[JPL] Consider the demo

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 3 13:56:27 EDT 2006

"Have you ever considered the possibility that these young players 
aren't really all that passionate about the music they play?"
  It's an interesting question.....I would say though this disposition is more prevelant at pre-college levels. I taught for our Governor's School gifted program (grades 9-12) for nine years. What I noticed was probably about 40% of the kids there could care less about seriously studying jazz - even though they were in the jazz program. This is even more striking considering it's a "gifted" program. One could think this was the result of parental prodding or the student thinking this as something conceptually "cool" while not understanding the consequences of wasting this wonderful opportunity.
  I would say by college level the vision is more clearly established although their major may not be. What's more disturbing to me and eventually becomes discouraging to the students is realizing the lack of performance opportunities available to them. The process of developing is big fun to most of these kids but as graduation nears....reality sets in. Many move on to something else. This is a bit of research I would love to see.......how many of these music majors continue on with their musical career vs the number of music majors graduating. More and more and I would say smartly so, is the fact jazz performance is becoming more the "minor" while jazz education is the "major."  
  In reference to NYC.......I look at it as a city of extremes. Everything you want is there and everything you don't. It may not give the student a clear perspective of jazz outside of there but it will give them a clear indication of the talent necessary for them to be successful as musicians. For the student that is good and bad. In saying this I would recommend ALL jazz students spend time there. It's the best education environment in the world for the simple reason you have so many great players in such close proximity. There's nothing out there that comes close to the talent present in NYC. You see it up close and the joy musicians experience once they reach a level of talent that presents them the opportunity to perform in high profile venues and situations. They will see the level you have to aspire to if they want to succeed as a jazz musician. 
  This is profoundly important because where most of these kids come from they might be the proverbial big fish in the little pond which isn't representative of the bigger picture. In NY you will see the reality of jazz from every angle. You will also see the negative......like the backstabbing, manipulation, dissing, etc.....that comes from many bitter folk in this very small circle. This mainly happens because the circle is so small and competitive and don't think it just happens in the lion and tigers den of the apple. I tell my students to see this as well and learn to judge for yourself and rise above it.   
  Jae Sinnett    

Eric Hines <EHines at message.nmc.edu> wrote:

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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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