2016 in review… I don’t know what is next but I’m thankful for this moment. I’m happy I can still breathe and dream. I’m happy I can still say I love you. I’m happy I am alive.
As I age, the circle of life takes on greater meaning. I’ve watched people close to me celebrate major victories and others suffer great loss.
For the past few years, one of my sisters experienced a difficult time. Recently, she has been on a steady upswing. I’m thankful that she is flourishing.
At the beginning of the year, the Reginald Cyntje Group debuted nine new compositions under the heading “Moods and Colors” at Bohemian Caverns. Sadly, the Caverns closed a few months later.
I wrote in a previous piece that “I remember watching my first sunset and being amazed at the colors in the sky. Growing up, the vibrancy of life excited me. The Rastafarian colors, the carnival colors and the shades of skin tones painted a story. The message was far deeper than words could express. The colors around me captured emotions.” Moods and Colors was a hit with listeners. At concerts, I would announce the name of a song and the audience loved using their imagination to create a personal meaning while listening.
The year was also filled with exciting gigs. I shared the bandstand master musicians, most notably Johnny O’Neal, Jason Moran, Cyrus Chestnut and Benny Golson, with whom I performed “Killer Joe” at the DC Jazz Festival.
In addition to fabulous gigs as a sideman, my band traveled to the USVI to perform as part of Jazz in the Park. On the trip, I had the opportunity to share the inspiration behind most of my songs with my band. For most of the band, this was their first trip to the USVI. They saw the beaches, met the people and ate the food. At the concert, the beauty of the USVI came out in the music. We had record attendance plus we sold numerous CDs. It was amazing performing for family, friends and the community. Former students, mentors, and teachers were in the audience feeding the band positive energy. The music filled the park and our collective spirits.
I also saw my kids enter new schools. I love celebrating their accomplishments. This summer, I taught my sons and nephews about jazz. They were a part of Jegna School of Music’s first summer program. At the end of the program, they performed with the Jegna student ensemble at Twins Jazz and tackled tunes like Blue Monk, St. Thomas and All Blues. I was extremely proud of them. They went from not understanding how to improvise to shaping ideas into coherent spontaneous compositions.
I spent the summer juggling the hats of teacher, performer, and manager. After teaching at Jegna, I took my band on a short mini-tour. When I was in the Army Band, I worked in operations. I fine-tuned the skills that I learned in organizing a small multi-city tour. Fortunately, we had sold out audiences in different cities (DC, Baltimore, Richmond, Martinsville, and Durham). The tour was challenging and rewarding. In the end, I was left with a feeling of gratitude for the people who supported us.
In the fall, I began teaching at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC). I spent Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Montgomery College where I have been teaching History of American Popular Music, History of Jazz, and applied lessons for several years. Tuesdays and Thursdays I taught Intro to Music Technology and applied music at PGCC. I met brilliant minds at both schools.
With a busy performing and teaching schedule, time management became an increased necessity. Now that the semester is over, I’m finally beginning to grasp the full scope of my days which started at 7am and ended late at night. I am truly thankful to be busy with teaching and performing music. It beats the alternative. I’ve experienced long days working odd jobs in the past, and I am grateful to now have the opportunity to work at what I love to do.
Some of the plans I made for 2016 were altered. I initially planned to record my fifth album this year. After reflecting on my options, I decided to invest in a second business. Cyntje Music, LLC allowed me to organize my musical endeavors under one company.
Although I did not record this year, album sales continued to increase. Last year, I recorded and released Spiritual Awakening. The album was featured on a plethora of media outlets and garnered high praise from critics. This year, the album received additional attention from listeners and radio stations.
Looking ahead, I don’t know what 2017 will hold, but I will do my best to learn how to love stronger and harder. I will do my best to listen and nurture more intently. I will do my best to make good use of my time on this planet.
Thank you for your love and support in 2016. I’m forever grateful.