Speaking at TEDxSalem 2014 was a unique challenge.  I’ve given dozens of presentations in my career, from small events to large speeches with hundreds in the audience.  I’ve overcome small hurdles, such as a microphone failing just minutes into a speech, and larger problems: I once lost my voice entirely, just two days before an important keynote address (I did give the speech, with a raspy voice.)  Preparing my TED Talk was ambitious in new and different ways.

I call myself a “Jazz Speaker.”  I prepare each presentation with a theme and a list of items I want to cover, but every speech is unique and I improvise within the theme.  Most presentations are about an hour long, which gives me plenty of time to read the audience and adjust my flow.  For TEDxSalem all the jazz would have to come from my bass, as I was given a strict time limit and that left no room for improvisation.

I spent months writing and preparing my presentation, with support and suggestions from friends and colleagues.  A number of them even sat through rehearsals and watched me read the script off a music stand.  My friends Victor Wooten and Krystal Peterson offered feedback on my sketches when they rolled through town on tour, and my dear friend Mark Simon did a fantastic job creating the PowerPoint visuals based on those sketches.

To prepare, I read through the full script at least once a day for well over a month.  I rehearsed it in the car, in the shower, and I could hear every note in my sleep.  It was a lot of work and there was some anxiety in the hours before the presentation but I think it came out as I intended and I am pleased with the result.


I enjoyed the experience, and the organizers, volunteers, and presenters at TEDxSalem were wonderful.  I’m working on some new material for 2015, but it will be nice to go back to my “jazz” approach without having to watch the clock!




Comments and Suggestions

Posted by Barbara Hammerman on
What a wonderful experience this was! Amanda and I so enjoyed the anticipation of the event, making the trip to Salem, being able to visit with you, Jonathan, and then experience your presentation and your accomplishment! Your United by Music North America family is grateful that you share your expertise and good will with us.

It is truly not an exaggeration to say that the audience was WOWED! Your ending charge to us in the audience are words for everyone to embrace. "My hope is that when you leave here today, you’ll take a moment to look at the people around you and recognize that while we all share the same experience, everyone has a unique perspective and you can’t always see it from the outside. We have a lot of work to do in supporting those who are different and see world differently . The first step is to recognize the differences between their view and ours .The next step is to respect those differences. We can all take those first two steps when we leave here today._-Jonathan Chase.

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