I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to a fabulous jazz camp held in Wisconsin’s north woods. Professional and amateur adult musicians gather to listen and learn how to make great improvisational music. The lessons I learn at jazz camp apply not only to music, but to ministry, or any teamwork and creative collaboration we are called to that requires constant alertness to changing circumstances. Here’s my top ten list:
Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Jazz Camp
- When you are the leader, lead! Others are depending on you to know when to start, how fast to go, and when to finish.
- Give everyone a chance to solo; each one gets their turn to shine.
- Tell others what you need to do the job you’ve been given.
- Learn the boundaries of your chord structure (role/rules, etc.) and be as creative as possible within those boundaries.
- Take enough risk to make mistakes. You might do something great, and if you mess up, there will be ample time later to do it better.
- Repetition of phrases helps the listener understand the (musical) message.
- Allow for silence; it helps the listener appreciate the sound.
- Don’t just make music, respond to the music others are making.
- Express your true story when you play. Chances are, others will be able to relate to it.
- If something good happens by accident (or because the Spirit came over you), don’t resist it–ride that wave!
Wherever you and your church are in the swirling world of change right now, some of these lessons about improvisation may apply. How can you “sing to the Lord a new song” in a new time?