I did it! (Again!)
Last Sunday was the free Intro to Musical Improv class offered by the Magnet Theater, and it was... pretty easy! And all because of teacher Tara Copeland and accompanist extraordinaire Frank Spitznagel, as well as the incredibly supportive class.
To be honest, I was nervous going in. It's not often that I take classes anymore, and I always feel like I've gotta prove my "veteran" status to the other students. Maybe everyone feels that way, I dunno. But it was a heck of a lot easier to have a handful of friends and teammates in there (plus it's always exciting to see Ari and Betsy rap), and the environment was blessedly free from any critical eyes.
Luckily, there wasn't much actual improvising, so I felt better - and yes, I'm aware it seems weird for an improviser to be relieved he wouldn't have to do any actual improvising in a Musical Improv class.
Since it was an introductory class, Tara ran a lot of warm-ups and simple musical exercises. To analogize this to my katana class from January, we were just learning how to hold the sword and swing it properly, not how to kill in one slice. You know, the basics. And since I've run a number of these exercises before, it was even less stressful. Also, it's hard to be nervous with Tara around, as she is one of the most incredibly supportive teachers I've ever had (also in that category: Ari).
Throw in the fact that Frank underscored all of the exercises with his epic level piano playing and it threw everything into a whole new dimension. Seriously, with him on the keys, even a simple game like Hot Spot felt performance-worthy.
About halfway through, I became delightedly aware that we were being trained somehow. And this sounds like a redundantly thing to realize while in a classroom, but it was pretty exciting to me. Tara explicitly taught us to not be ashamed of our singing or our lyrics, to never apologize, to love what we sing and to have fun. And those are all lessons I never tire of hearing. It's like walking past those guardians in The NeverEnding Story - you won't fail unless you let yourself fail. But if you live it, love it, sing it... you'll get whatever it is beyond those guardians.
And implicitly, we were learning to trust the piano, to realize the accompanist had our back and would only make things better, not make them harder. Maybe this li'l lesson delighted me so because that's something I've always worried about. As stated before, chord progression and crap like that is alien to me, and God knows I never want to be the performer who's singing off-key. Now I know that such a thing won't happen, the accompanist can handle it. Whew!
Our final exercise was, actually, improvising a song. Four people to a group, one person would come up with the chorus, two would each do a verse, and one would make up the bridge. I would've been happy doing any of those, but I got the bridge, which was probably the best choice, because I wasn't sure what one was until Tara explained it for us. And we sang a silly song about air pollution, and it was pretty great, and I loved it.