To Paris and back again...

Hello, this is officially my first blog post. I've been telling myself to get writing for months and it keeps getting away from me. I vowed to myself that I would blog while I recently traveled to Paris on a grant to study with Eric Sammut. Despite the mounds of free time to myself I had while there, I found that it felt wrong to post publicly. There was a lot that I was digesting while I was on this trip and so I never felt compelled to do anything except write for myself. I filled a large journal cover to cover, and that is only for me to read :). 


It is a very big thing, for a new(ish) mother to travel alone for a month in a foreign country. I had a lot of feelings about it; some days I was on top of the world and soaking up every crusty croissant my eyes laid on, but then other days it was very painful to be away from my family. I am to happy to report though that it was more happy than it was sad. (Win) 

Being away from my 18 month old daughter was very hard, but leaving her was harder. Smelling her head at bedtime had me crying for weeks before I left. I cried the whole way to the air port and fought tears for the entire plane ride. Jet lag will also make you cry no matter what, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. When I really got there and settled in, the missing of my daughter and husband faded into the background because everything that was new was waaaaay more in the foreground. I couldn't think about missing them too much because I was too freaked out trying to figure out where to buy groceries and how to open the weird doors.  (I actually was locked in my building for awhile because the front door stumped me.) 

I think another reason I haven't gotten around to blogging about this is because it was so much to absorb. I feel like I might write an unmanageably long post if I try to sum it up. So, I guess I'll try to paraphrase as best I can....


I took 7 lessons in the 4 weeks I was there. They were all at least two hours, and were usually followed by espresso and cookies with my teacher. Eric Sammut. Where do I start to describe him? That man listens to music like he's a deaf man who just got his ears back. He also knows his way around scales, keys, and chord changes better than anyone I have ever EVER met. Despite his incredible skill, he was so incredibly humble, kind, and generous to me the whole time I was there. I will consider him a dear friend forever.

So, what did we work on exactly? I didn't go to Paris to learn about French music, and I also didn't go to "get better at marimba". I went because Eric can compose and improvise on a level that (in my opinion) no other marimbist out there can. I believe that the marimba is as versatile, adaptive, and useful as the guitar and piano and the world needs more of that! In our lessons, we talked about ways to manage chord progressions that are specific to the marimba. He threw pages and pages of chord exercises at me that totally kicked my butt and made me listen to some of his favorite chord moments by other artists. He told me about his artistic process to work through a composition idea and about the backstories to many of his popular compositions (some of which are hilarious). The majority of my time, however, was spent showing him my compositions and workshoping them together. It was very inspirational to hear him improvise over my compositions and suggest ideas. 

I now have many many pages of new compositions that I'm desperately trying to finish and turn into new tunes. I'm not sure what the end result will be, but I know that I'm really excited about and proud of what's developing. Time to work on it all has been hard (because of the fore-mentioned todder in my life) but I'm confident it will all be up and running soon.


As an attempt to recap, I thought I'd put a list together of my best moments on the trip:

1. When I was let into my apartment by the French=only-speaking housekeeper, I was handed a key and he left about 30 seconds later. I had no idea how to use anything or where I even was. (This is also about the time I got trapped in the building because no one showed me how to open the door to the street). 

2. Discovering Monmartre, my all-time favorite Parisian spot. I probably walked there 10 times in the month I was there. It was Frenchy cafes and adorable shops as far as your tired feet would carry you. Also, the top of the hill was an artist paradise... rows and rows of painters working on canvases.

3. Having Eric Sammut tell me I make good coffee. *PROUD*

4. Hearing Eric bust out into Toto's "Africa". It was amazing and perfect and I could probably sell the audio file of it. (I recorded all my lessons)

5. Trying not to cry tears of joy while I sat in Musee D'Orsay and listened to Debussy while I gazed at Monet's cathedral paintings. My French art cup overfloweth....

6. Spending two days without leaving the apartment (aside from a trip to the corner bakery) and writing a ton of music in one big wave.

7. Becoming a total pro at the subway system. 

8. The morning I got chatting with an old man in a coffee shop and it turned into 2 coffees and 30 minutes of getting to know a stranger. Jaques, you made this lonely American feel like she was home for a while.


9. The owner at Cafe Marcel, my favorite spot, recognizing me numerous times and always giving me "my table". 

10. Discovering that I have a lot to say, as a musician, and that's it's time for me to make my voice as a composer and marimbist heard. As I write this I have a twinge of doubt that I'll ever get my new compositions up and off the ground, but the majority of myself believes I will. I hope that a year from now, I have many performances of all original tunes behind me and I can think back on my trip to Paris as a starting point for myself. 

Thank you for reading - JK

(I'm not "just kidding"... those are literally my initials)