By Melanie Lee
Author, “A Year In Sedona~Meeting The Muse At Wisdom’s Edge”
(September 10, 2018)
Like most everybody else in these crazy, wacky times we live in, I periodically find myself in pieces. Then I set out to find ways to collect myself into wholeness again. When I feel I’m not all ‘here,’ I remember the old joke about being not all ‘there.’ Times like these call for serious soul medicine and my go to Rx includes a deep, transcendental experience of meeting the muse via a good jazz concert. Happily, not long after arriving in Sedona, I discovered Jazz At The Church, a monthly concert once a month on a Sunday afternoon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. (www.episcopalnet.org).
My husband Louis and I became regulars at the monthly event because, as services at church go, this one has a special kind of inspiration. I laughed out loud when the presiding priest David McMannes, a jazz musician himself, joked that “on the eighth day God created jazz.” I happen to think that’s true and I’ve found great comfort and joy at this little church in Sedona with its afternoon service devoted to the true language of the soul, music. It’s enormously comforting to be with a family of kindred spirits gathered together on that higher plane where the angels sing and the devils don’t dare come round. Through music, the universal language of healing, it’s much easier to find the way back to a deep and abiding place within where wholeness resides.
One of our first concerts at the church happened on Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, when flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny and his group were featured (www.dmitrimatheny.com). The church was full to overflowing, maybe 75 people crammed into the spare little sanctuary, which has hard benches but sterling acoustics. The crowd warmed up immediately to Dmitiri as he shared his tiny performance space near the altar with bassist Ted ‘T-Bone’ Sistrunk, and piano/vocals man, Steve Sandner. They were at ease as a trio and at home with the music, and we all could feel it. At concert’s end, Dmitri made his way through the crowd, greeting appreciative listeners, posing for photos, and revealing himself to be a genuine sweetheart, the perfect choice for a Valentine’s Day jazz concert with musical standards from the Great American Songbook.
I liked this gentle man and when I spoke to him after the concert, told him I enjoyed his music immensely (even though until that concert, I’m not sure I even knew what a flugelhorn was). Possessed of a remarkable degree of talent, Dmitiri had worked hard to give us a rousing good time, during and after the show. Of course he was charming and friendly, but beyond that he had a certain steely authenticity that so often the really good jazz musicians have. His soft ‘hello’ was heartfelt, offered generously as he gazed deeply and directly into my eyes, letting me know without any doubt just how much he valued my appreciation of his music. It made me glad to have met and toasted a fine musician like this, maybe something I might not have been able to do before embarking on the road to wisdom’s edge.
I wasn’t always in love with jazz-as-muse, it’s something that happened only after I’d lived long enough to learn and appreciate the truth of what it means to improvise, surrender, flow, and let go. Only then could I succumb to the sublime audible representations of those actual life experiences.
So what to make of all this meandering and musing about jazz-as-muse, jazz-as-healer? Conventional wisdom says that if you have to ask what jazz means, you’ll never know. But I think there’s a little wiggle room here for further conversation. I like what a prominent musicologist once said about the meaning of jazz, (which if I may say so, also applies to meeting the muse at wisdom’s edge):
Jazz is a language, sometimes intimate, often boisterous, but always layered with experience and life profoundly lived. It is in the act of creating the form itself, that we truly find Jazz. (Jazz etymology).
I’m grateful we found jazz at the church, reminding me yet again of the old saying that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” We’ve been lucky here in Sedona, we found a place to commune with the music, the musicians, and fellow music aficionados whose spirits understood and were made whole by the seductive charms and spells of jazz.
And thus endeth the lesson for today.
Melanie Lee is an award-winning writer, editor, artist and author. Growing up in Texas, she read mostly biography and autobiography and dreamed of being a writer who could help inspire others to meet their muse by honoring beauty in everyday life. She holds degrees in languages and journalism and was a features editor and columnist, writing everything from lifestyle stories and business news to profiles of entrepreneurs, artists and inventors engaged in the creative pursuit of right livelihood. She lived for ten years in Northern New Mexico where she was creator and director of Sojourns Writing Workshops of Santa Fe.
At the second half of life she moved to Sedona with her husband Louis Michalski. She met her muse anew, took up painting, became a yoga teacher and avid hiker and wrote “A Year in Sedona~Meeting the Muse at Wisdom’s Edge“, available on Amazon.com or from the author. She can be contacted at
P.O. Box 1419 Sedona, AZ 86339 or email@example.com