Dear fans, this is Eric Stern, founder and leader of the band. I wanted to let you know some very important news regarding Vagabond Opera: Jason, our beloved bass player, will be leaving the band in one month. His last official gig with us will be New Years Eve and we will all miss him terribly. AND we are very excited for him! He is continuing to pursue his love of philosophy in the context of a university and moving on to doing other things in his life. We, the band, and I’m sure all of you, will miss him, and we also support him one hundred percent in this endeavor.
You know, when you see us you might not notice what’s called the backline as much. That’s the bass player and drummer, but both Mark and Jason contribute more than you’ll ever know! Jason has been a formidable composer in this band and just as importantly an internal provocateur. He has always challenged us musically (there are a couple of his compositions that I am ashamed to admit never saw the light of day because we couldn’t give them the performance they deserved) and has spurred us on to make uncomfortable decisions that turned out to be the right ones.
On a personal note I will be losing the companionship of a very good friend. Jason has been with the band from nearly the beginning, in the trenches when we played in dive bars and coffee shops, and I’ve watched him change and grow over the years, ever-blossoming and ever-sharpening his already razor-sharp mind. It hasn’t always been easy—Jason is the Spock to my Captain Kirk and what he says so many times turns out to be what is logical, true, and right, whether you want to hear it or not. Jason is not a yes man and so many times, as he’s disagreed with me, when I wanted to throw in the towel of our friendship (this kind of struggle is actually a sign of a good friendship I believe) I said, “No. Keep Jason close, perhaps closest, because the best friend you can have is the one who gives you the blunt honest truth about your life, your band, and everything else.”
I’ll give you an example: A few years ago we played the Kennedy Center: The freakin’ Kennedy Center, and when we got there to do our sound check the stage wasn’t set up. This is a common occurrence for any ensemble and you always laud the venues, whether it be a performing arts center, or a hole-in-the-wall, where you can walk in and see that the sound person has set up the mics and run the lines (wires from the mic) to the sound board.
But this was the Kennedy Center and I couldn’t believe it and started to bitch about it, not to the staff there, but just internally to the band. And instead of colluding with me, which is what I wanted, Jason simple said, “You know I notice that you often focus on the negative side of things. What you need to do is stop that, and start focusing on the positive. Right now you’ve done it so often the other way that it’s a habit and the best way to change is to make start noticing positive things, make that into a habit, and soon it will be second nature.” Like a Zen Koan, or maybe a Zen coconut crashing on my head, that little bit of wisdom, in the context of what was occurring, changed my life for the better. Oh sure, I could have read that in a self-help book, but a Jason actually had the courage to say something as it was happening which made it more effective than if I had read it. It was difficult to hear and the right thing to say. There’s many more stories like that.
And of course Jason has held me up when I’m down (and sometimes drunk at the same time), and we’ve shared the ups and downs of our personal life, lived together in a van and know enough about one another to blackmail each other for years to come.
The band, and I know you fans, will truly miss our dharma buddy Jason and although he will sit-in with us once in awhile, he won’t be part of the core ensemble. But it’s a happy occasion, for Jason is lighting out on new paths! My friend, we are all so excited for your new journey and I am so lucky to have played next to you (well in front of you!) all of these years.
Jason Flores, El Krivo: Live long and prosper!