Dennis Gonzalez Interview by Peter Amalietti from "Mojstri ob Kaminu", Part II

-A.: This is the third time that you’ve led a music workshop here in Ljubljana, and you're no longer a stranger. As an impartial observer of our Slovenian jazz scene, what are your impressions of the current situation?

-G.:  The Ljubljana jazz scene is really strong, but I think people here do not realize how many good musicians live here.  The scene would be even stronger if the musicians were united.  I understand your scene well because I've found myself caught at the heart of its politics. I find that the musicians, organizers, journalists and all others who have something one way or another to do with jazz scene are split and fragmented, rather than joined together as a single unit. So it’s time to say:  “OK, we’ve put together this Slovenian jazz scene. It doesn’t matter anymore who started this rift.  What’s more important now is to come together, to sit down together and say that we are done with these divisions!  Now we prefer to focus on the one thing that is really important - the music scene.  We have a lot of great musicians.”   In every jazz scene there is a similar problem to what you have here:  renowned musicians who know how to play, and have huge egos and attempt to lord it over younger musicians by telling them that they really don’t know how to play. Such infighting needs to stop as soon as possible. These musicians should all get together and get things moving again by saying, "Let's forget these problems and go play!”  They should start dealing with the spirit of the music, not the spirit of the politics. Young musicians need to hear a lot of encouraging words: ‘'Yes, of course you can play!”  Older players should think like this:  “I know how to play, and there is plenty of space for the younger players.” I must say that Slovenia has some truly great musicians. In the past week’s workshop I’ve heard some extraordinary and amazingly good musicians soloing.

-A.: Do you have any comments about this year's workshop and how it was organized?

-G.:  First of all, I would love to lead tons of workshops here in the future, for years to come.  This is very important to me. Every time I come here I learn something new. In Dallas I’m always learning something new, and then I come here and, for me, it's a kind of cultural exchange. As for the workshops, the very first one I led in Ljubljana was extremely important to my development.  This year, however, the musicians did not seem able to decide to participate seriously.  In order for the workshop to work well, it is essential that the participants choose to come and work daily, to say, “It’s a great music workshop, I think I’ll come every day!”  The musicians were not completely conscientious. There was a lot of hesitation and erratic attendance, and so the music fell short after just three days. On the other hand, I think the music workshops I led the previous two years were a wonderful success-A.: Has anyone translated any of the accolades that have appeared in the newspapers about the Workshop Orchestra’s Saturday performance?

-G.: No, I didn’t know that there were good reviews.  It’s very important for me to know that this is the case. I usually try to read what the critics write, especially when I can learn something from what they say.  Even if I listen to bad music, I can learn a lot, and the same goes for reading reviews in which the critic does not like my music.  For this project especially it could be very beneficial to have been well received by the critics, so that the participants can be satisfied and can say, 'Well, we’ve had great rules of engagement.  The newspapers praised us.”  And now, these writers should tell the community at large, “OK, guys, it’s time to come up with some real money so that the workshop can go for two months, and within that time you can prepare a program to perform.”  This could be a very fine gift for our workshop and our musicians.

-A.:  Do you think that the workshop would have been even more successful if it had lasted more than a week?

-G.: Well, one week could be enough. But musicians need to arrive on time in order for it to work. That was the main problem. They were not even arriving by 10:15 (Editor’s note: rehearsals were officially scheduled at 10:00).  This may seem trivial, but it can have terrible consequences. If all participants get to rehearsal on time, ready to go and warmed up, especially the last two days before the performance, the results can be extraordinary.

-A.: Is there anything you would add at the end of this conversation?

-G.: The people of Ljubljana have accepted me as one of their own. I’ve not asked for anything special, so what touches me  is when people stop me on the street and greet me and say a word or two. And I have really great friends here. This is much needed, because I am very far from home.  Ljubljana is ¼ of the world away from where I live, and the world is really big, so it's a huge distance.  And since I have no family here, I am overjoyed that the people here have opened up their hearts to me.

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