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I was at a jazz workshop, which I won't name. The Trumpet player in my group was a recently retired educator who was classically trained. She wasn't a bad player, but she had issues connecting her thoughts, and had issues establishing a good swinging groove I suppose.

One day, she asked the teacher, "How can I make myself sound more jazzy, and less like a classically trained Trumpeter?"

After the answer, which isn't important in this case, she says to me, "I can teach this stuff but I just can't play it."

What...?

-Bubba-
 

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I've found that more often than not, classical players can't really swing...not well at least.
 

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Well... Was she supposed to be a jazz educator ? Most classic trained musicians I come across have no clue about how the whole jazz thing is working, starting with the chord changes concept, not even speaking of swing or improvisation.
Someone can be a brilliant piano player, knowing all Chopin piano work by heart, without caring about the underlying chord changes.
US did a bit better on this, but in old Europe, a lot of "Conservatoires de Musique" totally ignored jazz until about 20 years ago. It wasn't part of "La grande musique". Therefore most experienced classical musicians over 45 just weren't exposed to it, unless THEY wanted and did it on their own.
Just listen what Yehudi Menuhin says about his duet with Stéphane Grappelli.
 

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Someone can be a brilliant piano player, knowing all Chopin piano work by heart, without caring about the underlying chord changes.
Yes, but a true classical musician always knows exactly what's going on harmonically and structurally.

Regarding the thread title "poor jazz education," I agree that jazz ed. is severely lacking. For example, there are many colleges and universities that have astoundingly high-level orchestras and wind ensembles, but have jazz ensembles that struggle. Even if their jazz ensembles are good (e.g. lots of good part-players), there are typically very few competent improvisational soloists in those ensembles.

Let's start jazz education in the schools the simultaneously with beginning band! Incidentally, much of the deficiency is due to a lack of listening to the tradition. Once you have ingrained in your mind's ear, the style comes naturally. Of course, skillful improvisation, etc. requires more work than just listening, but it's a huge start.
 

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My son's school jazz big band is taught by a classically trained female flautist (synonymous with the person most unlikely to swing).
After their performance of "A Train", I told her, "Now I know what killed Duke Ellington".
 

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My son's school jazz big band is taught by a classically trained female flautist (synonymous with the person most unlikely to swing).
After their performance of "A Train", I told her, "Now I know what killed Duke Ellington".
I hope you're taking exception to the "female" part of your description, because, otherwise, you've described *me*! On the other hand, I've been playing jazz (off and on) for over 30 years. *And*, as an elementary school music teacher, I'm struggling to figure out all the stuff we're already required to teach, let alone adding jazz/improv/... to the curriculum!
 

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My son's school jazz big band is taught by a classically trained female flautist (synonymous with the person most unlikely to swing).
After their performance of "A Train", I told her, "Now I know what killed Duke Ellington".
They need your help.
 

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This is almost starting to sound like "jazz snobbery".... and you wonder why jazz is not appreciated or liked by more people.
i don't think so. i mean, if she's not swinging, then she's not swinging. you can't "fake the funk"...

also, with her comment on "she can teach it, but can't play it", i also highly doubt that as well...it's not like she has to be the best teach in the world but i couldn't imagine someone being able to teach someone how to improvise and they can't improvise at all...or teaching someone else feel and you have no pocket yourself...
 

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+1 phourtay

I play with some wonderfully talented musicians in my community band that can play circles around me...but can't swing and can't play Latin rhythyms at all. Even when it's written out as alternating dotted eighths and sixteenth notes...they struggle.

Maybe she was trying to say that it can't be learned?
 

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Jazz programs rely on committed young players. They should, of course - but I think they rely on the player's commitment and self-education so they won't have to define a comprehensive pedagogy other than bop/post-bop harmony and repertoire. It would be too controversial to go any further, I suspect, and the controversy would hurt jazz's status in music education, which is always shaky.

Maybe she was trying to say that it can't be learned?
Maybe it can't be taught - at least not by accepted academic methods - so it isn't being taught.
 

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but I think they rely on the player's commitment and self-education so they won't have to define a comprehensive pedagogy other than bop/post-bop harmony and repertoire. It would be too controversial to go any further, I suspect, and the controversy would hurt jazz's status in music education, which is always shaky.
Ooo, that is very good. I think I agree.

(I can hear a few dozen college-bought pencils being sharpened furiously at this very moment. :))

It would be interesting if you could expand on "the controversy would hurt jazz's status in music education", paulwl.
 

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Much to do about nothing. It's been proven over and over. It does not matter if you are classically trained or not. You either get it or you don't. There are also plenty of "jazz instructors" that just don't get what jazz is all about either. There are millions of "jazz educators" that can "teach this stuff but can't play it".
 

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It would be interesting if you could expand on "the controversy would hurt jazz's status in music education", paulwl.
I'll try. Jazz is potentially controversial, and potentially vulnerable, in the academy in several ways:
- its second class status in relation to classical music
- its still uncertain status as art vs. entertainment
- its still developing pedagogy
- its relation to African-American culture, and from there, to politics
- the question of jazz' relevance today, which varies with age, region, and social group

Arts funding in education at any level is always tight. What gets to stay in the curriculum and thrive is what is most relevant and respected. Not always on its own terms, either, but those of a classically trained and -based artistic perspective.

I suppose jazz could make an intelligent case for itself in more liberal arts-oriented schools, where there is some openness to writings in cultural and critical studies. In the more professionally-tracked, conservatory programs, tho, there's no writing papers or having talky seminars. You teach students to play, period. I'm not sure where innovation in teaching could come from, or where they could engage the critical or cultural scene. It's happening, informally, in the most prestigious conservatories, but the discusssion is about keeping classical music going. I am afraid it may be too early to start the conversation on jazz, outside of small pockets like SOTW anyway.
 

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I'll tell you what I'm gleaning from this thread so far: jazzers unwilling to give such legit musicians a hand at learning because they're too busy dissing them.

Are there superb classical musicians who can't swing? Dang right. But in the case of the OP's example (that is the subject of this thread, right?), when she asked for help, what was the answer? Don't know for sure because it's not given verbatim but it doesn't seem to me that it was positive. And what about some other examples in the thread? The player/band sucked so your response is to do....what? Nothing.

If a teacher is good, if s/he is articulate, if s/he gives a damn, then that teacher can bring a "square" student a long way. You give me a player like the trumpeter described above and I absolutely guarantee you that I can get them to swing at least enough to play in a section of swingers without embarrassing the band.

Reading this thread one would leave with the impression that there's nothing a jazzer can do when presented with a challenge of getting a legit to swing, but to show disregard and to blow them off. And just as a side thought. Is this how we recruit an ever-dwindling audience of jazz lovers?
 

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I'll tell you what I'm gleaning from this thread so far: jazzers unwilling to give such legit musicians a hand at learning because they're too busy dissing them.

Are there superb classical musicians who can't swing? Dang right. But in the case of the OP's example (that is the subject of this thread, right?), when she asked for help, what was the answer? Don't know for sure because it's not given verbatim but it doesn't seem to me that it was positive. And what about some other examples in the thread? The player/band sucked so your response is to do....what? Nothing.

If a teacher is good, if s/he is articulate, if s/he gives a damn, then that teacher can bring a "square" student a long way. You give me a player like the trumpeter described above and I absolutely guarantee you that I can get them to swing at least enough to play in a section of swingers without embarrassing the band.

Reading this thread one would leave with the impression that there's nothing a jazzer can do when presented with a challenge of getting a legit to swing, but to show disregard and to blow them off. And just as a side thought. Is this how we recruit an ever-dwindling audience of jazz lovers?
i don't think it's that either. just because someone says someone isn't doing something or can't do it doesn't mean "jazzers" don't want to help. i'll admit, it is (or should be) a rather organic process though, when you do learn how to "swing" therefore someone can only hold your hand so much when helping you, but that doesn't mean that "jazzers" are arrogant and would turn up their noses because the lady is incapable of it. at least i wouldn't. but all i would suggest for her to do is to listen and transcribe...that's what i do.

it's similar to a way of speech or pattern of speech, you can talk about how some words are cut short and how some word are pronounced differently, or how some letters have different sounds than before. but in reality, the best way to absorb it is to listen to others speak it and speak it yourself and try to imitate. there's no concrete formula aside from that...
 

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phourtay - I was generalising the responses in this thread, not all jazzers.
Anyway, it just set me off - might've overreacted, but the basics are the same. If someone needs help, don't just diss them and walk away . . . help them.
 

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I'm not a jazzer (I'd love to be someday)...but I can swing and I know what it is. And I must admit it's fascianting to me that I've got something that these other infintely better musicians don't "get."

I'd love to be able to explain it -- I've tried but I end up saying stupid things like "just feel it in your hips" or "pretend like you're some robot and your gears have a skip in them". But I guess that's the dilemma - how DO you explain it?
 
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