I haven’t written a blog in a few months and now it’s time to dip my feet in the murky waters of the topic of Jazz Education 🙂 I have found myself teaching in various settings throughout my career ranging from one-on-one guitar lessons to jazz clinics, arranging masterclasses, string writing workshops on through the singers workshops in Cork in last year’s festival and the upcoming one on a week or so. I just lunch in a local Chinese/Thai restaurant and my fortune cookie read “To teach is to learn twice”…
What I didn’t mention above was my 15 years(?) running the Jazz Standard Discovery Program and most particularly the youth orchestra component we call the JSYO. We are not a conventional jazz educational program, in the main because we focus on patting our young musicians work it out on stage with guidance from sand our guests. BUT 😉 there are jazz educators who are doing a remarkable job with young people who have figured out that we make a wonderful supplement to the work THEY are doing. Mr Bill Stevens, Director of Jazz Studies and Vice Principal at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts is IMO, one of our best examples of how our program can be of benefit to and benefit from another jazz program.
After our most recent round of auditions I heard many versions of Billies Bounce and Now’s The Time, but when I asked some kids to play a slow blues – some really accomplished youngsters admitted to me that they wouldn’t know how (!!!) I asked to hear even a well known spiritual or maybe gospel song and same answer. Some of the older ones can very skillfully play changes and even solo in a post be bop intervallic and modal style but can’t play the blues! They have youth as an excuse and this this is where part of my job comes in. I, a guitarist born in Ireland must make them aware of this music’s history but again, I must do that in a way that doesn’t shackle them from their own experimentation and development. This is where my blog title comes in, we will focus strongly on history but must be careful not to drive whilst only looking in the rear view mirror or we’ll quickly crash. My job is to provide opportunity for all perspectives including their own (please note I avoided using the term book ends as their very nature is to bring and end to a continuity even if it is owning too many books on one shelf!)
All our educational goals are carried out while putting on a weekly performance and letting the kids put together their own show. We have workshops from visiting musicians and our players are guided by many who lend their talents to us, like Antoine Roney, Nick Finzer and then in matters of non musical challenges Emily Elyshevitz. Our young players mentor one another, win scholarships to colleges and various jazz educational camps in Europe.
Final thoughts for this post:
When I was growing up in Dublin my Dad played Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Louis Stewart records for me and that was just the jazz. He explained to me about the oppression people of color faced in the US and indeed the world while he played me the protest songs that led u to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez…and all this whileI got Mozart piano concerti, his beloved Russian composers and so much more. I feel I must introduce the roots of the music to our program when I find myself aware that the youngsters haven’t yet addressed it. Before I leave for Cork I will post a blog on my thoughts and approaches to the workshops I do there and the role I feel I have in relation to each individuals goals. That’s it for now… 🙂