I spent yesterday afternoon hanging out in a recording studio in midtown Manhattan, watching a friend of mine, a jazz singer from Brazil, record her next album. She was in the vocal booth when I arrived, so I slipped discreetly into the control room and took a seat in front of the board. As soon as she was finished, she burst out of the booth, ran into the control room, gave me a hug and said, “Guess what? I took my citizenship test this morning. I passed!“
A little background: my friend is as Brazilian as it’s possible to be, but she’s lived here for many years and decided some time ago to become an American citizen. It touched me to the heart when she told me of her plans. Not only do I have a special love for American art (the pieces collected in A Terry Teachout Reader are all about American art and artists, and except for a lone Bonnard, my collection of works on paper is all-American), but jazz has always seemed to me uniquely emblematic of the American national character. Somehow this made my friend’s decision all the more moving.
I knew she was taking the test that day, and I had every reason to assume she’d pass it with flying colors, so I was ready for her news. I opened my shoulder bag and took out a neatly wrapped present (neatly wrapped by somebody else, needless to say!). The card was a reproduction of a John Marin watercolor, and the gift was three albums of music by Aaron Copland: Quiet City, the Third Symphony, Old American Songs, Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, and a two-CD set of the complete piano music. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome my beloved friend to my beloved country. Neither could she.