Performing with the masters
The world of jazz education has exploded in recent years. Jazz performance programs are available at virtually every level of education in America. However, rarely do students learn from the masters in a situation that culminates in a performance together. When our guest conductors are rehearsing ensembles, they are approaching the program from a collective vision, knowing that they will be on stage creating the music as one voice. Additionally, students can now see exactly how these masters take on the challenge of learning and performing both new and traditional material.
A model approach
During the April 2008 residency at Town Hall, Jazz great Kenny Washington led the rhythm section rehearsals as well as the full band. During these rehearsals, Kenny zeroed in on what he felt the rhythm section should focus on when accompanying saxophonist Ralph Lalama at the performance. In this regard, Kenny speaks from experience, having performed and recorded with Ralph on many occasions. He knew exactly what Ralph would look for in a rhythm section, and immediately worked on techniques that would prove to be artistically refined and focused at the performance.
Work for success
Students have rarely, if ever, been thrown into a situation where they are expected to live up to such a high standard. The work that it takes to reach this level can only be done when the situation demands it. We realize that many of these students may not go on to become professional Jazz musicians. However, the creative spirit of Jazz, as it continues to mature through the decades, will benefit from an educated audience - aware of the rigors of study and the commitment that is needed for achieving an individual, expressive and artistic voice. This will bring the evolution of the music to new places - for players AND audience.
Trickle down Jazz
As students joined us for our NYC residency, it became increasing clear that a large majority of students were education majors rather than performance majors. This reflects the current situation whereby it is becoming more and more difficult for artists to support themselves strictly by performing. This, in large part, is due to a drastic decrease in audience numbers throughout the country. As jazz programs are on the rise, why are audience numbers dropping? This is exactly what NYJAZZ Initiative is trying to address in its programs and curriculum implementation. Having education majors participate in our programs, we can now instill in them a living and breathing understanding of jazz education. Not from the perspective of a text book, but from the pragmatic and pro-active approach of creating the music as it was intended - for a live audience alongside the masters who have come before us.
In order for America’s original art form to remain alive AND to evolve as a voice of expression, it is imperative that we focus much of our efforts on building audience numbers. Expanding on our Town Hall program, NYJAZZ will also teach music educators that do not have a background in Jazz, regardless of their level of performance. Schools around the country are aware of the importance of jazz programs - for its artistic merits and ability to attract publicity in the media and throughout their communities. However, many educators find themselves in a situation where they have to ‘plug in’ a jazz ensemble within their larger course load. Many schools cannot afford to hire a Jazz specialist. Therefore, we now look to educate the educators as to what the inner workings of Jazz really are. Putting these programs in place will mean that our reach will go far beyond the participant in front of us, carrying Jazz forward to an untold number of students, future performers, and most importantly, an increasingly larger audience for decades to come.
Throughout a decade of independent research, most notably by Artistic Director Rob Derke, NYJAZZ Initiative has attempted to find out which programs have achieved the highest rate of success in keeping students attracted to, and interested in, Jazz. The results tell us that students who recognize a direct parallel between Jazz and American history, particularly by grades 4 and 5, give us the best odds at creating a lifelong student of an informed cultural music. It should also be noted that the students who have continued to seek out Jazz were keenly aware of various elements of Jazz history BEFORE they started to formally study an instrument and a style of music that they knew nothing aboutce.
our newest release... "Mad About Thad"
with the NYJAZZ Septet. Click the cover to find out more about the ensemble!