At the age of 19, bored and broke after five months in England, I enrolled at Laney Community College as a Communication Graphics major. And because we had a piano — my stepfather’s old upright piano moved in with him–I also took a piano class. At the time, I didn’t know that my piano teacher was one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most prominent musicians and recording artists, and it probably wouldn’t have much mattered if I had. Mr. Edwin Kelly wrapped his arms around me as mentor and friend and in doing so, launched a lonely young woman into one of the most significant times in my life.
When Ed placed his big, broad, hands onto the keyboard, his fingers produced a smooth and syncopated sound that made something in me come alive. Jazz!
My world soon revolved around the college music crowd, the rich subculture of jazz. I had new friends, people who shared my passion for music, people I looked up to. My new friends taught me how to feel the music. They taught me how to relax and let rhythms carry me like a wave. They taught me how to move away from the written note, to improvise, to take chances with new sound.
Learning to relax with the rhythms of my life would be a much greater challenge in the years to come.