Aspiring to be a ‘jazzy’ grandpa
My talents as a grandfather were severely tested last month when my 17-year old grandson, Ian McCance, visited me for two weeks. The primary reason for his visit was a week spent at Jazz Camp at Duquesne. Unlike me, Ian is a very competent musician, playing trumpet in his high school’s band and jazz band. He had a good experience at camp at Duquesne last year and was happy to have the opportunity to return this year.
The biggest advantage of Jazz Camp is the fact that I was able to attend an hour-long jazz concert every day. The camp faculty performed at the end of the day for the first three days, demonstrating different concepts each day. Thursday afternoon the campers performed a concert in small groups, with each student coming up with his/her improvised solo. Friday they played as a large (24 piece) orchestra. I continue to be amazed at the accomplishments of young people today, especially as compared to what I recall from my youth days.
Ian will be a high school senior this year and is beginning to get serious about college next year. We described our campus visit to Penn State in an earlier column; it was followed by one at Pitt a week later.
At this point he is contemplating majoring in history. To gain some experience in that area, he spent his other week here as a pro-bono intern for the Bridgeville Area Historical Society. We want to transform the mass of information developed in our series of workshops on George Washington in Western Pennsylvania into something accessible to the general public.
A possible candidate is a collection of short narrated video presentations, one for each of Washington’s seven visits here. Ian’s project is to produce this series of five or six minute videos; his progress to date has been impressive. The prototype is a video dedicated to the Fort Necessity campaign. In support of it, we visited Jumonville Glen, Fort Necessity and Braddock’s Grave.
I am pleased with the tangible product of Ian’s efforts, something that is of value to the society. I am much more pleased with the knowledge that he does indeed understand the subject matter and its significance. History may indeed be the appropriate niche for him.
Theater arts is another subject that Ian enjoys and at which he excels. This provided me with an excuse to watch a few movies with him while he was here. We started out with “The Benny Goodman Story,” an appropriate supplement to Jazz Camp. Then three classic Westerns – “High Noon,” “Lonely Are the Brave,” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” justified as examples of superb film-making.
We also watched the baseball fantasy movie “The Natural” as a complement to going to a Pirate game. The game we saw was close to being a fantasy; the Pirates beat San Diego 11-10 in 11 innings, incorporating three different comeback rallies en route to the victory
I am still not certain how a grandfather is expected to behave; both of my grandfathers had died before I was born. I suspect I attempt to overcompensate for this by being overly permissive. At any rate, I enjoyed his visit immensely and hope it was equally enjoyable for him.