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Behind the Scenes: Jay Nava “What the Moment Means”

Arts And Entertainment

Behind the Scenes: Jay Nava “What the Moment Means”


In order to understand Jay Nava, you need to understand that unlike most musicians– he doesn’t like the attention on him. So when it came time to plan for his capstone concert performance, an event most music majors do solo or with a small group of people, he wanted to make sure that the show wasn’t all about him. A key phrase of Jay’s is: “I am because we are.” He wanted the show to celebrate not just his graduation, but also the friends and family who helped him get there. On stage that night, he reflected the spotlight onto the audience as much as he could. 

Jay was incredibly conscientious in how he conveyed himself to his audience. He learned how to tell his grandparents that they were his most important guests in Spanish, their native language which he is less than fluent in. This heartwarming moment was accompanied by a series of tears. Through his music, Jay was able to grant the audience access to the inner workings of his mind. The sense of understanding he felt by sharing his music was unmatched by any other gratification he had formerly experienced.

The concert was entitled: What the Moment Means to encapsulate the way in which the audience contributes to creating a musical performance. Jay asked the audience to say, “If it’s all love in here– tell me it’s all love.” As the crowd did as they were told, the music took on a new meaning. Even I, a person who knew no one else in the room, could feel the love radiating off the people around me. The show included a string quartet, a guy banging on a box, some casual rapping, and a handheld piano of sorts called a “melodica”. Although these sounds wouldn’t ordinarily mix… it somehow just worked. One could imagine wavy music notes falling on top of one another. The sound was furious but then there were raindrops. I had no idea what I had just watched, but it was the most interesting thing I had seen in a while. Jay’s music is uncategorizable. There is truly no way to briefly explain his abstract style. 

Photo by Ethan Sleeper

Jay rapped while playing the piano he had one foot in the classical music world, and the other in hip hop. As a metaphor for the way in which moments can’t be re-experienced he featured a song with heavy tempo rubatto, meaning that it can’t be played the same way twice. However, Jay felt a sense of deju-vu as he performed the song. His dreams came into fruition, he had been in that exact moment, long before it occurred.

When I described the show to his best friend Nina she said: “Well… that’s Jay he’s all over the place in the best kind of way.” Lucio, who was a conductor, described the way Jay pushes the classical boundaries as “avant-garde”. He keenly observed that Jay has deviated from the “pretentious, old, white boomer attitude towards music” that is formal with no room for fun. Lucio sees the future of classical music heading in the direction Jay is leading it in.

A sense of authenticity encompassed all aspects of the show. As he elatedly stumbled on stage in shoes that were at least half a size too small; he wondered if he should’ve gone barefoot instead. Jay made his profound lyrics digestible (literally) to the audience through candid interludes. Between songs, he explained that he wrote this next one “after skidding on the pavement by the McDonalds.” To me, this made the profound lyrics apply to everyday experience in a way that wasn’t too cheesy. The casualty of the concert made it much more relaxed than most classical performances. 

Jay’s Shoes
Taken by Ethan Sleeper

Jay’s mental sanity was in constant jeopardy while planning his capstone performance. Many “thick-emails” flooded out of his inbox to the 22 musicians featured in the show. This stress resulted in a startling number of gray hairs sprouting out of his curly head. It was incredibly difficult for Jay to coordinate rehearsal times knowing “damn well” that most of them are going to be late. But he was ok with that, because hey– at least they were coming. Jay utilized all caps in the email subject lines to catch the eyes of everyone involved. These emails were challenging to write because the tone had to be friendly in a “get your ass here” kind of way. To balance out the professional tone, he signed these emails, “All the love, peace, and positivity for you – Jay Nava”. Turns out, the only time everyone was available to practice at the same time was the night of the actual concert… which was less than ideal. However, he was determined to keep the crew together.

Jay set out to put on “a proper badass show”, but Southwestern made it known that they weren’t exactly the biggest fan of this vernacular. He was over the moon when he noticed that the administration did not take the word “fucking” out of the program he wrote. The show was everything he had hoped for and more, it was authentically him. Afterward, Jay hosted his first-ever kick-back at his off-campus apartment. Amongst a kitchen full of musically enlightened guests he checked the last item off the faded to-do list on his fridge: “Put on a proper badass show.”

Jay’s Family
Photo by Ethan Sleeper


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