All In A Day’s Work….part 2

This is part two of a three part series about renewal of faith and the telling of an adventure that returned a lost heart. Mine. Let’s see where was I, ah yes.

The first day of school. IMDI, The Institut of Music Daya Indonesia. I walked the lengthy road heading toward the school and what I came upon was an unassuming, well kept building that looked more like a large home than a school. I wondered if anyone was there as I walked into the open and inviting lobby excited to meet the students and get started with my “first” day of teaching. Since I had been at the school briefly the night before, I was familiar with the interior and I knew that off from the lobby to the left was the indoor/outdoor campus restaurant. I found a spot and parked my laptop and backpack at the table usually reserved for “the principal”. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the school filled with sounds of pianos, singing, exotic instruments and laughter.

It’s been said that a great school is only as good as it’s curriculum, but without dedicated teachers and students willing to employ the wide-ranging tools the school has to offer, you basically end up with a building full of non-participators-of-life, bodies. A school should provide a means by which the students could open their minds and interact creatively with their environment. That comes about by having a progressive think-outside-of-the box pedagogy, focused on understanding and building the true motivation behind taking action. A forward thinking pedagogy intended to assist the development of great artists to become outstanding human being that are able to create value with their contribution to society and the world.

Throughout the day I observed the students in their daily ritual that consisted of attending classes, studying and performing. I sat in on classes watching and listening to the teachers as they dialogue’d and demonstrated various techniques. The warmth and mutual respect that transpired between the teachers and the students touched upon feelings in me that illuminated new possibilities for revelation.

Personally, I never felt that one could learn anything of real value in school, especially music and performing. So spending my two weeks teaching masters classes, ensemble work and private vocal lessons, which ran all day, one after another, seemed to me to be a frittered exercise in lecturing. I mean, after all I really wasn’t a “teacher” in the traditional sense. But after the 4th day of this hectic yet extremely gratifying schedule, a pattern soon emerged that ignited a small spark inside my head and my heart.  IMDI was one of “those” schools and it didn’t take me long to feel the energy of focused, dedicated and inspired learning.

Slowly the realization that teaching was not a one way street, but a two way street and you get back exactly what you put in. If you put in sincerity, love respect, enthusiasm and joy in what you are sharing, not just giving, but sharing, you get all back in equal measure, that sharing.



Tsunesaboro Makiguchi an educational reformer and the First President of the Soka Gakkai wrote: ” The aim of education is not to transfer knowledge; it is to guide the learning process, to equip the learner with the methods of research. It is not the piecemeal merchandizing of information; it is to enable the acquisition of the methods for learning on one’s own; it is the provision of keys to unlock the vault of knowledge. Rather than encouraging students to appropriate the intellectual treasures uncovered by others, we should enable them to undertake on their own the process of discovery and invention.”

The founder and principal of Institut Musik Daya Indonesia (IMDI) Tjut Nyak Deviana Daudsjah, a woman of many talents, created this exact type of rare and uncommon educational facility. The first independent Music Academy in Indonesia. Her acute and far-reaching vision was the foundation for this phenomenal performing arts school.  A school where the goal was not to produce graduates that have perfected formula ridden rote memorization, but instead people who entered as students but left as true artists inspired and with a perfect love for learning and thinking for themselves.

OK back to the story, enough preachin’. I interviewed Devi for the January episode of Tales From the Jazz Side podcast, where we talked about how long we had known each other. Nevertheless she was my boss for two weeks and yes she worked me like a ‘government mule’, still she was not unsympathetic of my foray into the teaching world.

For all her serious, painstaking work ethic and high expectations for her students and teachers, she never forgot to display how proud and appreciative she was of the Herculean effort made by everyone at the academy. So after about 11 days of playing concerts and teaching, she suggested that we take a couple of days to visit Borobudur. Man, I was HAPPY to get the break. We booked the flights and was off for two days.

The trip proved……
I feel Peter Nivio Zalenga quote describes it best.  “I am imagination. I can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel what the heart cannot feel.”

Pilgrimage for a Mystic in training……..

All In A Day’s Work…..part 1

This posting is about renewal of faith and the telling of an adventure that returned a lost heart. Mine. This is part one of a three part series.

“When traveling is made too easy and comfortable, its spiritual meaning is lost. This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is after all a travelling from one unknown to another unknown.”
D.T. Suzuki (1870 – 1966)

Sometimes we don’t always know that we’ve lost something. We can go about our day to day activities and deep down we know something is missing, but we can’t quite put our finger on it.

I’ve really enjoyed traveling and the loneliness that Suzuki mentioned in his quote was familiar to me. Reflected on the meaning of life, yes and even though I moved at a fevered pace, the whole of the activity itself was a liberation of my unknown self.

We had a successful run at Billboard Live in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. The guys flew back to NYC and I headed south to Jakarta, Indonesia. Hey, it was only 7-8 hours away!

When I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia the first thing that struck me when I walked outside was the moist, oppressive heat that belted through the terminal doors, giving a sharp contrast to the cool air on the inside. Within seconds the sky darkened and a torrential, tropical downpour, which lasted for 5 minutes, was followed immediately by 2 minutes of cool breezes. Oddly this was soothing to me, although the swift transition back to humidity and heat was disorienting. I waited under the awning for the appointed person from the Institut Musik Daya Indonesia to pick me up. I listened to the rain and watched the comings and goings of travelers.

I thought about who would be picking me up; would I recognize them from my last trip here? Well I didn’t have to fear that I would have trouble identifying someone from the school. A stunning, statuesque figure with a beautiful warm and friendly smile, wearing bright colors of orange and yellow, walked right up to me, introduced himself as Donny and gave me a jovial hug. He immediately apologized for the delay and said one word- TRAFFIC. Now, that would be a word that I would come to understand and develop an appreciation and sincere respect for anyone with the ability to navigate through it without incident.

It took 4 hours for us to travel from the airport to the school. Why so long you ask? TRAFFIC.

Once we arrived at the school, we stopped briefly to say hello to everyone and from there I was taken to a lovely bed and breakfast that what would be my ‘home’ for the next 2 weeks. I took this shot the next day, right before I left to go to the school, which was directly across the street. Crossing the street was a task that required skill, confidence and sheer raw nerve.


This photo demonstrated only marginally the constant danger of my journey to the school. To get an idea about how incredibly terrifying it was to cross the street, one would have to envision bumper to bumper cars, lots of mini bikes where they don’t stop, sans traffic lights and you’ve got my morning commute. I asked some of the students and faculty at the school, how does one go about crossing a street where there wasn’t a traffic light and their reply was, “you put up your hand and step into the streets, the cars will stop, the bikes may not, but the cars will, usually”. Okaaay.


Once I made it across the dangerous thoroughfare, I’d always breathe a sigh of relief. At that point, for me the rest of the day was a piece of Red Velvet Cake. The school was in a new location from the last time I visited and since I was in walking distance, I had only to cross the street and walk to the very end of a long alley. When I walked this odd narrow alleyway for the first time, impressions of exotic adventures swirled in my mind. What awaited me at the end of the road?


The school-Institut Musik Daya Indonesia on the right. The building where I worked for 2 weeks.



The campus swimming pool where I never got to swim- too busy!


My first day and my first impressions were those of excitement and unknown possibilities. To be honest, I was a little frightened because this was the first time that I was implementing a program that I’ve worked on for the past 3 years. I never had a great test environment in the United States for reasons that will remain unwritten. But anyone in the progressive, visionary department knows, that unconventional and unorthodox is something that most people are not comfortable with. People need the familiar, otherwise they don’t have a reference for their reality. That’s why when I hear people say that they are innovators, some go so far as to say that they are geniuses, I always think about a quote that one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet said. “There’s a natural progression to how good, new ideas go wrong. This progression is known as  the “three I’s.” First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don’t. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. And then come the idiots, whose avarice undoes the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich.” Although this quote is used in the context of investments, the wisdom can definitely be applied wherever there are pioneers and visionaries striving to do things that have never been done.

So far everything was beautiful, serene and peaceful at The Institut Musik Daya Indonesia (IMDI).

imdi IMDI was founded in February 2001 by Tjut Nyak Deviana Daudsjah, is the first independent Music Academy in Indonesia, which offers comprehensive International standard curriculum. Since 2004 IMDI has been an associate member of International Association Of Schools Of Jazz (IASJ) and PRASASTI GELAR SENI (Indonesian Association of Performing Arts Educators & Practitioners) since 2009. Its vision-to improve the appreciation of culture and arts through formal Performing Arts education in Indonesia. It’s mission-establishment of The Daya Indonesia Fine Arts Academy and Performing Arts Center in Jakarta for Indonesia to improve Indonesian human resources in facing globalization era in the field of Performing Arts (Music, Dance and Drama).

But there was more, much, much more……..


A “Know it All” Reprise

Another turn of the wheel,  a year older and trustingly wiser. Perhaps its the perpetual entrance of a birthday that brings a deluge of crowded memories vying for their place in the dusty archives where we store our experiences. Recently my reminiscing has circled and landed on the years that I’ve lived and played music. I meditated about when I first came to New York back in 1978 and started working with the numerous musicians who would eventually be pivotal teachers in the development of my style and perception of music.  All the performances, all the musicians.

singing-teacherNever once was there an outward indication of a student-teacher relationship. Always my lessons were dialogues. And I’ve never thought that there wasn’t anything I could learn from another musician or singer. Of course I wish that last statement was completely true, but in reality I have felt (still do on occasion)  that I know all there is to know when it comes to insight and playing music.

I’ve been gifted with two students, that have galvanized me and opened my eyes to the hidden secrets of being a teacher. Invariably I thought being a teacher was fairly a one-way process, with some occasional feedback from the less timid student of the group. I was wrong  and I ask myself,  why didn’t I see it until now, especially considering I’m a strong advocate of progressive education. I mean, I’ve read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere.

Funny thing about theory, until its applied consistently with recognizable results it’s only theory. In short, there is always something you can learn from every single person you meet. I shall limit my blog this time around to just these two students. I’ll save the “every single person” for next time.

The ultimate students. What do I mean by ultimate? They simply have the unshakable, intense hunger to learn.

They want to excel in music. They begin their lesson thinking, what can I do with this information that I’m discovering and how can I put it to the best use. They absorb, simulate and allow themselves to look for the authenticity inside themselves. They consider their lessons, apprehending that art is genuinely about finding you and not being afraid to be vulnerable and open to expressing it.

The results: Amazing Growth. I’m sharing the email sent to me a few weeks ago from these two students, the major catalysts for my new found penetration of teaching. In the email, I’m complimented as being a great teacher, but the real story I can’t take the credit. Perhaps 10 percent of it, maybe. The 90 percent, however is all theirs. They worked hard, stayed focused on doing the work diligently. Now my acumen of the terminology so often spoken by a powerful and effective teacher is longer wasted on me.

Better yet, it is my own education that has been given a vital shot in the arm. The elevation that I feel, the fueling of my appetite to learn more, to delve into the sharing of what we all know.

What better lesson to have at this time in my life than to conceive that teaching is unquestionably dialogue and that it is a two-way street. What greater victory can I have in life than to collaborate and witness the valuable success of those who truly strive toward their goals.

Much respect and admiration for Anita and Pim Samson.


Saturday, September 14, 2013:

Hi Veronica!

I just couldn’t resist writing you to tell you about yesterday Friday evening at the Jazz Club! Because after you put so much of your time and energy in me and Pim on Monday, the success was beyond my expectation! I want to thank you for that!

A picture of the performance I do not have this time, because Pim couldn’t take pictures while playing the bass all the time, but the performance really went great! Wim the sax player, who organizes the jam sessions, told me that he was very impressed because of my progress and especially about my performance of Doxy! Then he invited me to be in the official program of pro’s playing at the 2014 Summer Delft Jazz Festival with my own band! That then will be piano and vocals by me, Pim at the bass and Wim at the sax. So, we now will have to work very hard, not only on the music but we also must have a CD ready by that time, because all these bands have their own CD’s in case the audience wants to buy.

Then there was a very old lady with her husband, and they danced all evening, and after the show the lady came to me to thank me for the very pleasant evening that I gave them and telling me that she so much loved my singing and piano playing! Wow I was so very honored!

Veronica I do not know what else to say, but Thank You my Great Teacher! Without You, this would not have happened to me!


To be victorious in our life

One’s true worth as a human being is not a matter of outward appearance or title but derives rather from the breadth of one’s spirit. Everything comes down to faith and conviction. It is what is in one’s heart and the substance of one’s actions that count.

Daily Encouragement by Daisaku Ikeda