It’s hard to believe that ten years has passed since the recording of Boss’s Nova. Boss’s Nova, a combo of my original styling’s over a sample of bossa nova (Brazilian music) that encompasses my love for combining cultures and genres musically. The min album called Playing with Fire, which features Boss’s Nova, and also included my debut rap track, “Fire,” it also represented me breaking free from convention once again, leaving my record label to create my own (Superwoman records). Sometimes when you want something done, you have to get resourceful and find a way to do it yourself, and that’s exactly what I did.

2012 houston culturemap article 2Boss’s Nova was born in the mystical and enchanting city of New Orleans, in the heart of Crescent City, with my then beat producer Roburt Reynolds. Roburt and I had a great vibe and made a good team. He really pushed me outside my musical comfort zone, igniting my journey to figure out how to improv…. I think the biggest hurdle for classical musicians when it comes to improv is, we have a sound in our head of what’s “right.” So we’re worried about playing a wrong note! Once I had that concert experience (with Roburt) where I was becoming freer and freer onstage, I didn’t want to go back! What I also noticed is a freedom began to seep its way into my classical playing as well. And that’s been really life changing.

Here is the most important question from an interview with Chris Becker from CultureMap, done on July 5, 2012! It brings back fond memories and also makes me realize the evolution I’ve gone through over the past ten years, not only in my musical and speaking career, but life in general.

CB: As a classical pianist, is it a challenge to play to beats or electronic sounds, either in the studio or in a live performance?

JS: When Rob and I got together . . . here’s this musician who really moonlights as a one-man metal and punk band called Wooden Teeth. He does his own guitar and singing. So we got together to do this session and he starts riffing and doing all of this improv and then he’s like, “Go! Your turn!” And I remember freezing! Just completely freezing! And it was fascinating to him, because he’d just seen me play Rachmaninoff, Chopin, where my hands are all over the keyboard. And when he was like, “Go!” I didn’t know what to do with myself!

Actually what I’m doing now . . . there’s no difficulty playing with a track. I love rhythmic music, so once I get the groove going that’s not an issue for me. The biggest issue for me was to get over myself, over my training, and just try to make music in the moment.

I say that was the most important part of the conversation because it depicts the types of epiphanies that have marked my career inside and outside of music. They are epiphanies that then require risk-taking. The risks promise the possibility of good outcomes but, of course, there’s no guarantee. Here’s what I can tell you. Every time I’ve leaned into the risk that came out of an epiphany, it may not have paid off as expected, but there have always been dividends to collect. Every risk has led to greater perspective, greater understanding of why I’m here on this earth doing the things I’m doing, and a greater confidence that I can survive and even thrive in whatever is up ahead.

Those early years of musical experimentation gave me belief in advance that I was called to experiment, that I would likely never do much the way it was done before me, and that while wise counsel is priceless, the ability to hear the future for oneself could not be measured.

My wish for you is that you begin to hear around the impossibilities and see through the obstacles all the way into your next era, and the next one after that, and still another.