The month of July proved a busy month for me musically including an extraordinary trip back to the San Francisco Bay area. I returned to my previous home to be a special guest performer for the concert debut of gifted singer, Janeare Ashley. The invitation alone gave me a special sense of value, but the overall experience sent me back to Raleigh filled to the brim with appreciation and love for a community that believes in my dream.
Though I enjoyed spending time with friends when I lived in Oakland whether at a rehearsal or filling our faces at a local burger spot, I failed to grasp the reality of the community I belonged to. I’ll admit I was preoccupied with my own issues that sometimes blinded me from seeing the level of support staring me right in my face. There were numerous times I felt alone and isolated despite the countless invitations to take advantage of the plentiful splendors the Bay area had to offer. I also came to a point of questioning my place musically and if I was truly making any headway with my career. My trip in July reminded me that there is nothing like being removed from a situation/environment to return at a later point with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit to change one’s perspective.
My revelation started from the moment Janeare picked me up from the Oakland airport with her generous heart and continued later that night as I practiced with the musicians for the gig. As I looked around during the rehearsal I saw familiar faces of individuals who I not only considered friends, but who I respected as talented musicians who consistently provided me with a creative space to feel free. I remember taking a brief moment to thank God during that rehearsal and dove head first back into the music.
During my few days in the Bay area I reconnected with friends over several delicious meals and heart-felt laughter. I was privileged enough to steal away a few moments with an elder at the Jazzschool whose invaluable wisdom always leaves me feeling enlightened. I also conducted an extremely encouraging songwriting session with a supremely gifted musician/composer who I am fortunate enough to call a friend who is lending his talents to help me craft beautiful music for my next album, “Colors of Life.” My trip concluded with one of the best concert experiences of my life. I was in good voice, the band was killing, and the audience shined with overwhelming support and positive energy. I left the stage feeling as if I had won the lottery based on all the love surrounding me.
As I sat in the airport the following day waiting on my flight and replaying my trip in my head, I reached my epiphany. I did it! I succeeded in building a lifelong community while living in the Bay area which included friends and my music family. This was not just any group of people. This was MY community which nurtured me and provided me with personal and creative safe spaces that allowed me to be me. Having this level of support is priceless to an independent jazz artist like me working daily to define my individual voice and be heard by the world. I am forever changed and grateful for being blessed with this realization. I can’t wait for my next visit to the Bay area.