[JPL] Responce to Eric Hines re: Consider the Ironies
EHines at message.nmc.edu
Thu Oct 5 10:50:59 EDT 2006
I have to say your response seems a bit out of step to me. I intended no insult whatsoever in saying that kids playing jazz in school-related playing may not actually like jazz that much. I'm not saying they are dupes, just that they know the score.
All I'm saying is is that the growth of jazz as a educational phenomenon may have very little to say about jazz as a mass cultural phenomenon.
You may not be able to win credentials in, say, literary studies, by reading your favorite books. You have to read the books that have been established in a recognized canon of those things worth reading. Same goes with music. What you have observed, I would argue, is that jazz has very decidedly arrived as part of the musical canon.
And again, students aren't dupes, but they aren't dopes, either. They know damn right well that school doesn't exist so they can go there and do whatever they want to do. They are there to please the people who pass out the grades. There's a power relationship there that you can't possibly escape, and that you can't possibly duplicate in the realm of mass culture. And this isn't a conspiracy, unless parenthood and education from the Greeks (at least) forward has been a conspiracy. It's just life.
The point I'm making has nothing to do with the old saw that 80-90% of everything is crap. What I'm saying is that I think the metaphor you are working is fundamentally flawed because it doesn't recognize the big difference between people listeneing to and buying what they feel like listening to in an atmosphere of relative freedom and people behaving in a particular way within an institutional setting.
Apparently your experience of young musicians is radically different from
mine. Or maybe you're talking about some students in high school jazz
programs. The students I was referring to in my post are those who would be
in close proximity to anyone attending the IAJE, e.g., students at Berklee,
NEC, Julliard, Rutgers, William Paterson, the Manhattan School, the New
School, NYU, and so on. These jazz students could hardly be called dupes of
some nefarious education establishment or cadre of manipulative adults. So
I'll assume you are thinking about some other group of students you've
encountered. Otherwise I would find your assertions about jazz students
more than a little patronizing.
Through two of my children, I have been a fairly close observer of various
music education programs over the past 20 years or more. I've had kids
practicing in my living room for as long as I can remember. I didn't put
them up to that and neither did their teachers. I've always been very
careful not to push music of any kind at my kids.
One of my sons graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in jazz
performance (tenor) a few years ago. When he said that's what he wanted to
study, I was quite surprised. It wasn't anyone's idea but his. He's 30 now
and he seems genuinely happy to be a working musician. I just want him to be
happy is whatever he does. (Although I'm very happy he's not a lawyer, a
Republican or a stockbroker).
My youngest son is a trumpet student at The New School. When he was about
12 he told me he had decided what he wanted to do with his life. "I want to
be a jazz trumpet player. Nothing else seems worth doing." All I could say
was, "If you really feel that way, let me know what I can do to help." He's
been very focused on that path ever since. I know several 19 and 20-year
olds whose understanding of jazz exceeds that of any three disc jockeys or
station managers I've ever met.
Are there really students who don't like the music but are only pursuing it
because some overbearing adult has told them to? Yeah, maybe in some high
schools somewhere or in fucked-up, dysfunctional families anywhere. Do
half-assed, manipulative teachers exist? Surely, from coast to coast and
from kindergarten to conservatory. But they’re atypical. Are there radio
people who don't know much about radio? Of course. But so what? I think
about 80 percent of anything is dubious.
To me the greater truth is that many young people are as attracted to
improvised music as in any past generation, and their pursuit of that
interest is as serious, valid and promising as that of any generation. It is
not evident to me that all the great ones have already come and gone. After
the high school years, I don't see serious students of improvised music
playing to please anyone except themselves and their audiences, most of whom
are their contemporaries. I am just suggesting that we do well to recognize
that, and that not recognizing it doesn't make it any less so.
I agree that we don't need the model of jazz education to build off of; that
had not even occurred to me. All we need do is understand that young people
are still interested in improvised music. Some of them are enrolled in jazz
education curricula in pursuit of that. But the schools are not causing it,
they're just serving that self-directed population. Some schools and some
teachers are better than others. But I sure don’t see how the presence of
jazz education is “a symptom of the problem.” Here’s a real problem: If we
can't program radio stations that attract those young students and their
peers, it's not because "they don't get it."
From: Eric Hines <EHines at message.nmc.edu>
Reply To: Jazz Programmers Mailing List <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
Subject: Re: [JPL] Consider the demo
Sent: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 1:02 PM
1.Â The worldâ€™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
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,
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.Â
A burgeoning body of young players, many of them highly gifted.Â What could
be attracting them?Â It certainly canâ€™t be the money or the benefits
(except in some highly abstract, nearly unaffordable sense).Â Could the
appeal of improvised music itself possibly account for all this interest and
passion from young musicians?Â Hmmmâ€|.
Have you ever considered the possibility that these young players aren't
all that passionate about the music they play? I've certainly run into more
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
established by their teachers. Education is not essentially a market-driven
endeavor; education is where the elders force the young to learn the things
(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
college campuses, that there are all kinds of activities and voices raised
from the left, that a lot of the folks at protests are young, etc. But none
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
generations of teachers.
2.Â Jazz on the radio comes mostly via public stations.Â But the biggest
success story in public radio belongs to news and public affairs/talk
programming.Â One of theÂ 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.Â If only
jazz programming could attract younger listeners the way jazz education
attracts young playersâ€|
If in January you go to the IAJE in New York, you can hear a lot of live
music, and not just in the conventionâ€™s two hotels.Â Itâ€™s great to go
Blue Note, Birdland, the Vanguard â€“ all those iconic and still really
places to hear music.Â But while youâ€™re there, youâ€™d do well to check
places such as Smallâ€™s, The 55 Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Tonic, the Stone
or any one of several new jazz clubs in Brooklyn.Â Itâ€™s a noticeably
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.Â Notice how
theyâ€™re playing to younger audiences.Â Maybe you should take a jazz
Taking a young studnet out to lunch is probably a good idea, but NYC may be
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
elsewhere for the express purpose of attending such events). NYC just
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
are. Is musical education one of the ways to reach them? Yes. Can jazz
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
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
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