A CHS jazz student copes with difficult situations through music.
January 11, 2023
Paul Kollman stands up, breathing one more deep breath right before he plays his solo. He licks his reed; he’s not worried about anything besides the thrill of his music being shared with an audience and the sense of community he feels on the stage. The freedom of making things up as he plays is rooted in confidence and reassurance— an outlet to release stress.
From playing in Carnegie Hall to local venues in Ann Arbor, Kollman releases stress and anxiety in his music.
Kollman is a senior saxophone player in Community’s top jazz band. Playing and listening to music around the city is what makes Kollman himself.
The excitement that Kollman got from performing on a stage was put to a halt when the pandemic began and being in isolation became the norm. Kollman could no longer play with the jazz band in person, or attend his music classes at Pioneer High School (PHS), but that did not stop Kollman’s passion for creating music. Since he could not play in a band, Kollman decided to shift his focus to becoming a better musician and learning different techniques. Kollman would strive to wake up in the morning and immediately start playing, but he found it to be a hard habit to keep.
“That died down as I had school to do,” Kollman said. “It’s hard to [transition from] taking three music classes at PHS [because] I played for three hours there. [Now] I can’t go home and play for three minutes –– it’s like a burnout.”
Even though his passion for music decreased, the importance of having music in his life never wavered. Playing music has always been a key component of his life, starting when he was a kid playing piano. Kollman started playing the piano because it was something he wanted to do, but rather being made to. But soon, he found the silver lining of what music means to him.
“I just think at a certain point, I was like, ‘I enjoy this’,” Kollman said. “I do it because I enjoy it, not because someone’s telling me to.”
Recently, Kollman impulsively purchased a ukulele with the intent of messing around and having fun learning a new instrument. Strumming his fingers along the strings, Kollman found himself gravitating towards jazz on the instrument and playing previous songs he learned from the past, by ear. There is no pressure to sound the best or to have the utmost technique for Kollman: it’s purely for enjoyment.
“I use [the ukulele] specifically as a way to de-stress because it’s less effort,” Kollman said.
Seemingly, the ‘small guitar with nylon strings’ presents a different sound than the saxophone with its dainty, bright harmonics. Kollman has found this to be gratifying.
“The sound is ‘homey’ to me,” Kollman said. “Certain ballads and softer, more reflective songs that I can sort of make my own are comforting rather than [something] super fast.”
Music has always had a place in Kollman’s life and has shaped him into who he is today.
“The presence of music in my life, it makes me feel more human,” Kollman said. “I feel like without it I don’t know what I would do.”