An adjudicator at the recent Eau Claire Jazz Festival summed up possibly the most important element in creating and performing the arts in almost any form.
Lauren Sevian was part of a three-person panel observing college bands April 26 in Davies Center, and she echoed her colleagues’ praise of a quintet’s impressive performance.
Sevian and her fellow evaluators each offered tips on how this group, from North Central University in Minneapolis, could reach an even higher level of accomplishment. They delivered all their comments, pluses and minuses, with a combination of expertise, respect and encouragement.
During her critique Sevian shared a previously expressed viewpoint: that the group came off as ebullient onstage. As she said to a guitarist who seemed especially effusive: “Always keep the joy.”
To judge by the handful of festival events I attended that Friday afternoon, it’s clear many of the festival attendees embrace a similar philosophy. It was evident from the adjudicators; any number of the young performers as they hustled through the halls of Davies Center to get to one of their performances or rehearsals; and guest artists the New York Voices and saxophonist-singer Grace Kelly during their respective clinics.
Kelly, for example, explained being moved to do her own interpretation of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.”
“I decided to Grace-ify it,” she said — and no doubt joy figures prominently into that formula.
But that emotion seems to pour out of so many of the talented creators I’ve had the privilege of talking to or seeing in action during the past few months. Here are some examples from articles that have appeared in the Leader-Telegram:
• Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra music director Nobuyoshi Yasuda and Chippewa Valley Festival Chorus director Jerry Hui talked about how important it was to ensure the musicians are having fun as they prepare for a concert on Saturday that will include “Carmina Burana.”
Yasuda said: “We want to have many, many people participate in this wonderful project, but we want them to enjoy it.”
Hui echoed similar sentiments: “Life is short. Why not make music and have fun at the same time?”
• Jacob Hilton, a cast member of UW-Eau Claire’s music and theater arts department’s just-completed production of “Don Giovanni,” expressed his amazement at the music of Mozart: “I feel like every rehearsal I look at (a fellow performer), and I’m like, ‘Did you just hear that?’” To judge by the Thursday night performance of the opera, which received a well-deserved standing ovation, a similar feeling of, yes, joy also took hold beyond the stage.
• Before acclaimed saxophonist Kenni Holmen came to Menomonie to work with high school jazz musicians, culminating in an April 8 concert at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, he shared what he tells students: “Usually the last thing I like to leave with students is to make sure you choose a path or career that gives you joy.”
We in the Chippewa Valley are fortunate that our cultural riches, which have come to be known in some contexts as “the creative economy,” have tangible financial payoffs for our region.
But the power of joy that’s shared from the artists to their audiences, uplifting spirits and bringing a welcome respite from life’s grim realities and frustrations — is worth more than gold.