I finished my spring semester classes at SDSU last month. Since then, I've been refining and pursuing a list of goals for the summer.
1. Prepare for recital.
The jazz MM program is meant to last four semesters, but I should be done with all my classes by the end of this fall semester, my third. If I can squeeze my recital in there as well, then I'll be totally finished. I don't want to be in a panic about the recital after my other schoolwork starts in late August, so I'm preparing as much as I can beforehand. The recital requires a handful of original tunes, so I'm spending some time composing almost every day. I'll also choose the complete lineup of tunes I intend to play and practice them into the ground. So far, I'm looking at "Nature Boy," "The Nearness of You," "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," and Bobby Bradford's "A Little Pain." I'd like to arrange some of these for a six- or seven-piece band, so I'm working through a free online jazz arranging course from bassist Chuck Israels.
2. Prepare for audition.
Students audition at the beginning of each semester for placement into the various jazz combos and big band. My biggest weakness in these auditions has always been sight reading, so I'm working on that every day. (I have a special plan, which I'll write about later.) In addition to sight reading melodies, I'll need to comp and improvise on an arbitrary lead sheet. I'll be running through fake books for that.
I got feedback from the jazz professors at the end of last semester directing me to work on idiomatic bebop phrasing (surround/target tones, arpeggios, specific licks). More generally, I need to develop my sense of where I am harmonically at all times. I still sometimes get lost even on intermediate tunes. I'll be working with some material Professor Helzer gave me to prepare for an upcoming jazz theory seminar. The material includes a variety of helpful concepts and solo analyses. I'll also have my trusty Goal Note Method on my music stand every day.
3. Prepare for career.
Joe Pass's top piece of advice to all students of guitar: "Learn tunes!" I got the message loud and clear last fall when I started lessons with Bob Boss. Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz standards, and inspired me to take up the endless quest for repertoire expansion. That's when I started my Standards to Learn spreadsheet, keeping track of which parts of which tunes I need to work on. Since then, I've come across Conrad Cork's New Guide to Harmony with LEGO Bricks, a systematic approach to memorizing tunes. I'll get through as much as I can.
For almost three years, I've been using a little program I wrote for sight reading practice. It's helped me immensely, isolating problem areas like specific ranges or tricky key signatures or complex rhythms. I've been meaning to clean it up and make it public, possibly make some money on it. It's still on the back burner while I hone my own playing abilities though.
I've been teaching a few lessons a week for the last year, and I need to expand. I'm looking for a local studio to rent for a day or two every week, then I'll promote like mad. Teaching is part of my long-term musical plan, so any experience I can get now is great.
Once the next semester starts, all of this takes a back seat to my studies, so I need to get it done now. Time to hang the old Motivational Artwork again.