This week, I received the opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited to sing with Bobby McFerrin.
For those of you who are unaware of who Bobby is, do a quick google search. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He’s a phenomenal musician, a huge name in the jazz world, famous for his improvisational technique, and basically just a wonderful human being.
I lovingly refer to Bobby as “the Oprah of the music world.”
Confession time: before Bobby’s week-long residency in our college of music, I wasn’t really aware of who he was. Of course, I’d heard the name. I’d heard his music. I’d performed some of it, actually.
What I didn’t know was what a character he is, what a presence he has, and what inspiration he brings to everyone he meets. Speak with any vocal jazz major at UNT right now, and they will tell you that Bobby McFerrin has basically changed their lives.
Through hours of “rehearsing” (which, with Bobby, means improvising in a group setting), watching, and participating in Bobby’s music, we were exposed to the beauty of his imagination. His endless creativity and infinite inspiration surprised and excited all of us.
With Bobby, we all learned what it truly means to “play for a living.”
Bobby doesn’t perform. He plays.
I can’t recall the last time I laughed and smiled so much at one time, as I did during our final concert with him in the Murchison on UNT campus.
We all watched with delight as Bobby shared his music not only with us, and not only with the One O’Clock lab band, but also with the audience. With individuals, and, in a surprising turn of events, with everyone. Every person in that concert hall got to experience what we experienced this entire week. And, instead of feeling jealous or disappointed that we didn’t get to “participate more” in a solo way during the concert, we all felt so HAPPY about that! We were so joyful to share in this experience with everyone present.
That’s what music is truly all about, isn’t it? Communicating. Sharing emotions.
During that performance, the self-conscious barrier between performer and audience was broken. It was a joyful and surprising and hilarious demolition.
My heart felt so light, walking out of the doors into the cold wind of that Texas winter night.
These experiences with Bobby have really emphasized to me that right now, jazz is what my soul needs. I feel so free in the act of doing new things, with new friends, and with new expectations. New sounds in my ears and a completely different emotional atmosphere are doing wonders for my self.
I needed to laugh with Bobby. I needed to experience how music can (and should) be fun– and how that joy does absolutely NOTHING to diminish the quality of performance. I needed to learn through experience that performing does not require you to be uptight, serious, and anxious.
In my opinion, Bobby McFerrin is fulfilling the supreme calling on a musician’s life: to bring joy to every soul who hears him.
I am so thankful to realize this purpose once again.
I am so thankful that through doing new things, I was granted the opportunity of a lifetime.
I am so thankful that, once again, everything seems to fall into place beautifully before my very eyes.
Thank you, Bobby. For everything.