙂 ) I take a jazz piano course, once every week, a 1:1 tutoring from the professor (as mostly are instrument-learning courses) Anyway, the professor who teaches me jazz piano is just great, very friendly to students, with a clear philosophy and love for jazz music. Following is what he told me once during the class, although it may not be that accurate as it is based on my memory;

“Jazz reflects the true cultural identity of America. Other things that Americans say they are may not accurately be American. Values, ideals, even the US Constitution – What Americans say they are and what they actually are are two different things. The reality is always far away from American ideals. But Jazz is different. Jazz is a mixture of African, Latin American, and European music, but jazz itself is uniquely American. If you came to America and wish to experience and learn something that is truly American, listen to jazz. Jazz is the truly ‘American’ music.”

While learning jazz piano, what really came to my mind was that jazz is the type of music that gives the most freedom to the player. Since playing piano as a hobby, for nearly 14 years I’ve been playing classical music, playing exactly as written, and in the aspect of freedom, only able to practice some variations or learning a few techniques. Jazz seems to make the ground totally open to the interpretation, imagination and style of the player, with no set way to play, not many strict rules. For this reason one can more easily establish his/her own style in jazz, and communicate, express and exchange feelings with others with people responding to his/her style of playing. That was what attracted me to jazz; the liberty of breaking rules and creating something completely new and unique.

There are obviously a lot of places in DC where you can listen to jazz music, but among the very few places I’ve visited during my past 2 months stay in DC, ‘Georgetown Piano Bar’ was the place that I personally liked. Also in GW, you can visit a jazz jam session in Phillips Hall B120 every Friday, from 12-2pm. Apart from this, there’s a lot of big or small events or concerts held, and you can easily find out about them through the posters or notices on the walls especially in the Phillips Hall Music Department.



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