Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: Music

Learning from Jazz

by Brittany Bruner

Some people say that I’m stuck in old traditions because I love old things. I love elderly people; vintage clothing; classic movie stars like Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn; and old jazz music.

I especially love old jazz music. It has the ability to set so many moods, and the rhythms and sounds are just cool. I grew up listening to jazz, and one of my fondest memories as a child is when my dad would drop his voice, add some grovel, and do his best imitation of Louis Armstrong. Nothing gets better than Louis Armstrong.

Last week, BYU had an awesome opportunity for students to hear from some well-respected jazz artists, Loren Schoenberg and Jonathan Batiste. These two incredible artists were visiting from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to participate in a lecture titled “Jazz and the Art of Civic Life,” put on by the new Humanities Center. One of the goals of the Center is to present interdisciplinary lectures. Thus, the presentation would be an “informance” meaning that there would be jazz playing and lecturing.Jazz photo

Since I am an English major, firm lover of intellectual lectures, and avid fan of jazz music, this event was perfect for me. I made sure to attend, and I was not disappointed. The music was incredible, and the lecture was informative.

These are some of the things that I learned about jazz music and how it can affect civic life.

Teamwork in Communities

In order for a community to function well, every member must work as a team. For example, Schoenberg and Batiste needed some other jazz artists to play with them to complete a full rhythm section and enrich the music. A student from BYU’s jazz band Synthesis played the bass, and a high school student getting ready to apply to Juilliard played the drums. Schoenberg and Batiste  invited another student they had met an hour earlier to play the piano with them when they found out he was trained in jazz piano. Schoenberg played the saxophone and Batiste played the melodica, which is like a harmonica with a keyboard. Someone would start playing something, and then all of the members of the band would join in.

It was complete improvisation, like all great jazz, and it sounded beautiful. And when someone made a mistake or there was a shift in mood or key, the others worked with mistake to create a new sound or rhythm.  That’s when the magic happened.

Batiste described mistakes in jazz as opportunities because the mistakes led the band to new and exciting territory. The people in the band needed to have done their outside work in order to play with the band, but when they came together they worked as a team and invited the audience into their world of jazz.

Individuality and Leadership in Communities

Good leaders do not seek to be the shining star in every situation. They allow their individuality to shine with the rest of the group. In jazz, if one of the members decides to play louder than the others or at a different tempo, it messes up the whole piece. Rather than shining individually, the person ruins the music.

Good leaders also know when to take the lead and when to back off. Every member in the jazz ensemble knew when to take the lead and the others followed. Some would think this would thwart individuality. However, each part could still be heard, and each part was impressive because it was distinct, but still blended well with the group.

This is a good life application. Shining as an individual does not mean that one has to beat everyone else or be better than everyone else. It means knowing when to shine alone, when to shine with other people, and when to let others shine. In good jazz, nobody demands the spotlight, and that’s why the music is so great. Everyone has the opportunity to be a great musician, and the music is amplified when they come together. When these musicians worked together, they produced a great show.

Jonathan Batiste is scheduled to perform with his band at BYU in October, so keep a look out for him. This is a concert you won’t want to miss.

For more information on the two artists and on the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, check out the following links:

Now go listen to some jazz!

Come Listen to the Story: The Idea Started as a Simple Melody

by Joshua Cox

Music has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Growing up in the Cox family felt like a constant musical stage. No matter the time of day, there was almost always somebody singing or practicing an instrument in the home. As a family, we performed songs and dances. It wasn’t the easiest bringing everyone together, especially as the older siblings got into high school and all of the extracurricular activities and friends that come with it. My mother was the key element in making music happen in our family. As our family grew closer together through our experiences, music itself was an instrument we used to serve others in our community. As a result, our lives have been enriched and we have something familiar to come back to when we gather.

As for me, piano lessons were endured, but the fruits of practice were always enjoyed. Before piano lessons, I enjoyed making my own masterpieces at the keyboard – the kind only I could understand. Recently I tried to pick up where I left off several years ago composing music.

My family was on a vacation in Hawaii when I began this song. We were staying in a beach house, and I found a keyboard in the garage. In a rush of creativity, I began to pick out a melody on the keys. It wasn’t long before I had the first verse written out in my mind. Christmas was on my mind at the time, hence the Christ-centered theme of the song. I wanted to tell the story of a mother and father telling the story of Jesus’ birth to their children. This was something familiar to me. While music was an integral part of my family life, the very foundation of our family was based in our faith. Everything good in my family has stemmed from the religion we know to be true.

Last New Year’s Eve was the first trial run of this song. My family stood around the piano to sing, and even my mom sang a part. My hope is that this will be a meaningful addition to the longstanding tradition of music and faith in my family.

A great deal of gratitude is felt for the help of good friends and my sister. The music can be heard at