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Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Perspective: Pawing Out Melodies

Paula Garrett

Something I never imagined doing is happening. After four years of piano lessons with my outstanding teacher, I’ve started writing music. I’m not talking concertos or even full songs, but a few solos for the jazz pieces I’ve been working on. Solos that a jazz musician would improvise on the spot.

Improvisation is elusive to me. I’m starting to understand a bit about interrelated scales, chord progressions and varying melodies, and I consciously apply that theory to my compositions. It’s more like figuring out a math equation though, not improv - like Monk or Bill Evans or even my friend Missy, who cannot read music but pulls out my piano bench and starts playing melodic interludes. So far that’s happened once for me.

One of the things I missed most during the COVID shutdown was going to hear live music. And not just to listen but to observe the musicians and the synergy between them and their instruments and their band mates. The head nods and smiles they share as they play off each other, and like Bob Weir said of his partner Jerry Garcia, “finish each other’s sentences.”

When I sit down at my piano, I’ve decided not to call it practice, but playing. Usually it’s just for myself and maybe my cat if she hasn’t escaped to the basement. Actually, some days she jumps up beside me and paws out some melodies of her own.

I’m Paula Garrett and that’s my Perspective.