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LJS 43: Why We Play Jazz

Welcome to episode 43 of the LJS Podcast where today we are asking the question: why do we play jazz? It’s the start of the year 2017, and it’s always good to center ourselves and remind ourselves why we play the music we do. Podcast host Brent Vaartstra tells the story of his jazz journey.¬†Listen in!

Listen to episode 43

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In this episode

  1. Brent’s jazz journey story.
  2. Why Brent plays jazz.
  3. Brent’s 2017 Jazz New Year’s Resolutions.

Listen to episode 42: How to Keep Your Jazz New Year’s Resolutions

Mentioned in the show

30 Days to Better Jazz Playing eCourse

A 30-day audio eCourse that walks you through focused, goal-oriented practicing, where you will be working on things that actually improve your jazz playing.


Why do you play jazz? Leave us a comment below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Hi Brent your story, funny enough, was similar to mine.
    My parents didn't really listen to jazz outside of the odd Frank Sinatra album. I was the only musician in my family and started out on the violin playing classical music at six. I did listen to a lot of different styles of music and loved bands like Tool and Led Zepplin. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I started to listen to Miles Davis and Coltrane, and really get into jazz music. I play multiple instruments and it jazz that inspire me to play trumpet; I loved the variety of tones it could create and how Davis played more tenderly rather than with the typical force and power it's known for. Most of my jazz education has been self motivated and haven't found a mentor to guide me, so I let the music teach me. This sight is my main learning source and it's worth 100x it's weight in gold; I can't thank you guys enough. I currently play with jam groups and at open mic nights while continuing to push further to the next level of my playing. I hope to be a professional musician in some fashion, but I'm okay with being a hobbiest if it doesn't come to fruition and love being a part of an amazing art form.

  2. Hi Brent, thanks for one more excellent podcast.

    I grew up in Chile where Jazz was not so prominent those years, but my mom loved American music from the 50's and 60's and The Beatles… unusual to my family and circle. There was a lot of music in my extended family with at least two uncles that played the guitar amazingly well, Boleros, Peruvian Waltzes and South American folk music, with quite a bit of improv and fill-ins; since I can remember I would listen to them mesmerized. My mom got me my first guitar at 8 and learned tunes pretty quickly by ear and the help of friends and family, but never took formal lessons until college where I took a semester of classic guitar where I learned to read music and improved technically.

    After I graduated I decided one day that I want to play the piano and jazz, almost out of the blue, I liked the music, specially pleasant and melodic jazz, mostly piano; I joined an academy in Santiago (ProJazz) for about two years. In 1994 I moved to the US with my wife and 3 kids and continued with private piano lessons but did not applied my self to the required practice. In 2000 I decided to go back to the guitar, which I thought was technically easier for me and started a guitar Jazz journey, first with private lessons and then on my own. In 2013/14 I took 4 classes at Berklee Online. I really love jazz and the challenge it brings.

    I have a ton of theory but do not play, I know this is true for many, so I am not discouraged, but I think that to really play, I need to well… play; which is not as easy for me. I joined my Church's Worship band, which is not jazz of course but I least a band environment and playing with others, which I think has help my time and listening skills, and given purpose to playing.

    I strongly believe that to continue I need private lessons. I am in a job transition now, but I hope to be able to do it in a couple of months, and I am looking forward to contact you and give it a shot.

    I like your approach to practice, I got your 15 etudes, etc. Hope to meet you soon.

    Keep this going and Happy New Year

    Carlos Figueroa

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thanks for sharing your story! My younger brother studied abroad in Santiago, and loved it there. Glad you are getting some playing time in at your church. Any band experience is always good! Best of luck in 2017!

  3. Hello Brent, Thank you for another excellent podcast. Food for thought here about our motivation to work at this music. My story is quite different to yours, when I was 33 my wife asked me why I had never taken up an instrument and I replied that i had always wanted to play the saxophone as a child but my parents didn't want me to. She rented me an alto sax which was the best present anyone has ever given me as it changed my life. I was lucky enough to meet a great teacher and for 5 years or so i went every week for a lesson. We were running a business together and have been bringing up our children but always finding time to practice and gig as well. Fast forward to 2012 when we sold our business and I have been able to spend more time on my musical journey which is pretty exciting and has included travel to US where I have studied with people like Gerry Coker, David Baker, Rufus Reid and Eric Alexander played at Smoke,Smalls and Fat Cats in NYC in various jam sessions and gig regularly in Scotland and Europe. I can honestly say my life has been hugely enriched by jazz and I have met some of the most interesting and best friends through the music. Why do I play? There are so many reasons and none not to. All the best for 2017, keep up the good work for the community.


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