I believe that life should be played like a jazz ensemble
I grew up listening to jazz. From the time I was little, my mother had introduced me to the harmonic dissonance and resolved chords of old standards and new favorites. In high school I sang in the school jazz choir, gaining an understanding and true appreciation for the uniqueness of a jazz ensemble. Jazz is unlike any other musical genre. It incorporates multiple instruments, including the voice, each on its own part into an intertwining magical web of melodies and harmonies crashing together in dissonance followed by resolutions that create chaos and order all at the same time.
From the time I was young, my favorite part of the uniqueness of listening to any jazz ensemble has always been getting to applaud while the music was still playing. I still marvel at this exceptional quality of a jazz performance, but not for the opportunity to do something which in any other performance would be seen as rude, but for what the applause represents. While any ensemble is defined by the reliance of each instrument upon the others, performing together and united rather than as soloists, what makes jazz so unique is how individual each instrument can be and yet still play as a united group. The complex musicality features individuals who understand a basic progression, yet enhance it based on their own unique value and technique. The practice of then showcasing individuals, we recognize by applause. Yet while an individual is spontaneously scatting away on a joyous escape from the realities of the standard chord progression the ensemble continues to support them, quieter and in the background but still strong and steady.
It is from these unique qualities of a jazz ensemble that I believe we can be inspired to build community in our own lives.
We are constantly surrounded by relationships, of family, of friends, at church, or work, or school. Community is one entity that is made up of multiple individuals who each bring something different and unique to the group. Yet no matter how different, members of a community all have something in common; relationship with each other. Yet while these relationships can make the most beautifully intricate intertwining melodies and harmonies of shared life experiences, the differences can also clash and cause dissonance within the community. Yet just as the beauty of a resolving chord in a dissonant phrase, resolution within community can be exemplified and even enhanced by the dissonance which preceded it.
And while community is built on ideals of unity and togetherness, a truly strong community is not afraid to recognize the individual, allowing each the opportunity to shine on their own, to take risks of spontaneity all with the assurance that their community is behind them in support, quiet yet steady.
I believe that throughout life we should strive for healthy community, for we were created as communal beings. Yet I believe that most of the hurt and pain in this world is created by ineffectual community, community that is either an ensemble of soloists fighting to be heard over the others or a community so in tune, five voices monotonously sound only as one.
But I also believe we can be inspired by the interaction of musicians in a jazz ensemble. We can gain insight from their unique ability to compose one beautiful masterpiece out of differentiated individual harmonies, encouraging each individual on their own journey and adventures, while still strongly supporting them from behind and welcoming them back, allowing another the opportunity to shine.
And that’s why I believe life should be played like a jazz ensemble.
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