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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I would like to know what percentage of class time is spent on improv in other high school jazz programs. We spend most of our time on it. The so called great programs in the state seem to spend little time on it as they feature just a few soloists. One band at a festival last year had the guitar player take every solo. (Sorry If I already asked this)

I'm not getting any support for my method from other directors who feel programming pop music the audience will like is important while ensemble work is always more important than soloing. What is the opportunity cost for this type of programming? When do you have time for transcription study or a unit on Benny Carter?

My students are great and inspire me to bring in new stuff and I spend a lot of time outside of class working on the band. The big band model of jazz education has been in place for a long time. Has it improved jazz cd sales or concert ticket sales? Is the audience for jazz bigger? Are there more venues with a jazz policy? Does anyone in these programs know who Rich Perry is?

I'm interested in the entire musical lives of my students. Is there a better way to insure life long participation in music than teaching them to be self-sustaining creators of their own music?

Playing a few recordings before class and learning blues scales will not get the job done. Are we trying to create jazz bands or merely concert band that play with a jazz feel?

How do YOU view the state of jazz education in the world today. Is it different outside of the US?
 

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Europe - Germany here..

We spend ZERO time on improv, we also only have 2 hours a week of jazz band rehearsals. Until last year, we had only one. I understand that US ensembles have more rehearsal time.

The product of this teaching style is that 2 or 3 in our band can actually improvise, who have either taught themselves or had some lessons. The rest is too scared to even attempt solos. As soon as we "improvisers" leave, there will be a huge gap, as we're all about to graduate.

I could go on about this topic for hours and hours on end and complain, but it's pretty useless. Bands just aren't viewed as anything important in Germany.

Nobody has rhythmic feel anyway, probably due to no marching bands.. Nobody wants to see marching over here.. They'd think we're nazis, I guess.
 

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While I was in high school we spent very little time on improv. Improv was something that you were supposed to work on with your private instructor on your own time.

Although we did have a guest come in and teach improv to the class for about a week, that was about it.

On one hand, the ensemble sounded very good.
Only thing was all the solo's went to myself or the guitarist. Fine by me, both he and I won a solo award at every festival we entered.
:D
 

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It generally has less to do with the location than the individual teachers. Band teachers who don't improvise aren't going to spend much time on it (like my former band teacher.) In other cases the schools will have small jazz combos which spend a lot of time on improvising.
 

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None in my high school. A few of us had the knowledge from private lessons, but the rest of the players whinned that 3 of us got all the solos until he would write something out for them, note for note.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The only jazz band invited to the Missouri MENC convention last week had exactly one student solo. They had a guest do every other one. This is the same band where the guitartist took every solo at a jazz fest our banded attended. This is one large windmill to joust I'm afraid.
 

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High school jazz festivals are not about truly original solos, it is about playing what the judges want to hear, i.e. standard licks, etc. I am somewhat bitter about this whole subject due to some just plain stupid judging from when I was in high school.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm sure a lot of people are MM. I'm going to be doing this for another 18 years so I've got to do something to improve the situation.. I'm just not sure how to go about it.
 

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Western Canada here-

Improvisation is what makes a jazz program a jazz program. Ensemble work is important for performance quality; there has to be authentic style, there has to be drive, and it has to be tight. But it's the quality of the soloists that determine the 'greatness' of the band.

My teaching partner and I offer improvisation instruction to all, and solo opportunities to all who want them, in our Jazz bands. We also foster a combo culture for students to develop as players, hosting anywhere from 8-12 jazz combos from year to year. Our philosophy centres on the combo being the nucleus of the larger jazz band, and we nurture these players by donating countless hours of our own time to meet with each combo every week.

These combo rehearsals are opportunities for us to plug great recordings, encourage transcription, and help with advanced concepts that would waste the time of those students who aren't interested. We extend our teaching day in both directions to accommodate this, and are lucky to have a facility with two large fully equipped rehearsal rooms.

This method is certainly supported among our colleagues in this area - there are a growing number of directors in the region who are not just facilitating combos, but really working hard by giving their time to the kids.
I wish it was more supported by administration. We have been pushing for a curriccular jazz studies program so we can get some kind of teaching credit for the time we put in, but it's a hard sell when we're doing it for free, and we're not about to deprive the students to make a point.

Sorry to hear you're not getting support. If you can get to Canada, our festivals tend to be more about the jazz than the "show biz" element - sounds like this is what you're after.

Good luck
 

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Aren't most band directors who have jazz bands focusing on the ens. playing, and not soloing, and then on pop music, all mainly because those teachers who do that not jazz improvisers themselves. If they were, they would understand the importance of this IMPROVISED BASED music...

I like what you are saying, "Do any of these kids know who Rich Perry is?"

I am not a teacher, but obviously went through it. My band director could improvise, so we spent a lot of time on that, and it worked out for me, maybe not everyone, so the ens. wasn't the greatest, but we had solos, and it felt more like jazz. He told me about players to check out, made us do reports on jazz musicians, got people into it. It didn't work for everyone, but it did for some of us. In the end, I play for a living, as do a few other students he had, and I am willing to bet the others are fans of jazz, or at least can enjoy it and appreciate it. You aren't going to get that with these other schools you talk about.

My wife is a band director. Since going to some of her schools jazz concerts in the past (she doesn't direct a jazz band as of now) and going to Ohio's OMEA, and other events, I have heard some high school jazz bands, playing cheese pop music scored for stage band charts, and maybe a Nestico chart, and other crap written by these guys who have the market on charts for young jazz bands. (don't get me started on those charts...but on the other side, I know to get a high school group to play chords bigger than a dom. 7th in tune, it would be hard, but I digress.) Anyway, when I hear these bands, I take a look at the director, who is usually conducting every beat... first hint... and then at how they talk between songs, second hint, and then maybe look up info on them, ask around as to what instrument they played or where they got their degree, and usually that answers the question of why no improvising, and why the cheese charts and "crowd pleasers" - they have no idea how to teach improvising, but want the kids to have jazz band. I can respect that, but playing those cheese charts and not teaching them ANY improvising skills, which is the fun part, I would think, doesn't really turn these kids into fans of jazz for the future. (and don't get me started on these bands with 12 saxes, 8 flutes, 10 clarinets, 10 trombones, 2 tubas, 15 trumpets, 6 drummers, no bassist, and a piano player who can't play "mary had a little lamb" - there is one of these around Cleveland...)

So, if you are teaching the kids about Rich Perry, Joe Henderson, the Brecker Brothers, Miles, Trane, Diz, Bird, Louis, and giving them the gift of improvising, thats the right track, because some of those kids might become great players, and a lot of them would become fans, and might help me pay off my college loans by hiring me or coming out to a show!

And if "contest" scores are the issues... your district should revamp who they hire as judges... real jazz musicians should be judging that stuff!

Eventually, I want to run an all star high school jazz band for the Akron OH area...

- Just some thoughts. - Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hey Brad CCM '85-87 and '91. I just don't get this program for the audience line at all. The Kodaly people don't have their kids do pop garbage and themes from cartoon movies. Why do directors consider jazz band to be the pop music dumping ground. Even the ones who claim to be all for jazz play three funk tunes on a concert a Frank Sinatra cover and a latin tune. Sorry but Maynard Ferg. is not that important in the history of this music to dedicate program after program to. But to most of the band directors I've met he's the king. What are our large state universities doing with their ed majors when it comes to jazz. Answer: NOTHING
 

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Agreed. I quit band in grade 12 because we were doing an unhealthy dose of Disney garbage in concert band and stupid pop tunes in stage band.

If we wanted to try to play through any of the Ellington or Basie stuff in the filing cabinets (obviously purchased by a previous director) we had to do it on our own time. (Which some of us tried to do, but we always ended up with something like 2 saxes, 1 trombonist/pianist, 1 trumpet, electric bass and drums. Not exactly the full Ellington band sound.)
 

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Yeah CCM... my wife went there also. She was an instrumental music B.M. - and she took Jazz history with me from Brad Goode. She had a lot of students in the ed. department asking why.... Now, other than the double jazz/ed, or ed with jazz emp. degrees, even at a school like CCM, the non jazz major ed majors didn't have to take not even 1 course in jazz, of any kind! A lot of these band teachers will end up spending a 5th of the day teaching a jazz band, but this state (probably all states) doesn't require any jazz training. Me, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and my friends and other music ed majors had many discussions about this while in college, but most of those "just music ed - non jazz" majors never took a class (but some did...). Jazz theory, improv, arranging - NOTHING - so its mainly the persons lazy-ness in my eyes - (you have music electives to take- and you should consider what you will be doing with your job when you pick them, but I digress), but it should be the state's requirement that students doing music ed should have to take jazz classes, since they probably will teach a jazz band, and not a rock band... (although, I would say they should be required to take rock/pop history classes also...) although, how long until high schools have rock band classes... or rap class... hip hop poetry to graduate...
 

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OHHH - and one more thing - the band director around Cleveland that has the 75 piece jazz band with no bass... she told a friend of mine who switched from YSU to CCM that, that move was a mistake, and that CCM is not a good school, they don't teach you correctly, and you won't get hired. meanwhile this lady has a 104 piece jazz ens. that plays movie themes and elvis songs.
 

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Over twenty-five years ago, our high school band director seemed to have abandoned us at the start. Telling us to go in practice rooms and work on parts. It was a class back then. Well, I was one of the only seniors in the group (and lucky enough to not have to be in marching/concert band) so I kinda took over. I raided the cabinets for all the old Maynard charts and we set the group up. Luckily, we had an experienced rhythm section, but most of the sax/brass players were sophomores with a couple of juniors sprinkled in. Well, as I was leading the group at the time, during class I opened up every song and had everyone take a ride. By mid-year the band director seemed to take notice (as I recall, basically walked by one day with his head in some papers, stopped, looked, listened and then started conducting as if he'd been there the whole time). By the end of the year, everyone had taken at least one solo at a show (and many played numerous solos). A lot of guys from that group really developed into serious players; many I know who are still active today. And then there was that one guy that beat his grandmother to death with a baseball bat... but other than him, a pretty decent group.
 

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We dont spend much time improvising. We usually work on songs for our next gig or our contest pieces.

Luckily we are actually playing jazz songs, not pop stuff.
 

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BariSaxzinger said:
They discourage improvising in high school now adays. Its sort of lame. I just recently learned the basics of it and Im a senior now.
Maybe in your school. That's not lame, it's tragic! Is your director perhaps threatened by something unfamiliar to him?

I hope you're taking charge of your own education in this regard. Find a local pro you like and bug him till he agrees to teach you.
 

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Our student teacher at school is planning on doing lots of improvisation at school in our jazz band and I'm looking very forward to it. :)
 

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DanCraven said:
Maybe in your school. That's not lame, it's tragic! Is your director perhaps threatened by something unfamiliar to him?

I hope you're taking charge of your own education in this regard. Find a local pro you like and bug him till he agrees to teach you.
I have been finding someone. Im transcribing St Thomas right now. Sonny Rollins has some great sound. I still need some help with the chords and everything but I have an Abearsold book somewhere.
 
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