[JPL] Consider the demo

Eric Hines EHines at message.nmc.edu
Tue Oct 3 13:02:08 EDT 2006

1.  The world’s largest gathering of advocates for jazz is the annual 
convention of the International Association of Jazz Educators, an 
organization representing an academic field that scarcely existed a few 
years ago.  

With all due respect to this great organization, the fact that the largest gathering of jazz folks is an educational one is a symptom of the problem, in my opinion. (see below)

The expansion of jazz education is surely one of the most 
striking success stories in either jazz or academia over the past 30 years.  
A burgeoning body of young players, many of them highly gifted.  What could 
be attracting them?  It certainly can’t be the money or the benefits package 
(except in some highly abstract, nearly unaffordable sense).  Could the 
appeal of improvised music itself possibly account for all this interest and 
passion from young musicians?  Hmmm….

Have you ever considered the possibility that these young players aren't really all that passionate about the music they play? I've certainly run into more than a few young jazz players who know surprisingly little about jazz and who probably would never listen to it if it weren't part of the musical career path established by their teachers. Education is not essentially a market-driven endeavor; education is where the elders force the young to learn the things they (the elders) regard as being important. So I'd say this is a supply-side phenomenon, reflecting the preferences and institutional power of this generation of teachers.

One might observe, for instance, that radical politics really seems to thrive on college campuses, that there are all kinds of activities and voices raised there from the left, that a lot of the folks at protests are young, etc. But none of this has anything to do with the general cultural influence of leftist politics--it reflects a campus culture more or less inculcated by the last few generations of teachers.

2.  Jazz on the radio comes mostly via public stations.  But the biggest 
success story in public radio belongs to news and public affairs/talk 
programming.  One of the  biggest current trends is for more hours of 
news/talk programming, often at the expense of jazz programming, which is 
vulnerable because of its inability to attract a younger audience, a vital 
survival task that news/talk itself is not very good at either.  If only 
jazz programming could attract younger listeners the way jazz education 
attracts young players…

If in January you go to the IAJE in New York, you can hear a lot of live 
music, and not just in the convention’s two hotels.  It’s great to go to the 
Blue Note, Birdland, the Vanguard – all those iconic and still really great 
places to hear music.  But while you’re there, you’d do well to check out 
places such as Small’s, The 55 Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Tonic, the Stone 
or any one of several new jazz clubs in Brooklyn.  It’s a noticeably younger 
crowd with a slightly different sensibility, yet the same as jazz ever was – 
a good mixture of passionate, gifted players, some seasoned and others less 
so, but all looking for and sometimes finding, their voices.  Notice how 
they’re playing to younger audiences.  Maybe you should take a jazz student 
to lunch.

Taking a young studnet out to lunch is probably a good idea, but NYC may be the last place in the world to be drawling inferences from: it is very populous, very compact with a very large elective population (people who have moved from elsewhere for the express purpose of attending such events). NYC just doesn't give you a particularly good read on the state of jazz across the country.

That said, are there young folks who are susceptible to jazz? Yes, I think there are. Is musical education one of the ways to reach them? Yes. Can jazz exploit their interest to the benefit of everyone? Yes, I think they can.

But I don't think the rise of jazz education represents a model to build off of unless we get the power to flunk the general populace and deny them certifications and degrees for not listening to jazz.

While I am all in favor of this, I don't see it happening under the current administration.


Eric Hines
General Manager
WNMC 90.7 FM
1701 East Front St.
Traverse City, MI 49686


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