09/27/10

Current Trends in Jazz Education

A Roundtable Discussion with Noted Collegiate Educators

The field of jazz education is a relatively new one at colleges and universities. And, despite its roots in swing and bebop traditions, the music itself is ever evolving and therefore forces academic institutions to adapt on a regular basis. We wanted to get a sense of the significant trends in the jazz education field, and so we simply asked about a dozen noted educators a series of questions. Their responses, while not always in consensus, speak plenty for both the field and the individual institutions.

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Chris Washburne
By Andrew Lepley
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Chris Vadala
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Martin Mueller from The New School

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How has the economic downturn affected the quality and quantity of applications to your program?

Todd Coolman (Director of Jazz Studies, Purchase College/SUNY)
It is difficult to measure. Both the quality and quantity of applications to our program have increased steadily over the past several years. It is likely due to the growing reputation and quality of our program, but economics could be playing a role as our tuition is quite low as compared to other metro NYC jazz programs.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins (Director of Jazz, Professor of Music, Kansas State University)
It has had a positive affect on my jazz program. Since our school is relatively less expensive, the quality of students we attract has risen. Kansas State is still one of the best kept secrets in the country. Our jazz program has gotten stronger every year. The economic downturn helped us because it made people look at us in a way that they hadn't taken before, and they liked what they saw.

Martin Mueller (Executive Director, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music)
We've obviously been monitoring this carefully and thus far at The New School we are resilient in spite of the tough economic times. In fact, through these last two annual cycles we exceeded our new student goals and both the quality and quantity of applicants was higher than previous years. This year we did have more appeals for financial aid and scholarship, and we felt a more strident tone in general with students and parents about affordability.

David Roitstein (Jazz Program Director, California Institute of the Arts)
The quality and quantity of applications to our program has been consistently high. For the past few years, we have had a waiting list of very creative, accomplished musicians on all instruments. Our program is small, so we can only accept a few applicants each year. But we get the feeling that many students are following through and making the choices that they need to for their own creativity and growth in spite of the economy.

Dr. David Schroeder (Director of Jazz Studies, NYU Steinhardt)
The quality of our students has not been affected by the downturn, but attracting top students has become more difficult with the rising costs of studying in NYC, like other major metropolitan schools.

Chris Vadala (Director of Jazz Studies/Professor of Saxophone, University of Maryland School of Music)
The quality varies but seems to be pretty consistent. The quantity is down in certain areas (trombone and bass) presently, but it goes in cycles.

Chris Washburne (Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, Founding Director of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, Columbia University)
There has been an increase in quantity and quality of applications to our program throughout the last two years. I do not believe that has anything to do with the economic downturn, though. We are a new program, founded only seven years ago and we have been experiencing an increase of applicants since the inception of the program. However, I have found that more of the applicants are requesting financial assistance

Paul Wertico (Assistant Professor and Head of Jazz And Contemporary Music Studies at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University)
The quality of our students continues to be high and seems to get higher every year. As far as the economy affecting the quantity of our applications, there are the occasional times when a current and/or prospective student’s parents lose their jobs, or fall on some type of hard times, and thus they’re not able to afford the tuition and housing fees.

We’ve also seen some families commit to the school, and then when they sit down late in the summer and do the math, they realize that can’t make it work financially. There is also the hope that the school will just “make it work”, but our resources are limited as well.

What other effects has the economic climate had on your program?

Todd Coolman
As a state university in a state where the legislature is dysfunctional, the economic climate has an overall negative effect of the State University as a whole.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
There is a significant decrease in scholarship money because of the sharp drop in investment returns.

Martin Mueller
It's certainly made us work harder and smarter financially and in our efforts in a very competitive jazz education marketplace. Among other actions, it has prompted necessary institutional steps including freezing salaries for all non-union employees and reducing all school budgets 5% to create a contingency fund for any revenue shortfall. Fundraising has also been much more challenging. But at the end of the day, even in tough economic times quality schools will thrive and survive. At The New School, we increased our scholarship budgets in response to student need, and we've still moved strongly ahead with new programs and faculty hires. On a more global level, tough economic times just sharpens the question we educators ask ourselves year after year, wondering where the tipping point will be in the cost of higher education, especially in the arts. I also think that the increasing costs of education and the current economic climate are contributing factors in the current shift of higher ed music training and preparation from purely craft to more practical, vocationally oriented learning outcomes.

David Roitstein
Very little impact on the overall program so far - we have been extremely fortunate. We have seen some of our students whose families have lost jobs, or have had more trouble than usual funding their education, but most of them have qualified for sufficient financial aid.

Dr. David Schroeder
We still continue to attract students both nationally and internationally, but due to the economic climate is has certainly become more difficult for students to manage the tuition and cost of living in NYC. Our undergrad numbers are slightly lower this year, but our grad numbers are up. This is likely do to the fact that grad students can complete their degree within 3 semesters and are more focused of obtaining specific information and opportunities from living and studying in NYC.

Chris Vadala
We’re seeing the need for scholarship money and tuition increase, especially out-of-state.

Chris Washburne
We have had a 25% decrease in our budget over the last two years and this has had a large impact on a growing program. We have had to become more creative in stretching the funds that we do have and limiting our visiting artist program.

Paul Wertico
With the current musical climate being what it is, I’m sure some parents, as well as some students, question the validity of entering a career in music. However, I also see many parents that are totally supportive of their child’s passion, and they seem to understand that in today’s world there is no stability in any profession. So the questions become, “Why not pursue a lifelong dream, even if it’s seemingly not as secure and stable as working for a corporation?” and “Why not do what makes you happy?”

Our enrollment office also gets the question "Is my child going to be employed when they graduate? How will you help them get a job?" Our answer is always that college is a starting point and so much depends on the student. Working with the amazing faculty in our jazz program connects our students to the next level of music, and does open doors, like when I or other faculty members recommend students for various outside-the-school professional projects, or when I include one of our students to actually be a member of my own band- those are some valuable real world experiences that come as a direct benefit of going to our school! The other answer we tell parents is that the skills that make great musicians make great employees in just about any industry- discipline, focus, ability to perform in front of a crowd, the ability to think creatively. All of these skills are developed in the arts and are an asset to so many environments.


Have the cutbacks in music education at the primary, middle and high school levels affected the quality of your students? Are you seeing new funding cuts for music education on your local level now, and what might this predict for your program and the future quality of your students?

Todd Coolman
Although cutbacks in music education at the lower levels are a travesty, I do not see it having much of an effect on the short or long term future of our program. I believe that is because we have a small and highly selective program by design, and most of the students who apply to our program have gained their skills as much on their own or through extracurricular involvements as they have from their institutional music education. However, any further cuts in funding of our program will have a direct and proportional effect on quality.

David Roitstein
Cutbacks have definitely affected the overall level of music education in the Los Angeles area and all over the country. However, there are still many programs for serious young musicians – many excellent music education and outreach programs have started as a
response to the cutbacks (some of these programs are free or low cost to the students). The most committed and dedicated students are still getting what they need to prepare for a life in music, but they often have to go outside of their public school system to find it.

Chris Vadala
Our music education program seems to be in good shape with many candidates accepted per year, and most getting jobs upon graduation.

Chris Washburne
There has been a gradual decrease in brass players due to the cutbacks of band programs across the country. It has become more difficult to fill out big bands with competent players. Rhythm section players, vocalists, and saxophonist are in abundance.

Paul Wertico
I haven’t really seen it affect our school’s program directly yet, since the quality of our students is still quite high, but I do see it when I work with various high schools whose feeder school’s programs have been cut. The band directors at those high schools usually really feel the results before we do because they’re forced to teach their new students basic things they normally would have learned while in grade school.

We do recruit nationally so we can recruit the best students across the country, however it does affect our diversity, not only ethnically, but socially, geographically, etc. The school districts who cannot afford a music program basically handicap their students because the students who have learned their key signatures and developed their technique earlier, are so much further along by the time they audition for our program.

How has technology affected how you teach jazz at your program?

Todd Coolman
Mainly through the use of computers and “smart classrooms” that avail all sorts of audio and visual potential. There is the ability to supply immediate audio and even video and internet based information on a wide variety of topics. It has also aided the teaching of arranging and composition through the use of sophisticated music writing and music recording software.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
We use quite a bit in our state-of-the art music lab that uses computers and software for the composition area.

Martin Mueller
Technology is both blessing and curse, bringing the means for new tools, but also a "sound-bite" student culture where the presence of a cell phone in everybody's pocket and need for instantaneous communication means constant distraction, a fragmented focus and discipline, and an inability to set one's own limits. In such an environment, teachers risk becoming police instead of teachers. As a teaching approach, at The New School our applied music courses are largely taught in traditional ways, but we've certainly added many technology elements of web access, audio and video, smart classrooms, etc. to our teaching. Even though we are first and foremost a performance school, we, like most schools, have a full complement of technology curriculum covering everything from Protools and notation software to web and sound design. Students themselves bring technology in ever more sophisticated ways into our performance courses, from laptop to multi effects to video and recorded spoken word, etc. Content delivered through technology in many of our courses is now heavily visual. I remember a student uprising some years ago in a western music history class, when a faculty member was angered that no one had brought in a requested hardcopy map to help illustrate the paths of European musical development. One student summed up their perception that this was a ridiculous expectation by holding up his cellphone and saying, "Why would I have to bring in a piece of paper when I can get any map you want on this phone in one minute?"

David Roitstein
Technology has always been a big part of CalArts music program. The students and faculty who want to be on the leading edge of music technology have access to the newest developments. Musicians need to keep moving forward to find new ways to express themselves and to create opportunities to get their music out into the world.
It is actually much easier now for students to do all kinds of musical research, to produce and distribute their own professional recordings, and practically every other aspect of what we do. But there's no shortcut - the individual work and preparation still are the same, even though the available tools are so much better now.

Dr. David Schroeder
Current and new technology only enhances our jazz student’s ability to move forward and develop opportunities that help support their careers. I am certain that we cannot live and survive in a jazz bubble any longer.

Chris Vadala
We've added music tech equipment and classes in addition to business of music and recording techniques to the curriculum. Finale/Sibelius workstations are prevalent and we import a lot of cyberspace info.

Chris Washburne
Computer programs for practicing, transcribing, notating, and recording are now a regular part of our classes and private instruction. Most class materials are web based and assignments are often turned in electronically. Having so much video footage on youtube and downloadable music on line has really revolutionized how I teach jazz history where I can now pull up footage from just about anyone we discuss in class. This increased web interactivity seems to bolster the student's engagement with the material as well. Long gone are the days where a piece of music is studied in class with just a recording.

Paul Wertico
I use technology extensively, whether it’s by enhancing my teaching by using various computer programs and electronic tools and devices, or by using various digital formats and material, such as CDs, DVDs, and websites like YouTube. I love having all these things at my disposal.

What effect has social media and a fully "wired" student culture had on jazz education and/or on the way your program communicates or conducts business with your students?

Todd Coolman
The students possess a powerful social network over the internet. Basically we thrive on their word of mouth accounts of our program. Our “advertising” resides in the strength of what goes on in our classrooms. If one student is impressed, either positively or negatively, dozens of his friends around the world will know within the hour. As long as we take care of our students, they will take care of us.

Martin Mueller
We ignore this at our institutional peril, since this is the way the world is now largely functioning. We now engage our students far more through the virtual realm, from first outreach in marketing and admission to email and web based communication throughout their time as students, and then later to keep them connected as alumni. I have over 700 of my jazz alumni in my personal Facebook, a time consuming but very valuable way to find them, hear what they are doing, and keep a connection with them.

David Roitstein
In many ways, communication is better. One example is that anyone can go to our website now, and have access to 21 years of original CalArts recordings produced at Capitol Records. There are links to most of the musicians that have been on the CD projects, and they can contact these graduates directly. It's an amazing resource, and wouldn't have been possible a few years ago.

Dr. David Schroeder
Sometimes being fully wired detracts students from focusing on their foundational music issues at hand. But, this is the current state of the world and education. We have to learn to co-exist with constant stimulation.

Chris Vadala
It is much easier to communicate with one another and access info.

Chris Washburne
It has had a profound impact in terms of creating an online community that can regular communicate with one another and how easily class materials can be changed and uploaded to better cater to the students needs.

Paul Wertico
Modern technology is used for much of our school communications. Events such as lesson times, rehearsal times, and department meetings, etc., are often scheduled using e-mail and/or text messaging. Teaching aids such as Blackboard, Finale and Sibelius, and various file types such as pdfs, mp3s, jpegs, etc. are used to a great extent. In addition, almost all of our students have personal computers, iPods, cell phones, etc., so communication is usually pretty fast and easy. It’s also great that students have such convenient access to their music, so often times they’ll play me something on their iPod that they want me to hear, regardless of the location we’re in.

This year we started a marketing campaign on Facebook with targeted ads to students 18-20 years old who had jazz or jazz band in their profile. There are over 20,000 students who fit this profile. Of course not all of them will be music majors, but that's a great way to hone in on the students we'd like to recruit. We will be using more social networking to recruit and we'll be adding video on our website so that prospective students can hear our great students and terrific faculty.

There appears to be a proliferation of online lessons and other virtual music education available to the world. Do you see this having any affect on your school or on jazz education at large?

Todd Coolman
The idea of virtual music education is appealing in many ways, but in my experience, the quality of that instruction, thus far, has been inferior. The nations best teachers need to be involved in that aspect of education on a much larger scale before it will have any serious effect on our program or on jazz education generally. It takes much more than a guy with a computer and a video connection to make for quality instruction.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
Possibly, because I am interested in designing a few of those kinds of courses for jazz guitar and jazz improvisation.

Martin Mueller
This access and ease of technology is creating a huge "amateur" class of musician, undermining to a certain extent the perceived cultural value and discipline of serious jazz study and practice. On the other hand, it's also encouraging the development of a new audience base and some who will rise enough to aspire to professional study. I think we always need to remember that students learn most by playing with each other, and there is no substitute for this.

David Roitstein
Access to information is always a good thing. But online lessons are no substitute for direct contact with experienced, master players, teachers, and mentors.

Dr. David Schroeder
Yes, but I think in a good way. The online lessons allow students to study with my faculty, for example, before they choose to attend. Also, there are much broader resources online to learn skills for virtually everything. For example, I learned to play the blues harp simply by watching “how to” videos on YouTube. I now get called for good paying recording sessions on harmonica and have never taken a formal lesson. Go figure.

Chris Vadala
You can't replace live interaction in ensembles and one-on-one lessons. Some virtual classes are offered in theory, history, etc. but not at the exclusion of classroom offerings.

Paul Wertico
I usually see it as a positive thing, as long as the information that is being provided is useful and accurate. When used properly, such material can enhance our teaching and give our students added incentive. However, when the information is poor and/or is used improperly, it can become a distraction and a source of friction, but in general, even that can then be turned into a positive discussion and learning experience.

Here at JazzTimes, we’re seeing more and more skilled jazz players coming from overseas. Is this trend, an increase in international jazz musicians, reflected at your program as well?

Todd Coolman
We are attracting students from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and other parts of the world as well. We always have.

Martin Mueller
International students, right now particularly those from Israel, are some of our most talented musicians at The New School. The international phenomenon has been happening for some time now, not so much as an increase in total numbers per se, but certainly in the rising level of skill and expressiveness from many places in the world. I attribute this to the many decades of well established jazz culture and education history in many countries (especially western Europe), to a rise of nationalistic values encouraging and cultivating development of jazz within local musical tradition and culture, and to the evolution of jazz towards ever more stylistically diverse and hybridized forms. All this means that some of the freshest and newest directions in jazz are coming from outside the US. The rap previously was that international students played with a "foreign accent," they no longer do. Some countries, cultures are still on the curve with this, but many have arrived.

David Roitstein
We have always had creative musicians come to CalArts from all around the world. International students seem to be very comfortable with the direction of the school, particularly our World Music program. It is wonderful that this trend is increasing, and can only lead to expanded possibilities for everyone.

Dr. David Schroeder
As a matter of fact, I am the music director of NYU’s Study Abroad sites in Prague and Florence and interact with international students on a daily basis. Jazz education is definitely growing in pockets around the world with some very talented students developing everywhere. Schools including Siena Jazz in Italy, Monash University in Melbourne Australia, Birmingham Conservatoire in Birmingham England, and Senozku College of Music in Tokyo have all contacted me and or have interacted with my program in the past year alone.

Chris Vadala
I am aware of this trend, but we have many more string or orchestral players coming to our school from overseas than jazz or music education students.

Chris Washburne
To some extent, however the foreign musicians coming to New York are already well trained and my impression is that enrolling in school in New York is often more of a way for providing a visa that allows a chance to spend time in the City and to try out launching a career rather than getting an education. This reflects that fact the conservatories in Europe have really established strong programs and these programs provide young aspiring musicians a viable alternative to the long held notion that study abroad at a U.S. conservatory or university was a necessary rite of passage for a career in jazz. It no longer is.

Paul Wertico
As a touring musician, I see and hear, as well as perform and record with, many wonderful players overseas. Many countries support jazz and jazz musicians in a way that the U.S. does not. Our school’s program has a majority of students from the States, but we also have students from Japan, Europe, South America, and in fact, one student sax player we have from Israel is also a member of my band, Paul Wertico’s Mid-East/Mid-West Alliance.

In general, are incoming students more or less skilled in the fundamentals of jazz and music than they were, say, ten years ago?

Todd Coolman
They may be more skilled in the fundamentals of jazz music today than they were ten years ago, but that has been negated by a decrease in their awareness of the history of the music and of classic recordings in general. Their lack of self-study of the musical history and lineage of jazz is of great concern, particularly given the fact that they have better access to this information today then ever before in our history. It is ironic.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
Yes, they seem to have a significantly less amount of discipline and attention span. I attribute that directly to the culture they live in with today's society--everything is so "instant", which is antithetical to the process of learning jazz.

Martin Mueller
The word I get from faculty here at New School is that they're constantly getting better at the fundamentals. Here in the US, it seems that more and more have had exposure earlier and earlier, now quite normal that they've had training from middle school age on. This also speaks to the generations of school-trained musicians now making a primary living through teaching, both privately and on all levels of education. Despite being buffeted by decades of volatility in funding music education, the point is that the roots are well established in local community, it may expand and contract, but young students have access to this, and they're now growing up with the consciousness of jazz culture and the glamour of the "improvising virtuoso." An analogy of weather and wine comes to mind; you can have 5 bad years of grapes and some bad wine, but old vines means that the good wine always comes back and it's not going away!

David Roitstein
Incoming students are highly skilled and very creative, just as much as they were ten years ago. But they are more interested in pursuing a wider range of musical directions - only a few of them are exclusively focused on bebop and jazz standards, for instance.

Dr. David Schroeder
They are definitely more skilled.

Chris Vadala
Not across the board but I've seen some students that have taken high school AP theory and other music classes on a more advanced level.

Chris Washburne
I have found that, in general they are more skilled if they are coming from high schools with jazz programs, otherwise, they are less skilled.

Paul Wertico
It depends on the skill. In general, technical skills are still pretty good and it seems that most students’ overall love of music appears to be as high as ever. However, I see that a lot of students don’t have a broad musical repertoire or a great knowledge of the past. That’s why our combo program in particular has been so successful in exposing students to the styles and musicians that they may have ignored or been prejudiced to.

For example, if a student tenor sax player that’s totally “into” Mark Turner is in the Swing Combo for a semester, he/she has to learn to play and express himself or herself without playing anything past approximately 1940. That’s usually quite an eye-opener and thus begins their study, and eventual love and appreciation, for artists such as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, etc. The same holds true for a musically conservative student that is in the Avant-Garde Combo for a semester and has to learn about and play music of Albert Ayler, Willem Breuker, etc. That’s a different set of concepts and disciplines, but it broadens their scope and gives them a glimpse into how to put together all the diverse styles into a style of their own. As one of our student alto sax players so insightfully stated at a recent jazz forum regarding his understanding of Duke Ellington both before, and after, he was in the Swing Combo, “I was always trying to make Duke sound hip, until I realized that Duke was already hip, and I all I had to do was just play his music well.”

We’re seeing a trend of proportionally fewer young African-American youths choosing to play jazz. Is this a trend at the collegiate level as well? How do you encourage and achieve racial and ethnic diversity in your program?

Todd Coolman
We have not seen a decline in racial diversity in our program, but we admittedly have yet to achieve a reasonable level of it. We are focusing more attention on schools from underrepresented population areas, but when we do recruit students from those areas, we have trouble financially, since many of those students are severely challenged financially...and so are we. We are not yet in a position to fully fund their education.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
I see it here at my university but I attribute that mostly to the population of the university which is predominantly white. Still, on a larger level, I think most African-Americans are looking for a way to make a living, and in this regard the future of jazz doesn't look promising or attractive, since the music industry is dying in the traditional ways of record deals, record stores, gigs, tours, radio airplay, etc.

Martin Mueller
There are many complicated and sensitive social and cultural issues within this question. While we have a large group of African American students here at The New School, we do see a declining percentage of applicants along with other minority populations, and we also see fewer successfully completing the degree. We do every study, implement diversity initiatives, direct additional financial aid and administrative resource, and in general spend much of our time trying to understand how to retain and support our students, but we've found no clear answers. As a bigger picture, this seems to be a second wave of what happened in the 60's and 70's, when not many African Americans were going into jazz. In the 80's and 90's a lot came back, it's drifting again. Economics are a huge factor, since the root issues of economics in the black community have not been addressed in the larger society, education will easily get the blame for this. Many of our black students follow the money, crossing over into popular music, and this seems to have been the case before also.

A strong point can also be made that the promise of opportunity and equality in the 60's and 70's was rescinded in the 80's, this leading to cynicism in the black community about institutional values, including the value of a degree, and especially mixed perception in the black community regarding the institutionalization of jazz. We can only opine that the dwindling participation or failure rate of achievement is similar to loss of promise in the black community, but we certainly do feel this issue deeply at The New School given the legacy of jazz as a quintessential musical expression of the experience of African American culture in America, and this as a continuing expectation in our music community.

David Roitstein
In our program, the number of African American musicians, other minorities, and women has remained steady for many years. The number has been smaller than we would have wished for, but this is always a priority for us. For over 20 years, our CAP program (Community Arts Partnership) has gone into schools and community centers all over the
Los Angeles area (Watts Towers and Plaza de la Raza are two of our many partners) and worked very closely with young artists of all ages, tuition free. This outreach program has been remarkably successful in encouraging diversity.

Dr. David Schroeder
I think part of that is the growing cost of a music education at the college level. I am always pushing for more diversity scholarship opportunities as this issue has become a central mission in my program.

Chris Vadala
Strange to say in the DC metro area, we don't have a large number of African-American students in our program. This may be due to the fact that Howard University and UDC are nearby.

Chris Washburne
This has been the trend at Columbia. We have stepped our recruiting efforts to reach all demographics, but the results have been slow in coming. Our faculty is diverse and so is the student body, but it has been difficult to generate interest among African-American students to participate in the jazz program.

Paul Wertico
First of all, what exactly is meant by the term, jazz? I do see a lot of African-American students playing traditional forms of jazz at high school jazz festivals. However, for many decades, jazz was the cutting-edge form of music and in recent years, other forms of musical self-expression have arisen as well, such as gospel, hip-hop, world, etc. I think that the “jazz esthetic” has, to some degree, been transferred into different contemporary forms – and actually, isn’t that what jazz has always been about?

As far as our racial and ethnic current makeup, we have many more white students than African-American students. Part of it may be as you stated above, and some of it may be economic, since CCPA is a private conservatory and tuition and housing are fairly costly. We obviously have scholarships available, but that money gets used up fairly quickly. But we are also reaching out more and more to more inner city schools to recruit talented students that deserve a chance to fulfill their dreams.

What is the most popular instrument or specialty for your program? What instruments or specialties are now less popular or seem no longer current for your program?

Todd Coolman
I would say that no one instrument or specialty is necessarily more popular than any other. There seems to be equal interest in all areas, in our program at least.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
We have all the traditional instrumentation for jazz, sax, trumpet, trombones, and all rhythm section instruments. Jazz flute seems to be missing, and we could always use more trombones! Trumpet and sax seem to be the most popular.

Dr. David Schroeder
The most popular instruments are guitar, drums and saxophone. Least popular are trombone and acoustic bass.

Chris Vadala
Trumpet and saxophone seem to draw the largest number of applicants here. Trombone is not as popular, except in the classical area.

Chris Washburne
We have an overabundance of pianists, saxophonists, and vocalists, and few trombonists and trumpeters.

Paul Wertico
Of course, every year the numbers and instrumental makeup change a bit, but right now, the largest number of students we have is for drum set, followed by guitar, voice, piano, sax and bass. Trombone and trumpet are currently our lowest number.

Jazz education used to occur on the bandstand, but the days of the traveling big band are over. How do you get students out on the bandstand outside of school projects? Are they being taught business to market themselves and if so, how?

Todd Coolman
We get them gigs or performance opportunities at the same venues where we (the faculty) perform and there is a big demand in our geographic area from the public for our students to perform in any variety of contexts. When possible, we hire them to work with us on our gigs.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
We are developing a music business course right now, even though the business is changing almost faster than we can keep up with. Still, my main priority is to train students to be able to go out and hold down a gig on their own.

Martin Mueller
We're in NYC, a very different animal than most of the rest of the jazz world, so we don't have as much of a problem with this, while it is a competitive environment ( at least the real paying gigs), there are literally hundreds of clubs, venues, collectives, festivals, etc., and our students are out there constantly, through their own initiative, in a wide variety of settings. That said, they still need the skills and knowledge in how to market themselves, and we respond to this with specific courses as well as support through our career services office and the jazz school gig office.

David Roitstein
We started the program in 1983 using the jazz "apprenticeship" model. Students play together with well known and accomplished faculty in small bands of all musical styles, with frequent performance and recording opportunities, both on and off campus. The students have a lot of say in all decisions with each of their ensembles, and it's much more of a real world experience. They get accustomed to CREATING opportunities, rather than merely following directions or applying for existing job openings.

Dr. David Schroeder
Fortunately for my students, they are totally immersed in NYC culture. We are probably the most performing jazz program in the country with my students performing weekly and monthly at local venues and jazz clubs including the Blue Note, etc. Also, my students take advantage of music business internships at such locations as Saturday Night Live, Blue Note Jazz Club, Birdland Jazz Club, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Chris Vadala
We do encourage students to form groups or join local bands to gain enrichment and make money. All of our jazz full-time and adjuncts are performing musicians who give realistic information about the business of music and surviving in the market. Many of our grads are in the area military bands and jazz bands (Airmen of Note, Marine Band, Army Blues and Jazz Ambassadors, West Point Jazz Knights, Navy Commodores, Naval Academy Next Wave), as well as the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Diva Jazz Ensemble.

Chris Washburne
The advantage of being in New York City is that it allows for many occasions for our students to perform professionally in a variety of settings outside of school - and many do. I also arrange for small ensembles to perform paying gigs around campus which also provides professional experience. We do not offer formalized instruction on marketing for musicians, except for informal and individualized coaching between the instructors and students.

Paul Wertico
Roosevelt University is in the heart of downtown Chicago, so our students have easy access to the many clubs and concert halls in the city and suburbs and they frequently attend, as well as play in, these venues. Our students also often perform in public in school sponsored events as well, which not only gives them real life experience, but also gains exposure for both them and our program. Our Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies program curriculum includes classes that prepare our students for the real world, such as music business, jazz pedagogy, and comp & arranging.

It seems that there are more jazz musicians on the scene than ever, yet with fewer jobs for them, at least than there were 10-20 years ago. How do you prepare students for the real world? Are you preparing them to be musicians, teachers or something else?

Todd Coolman
We are preparing them to be professional performing artists. We instill a sense of reality throughout our program. We bring our experience from the real world into the classroom and provide the students with a view that is current and realistic.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
These days, you have to be able to play and teach, so i prepare them for both.

Martin Mueller
Jazz, in it's now traditional "modern" expression, has become a niche market. But I'm a firm believer that in addition to achieving a fulfilling artistic and community life, there is every opportunity to make a decent living doing what you love to do, making music. In order to do this, we need to prepare our students for a "portfolio career," success defined by awareness of opportunity, knowledge of the field, and the development of individual capacity to move seamlessly between various aspects of modern musical life, including performance, teaching, and all things "else." Schools like ours can't hope to "teach" all these multiple options, especially in the rapidly shifting landscape of new industry paradigm, but we can teach craft, and we can teach individual empowerment and entrepreneurship skills as directed towards self learning, awareness and achievement. This is the direction we're going at The New School.

David Roitstein
There may be fewer traditional job openings, but our students are the ones who will discover and create NEW opportunities that we haven't even imagined yet. We are preparing them to do everything in the most professional way - the concentration is on HOW they present their music, not what they present. They also will be more successful if they are honestly expressing something that is important, vital, and alive for them as individuals, putting tremendous energy into music that they truly believe in.

Dr. David Schroeder
We prepare them for any and all opportunities as no one really knows what, when, or where a door will open. It is important for my students to develop their performance skills at the highest level, but also their business, technology, and people skills to truly have a shot living in the world as a creative and inspired person.

Chris Vadala
We try to develop an aware and well-rounded musician with options to help them be employable.

Chris Washburne
In our program, most of our students are not music majors and they are studying a wide range of fields from economics, pre-med, engineering, to English. Although some will pursue professional playing careers, most will follow other paths. For instance, a number of our alums are working as record executives and producers. They were business majors in school who performed in our program and credit the combination of performing music seriously while studying business leading to their career choice.

Paul Wertico
We try to prepare them to be as open minded and versatile as possible. That way, they won’t close off new opportunities because of a lack of vision or talent. I seriously believe that as long as a student actually loves what they do and they take, as well as continue to take, their music seriously through hard work and passion, then they’ll have a fighting chance at making a career in the music business. We also constantly remind them that being a kind, thoughtful, and responsible human being also has a lot to do with success. If they all possess these qualities, then they should be able to enter into whatever part of the music business they choose.

Influences ranging from world music to creative popular music forms continue to shape and direct the evolution of the jazz art form. How are you addressing these influences in your program teaching or response to student interests, and what new artistic trends do you see on the horizon that we must prepare to address as jazz educators?

Todd Coolman
At the same time as we encourage the student’s exploration and development of all genre of music that bear upon the jazz idiom, we also try to show them where these genres originate from. We especially try to get the students to see the connections of their current “heroes” to the overall evolution of the art form.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
We have an authentic Latin jazz combo which is an integral part of our program. Also, I use jazz composition as a way to embrace modern music trends as well as traditional styles. In my view, all styles of music are fair game to embrace and can be embraced fully. All music can swing, no matter what style. If it swings, I'm down with it, and that's what I tell my students. Big ears, not narrow minds.

Martin Mueller
The reality of private higher education is that the product must meet the needs of the consumer, so we're constantly rethinking and considering new curriculum, particularly in our electives. We're in the midst of an explosion of creative hybridization and crossover between jazz and diverse musical cultures, reflected in some of the recent performance electives we've implemented, including a Brazilian Choro ensemble, an African Legacy Music ensemble, an Afrobeat ensemble, and an Indian Music ensemble. This witnesses to a trend that has been happening for some time, the incorporation of various world musics in jazz. Another trend we see at New School is the personal aspiration for composing original material rather than blowing in the standard or historical repertoire. As we look ahead, I believe one of the strongest new emerging artistic trends is the development of rhythmic exploration as the final new frontier in jazz (having pretty much been there and done it all in constructs of harmony and melody), and also the new potentials in creative thought in the intersection of music and design.

David Roitstein
Our World Music program has been a leader since CalArts started in 1970. We have masters from West Africa, North and South India, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, Afro-Cuban music, Brazilian music, and many other areas, working intensely with all of our students. This deeply affects everybody, and influences everything we do. It is a much more circular, experiential way of learning, not as linear and analytical as typical music education in our culture. It's one of the primary reasons people come to CalArts, and is probably the single most important factor in moving music forward.

Dr. David Schroeder
Again, we are located dead center in the middle of the most creative environment on the planet at NYU. Students are allowed to sample every musical and cultural style as they become totally immersed in what NYC has to offer. Additionally, my faculty acts as mentors for our students. Aside from NYU Artist/faculty’s professional careers, I have created an ensemble called Combo Nuvo (www.combonuvo.com), that acts as the NYU Jazz Faculty-in-Residence Ensemble that combines the diversity of my faculty to illustrate a wide array of world, jazz, and classical styles for our students to emulate.

Chris Vadala
We have a very strong Ethno and Musicology dept with numerous World Music ensembles and related classes. We are also closely attached to Afro-American studies on campus and have interactions with the theater and dance departments.

Chris Washburne
We offer a number of ensembles in a variety of styles from a broad range of cultures for our students to develop competency and familiarity. Our ensemble offerings include; Brazilian music, Colombian music, Afro-Cuban music, bluegrass, klezmer, and gagaku. We encourage our students participate in as much cross-cultural performance as they can fit into their schedules. This familiarity of styles is both culturally and personally enriching and provides more employment possibilities after graduation.

In my opinion jazz educators in the U.S. need to adopt a less narrow, us-centric perspective of jazz and embrace the music as a global art form in all of its diverse and myriad splendor. Just surveying the most commonly used jazz history textbooks provides evidence on just how narrow most approaches are to a music that is so broad. Just count how many textbooks incorporate European musics such as Jan Garbarek, Martial Solal, or Enrico Rava, for instance. Or musicians specializing in Latin jazz, such as Frank "Machito" Grillo, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, or Paquito D'Rivera, to name a few (who all reside or resided in the U.S.!). Jazz has many localized manifestations around the world and incorporating those various hues into jazz education only serves to ensure a thriving future for the music.

Paul Wertico
Our Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies program is exactly what its name describes. We have 8 style specific combos that cover a wide range of styles (Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, ECM, Fusion, Avant-Garde, Brazilian, and Contemporary Jazz/World), as well as a Large Jazz Ensemble, a Latin Jazz Ensemble, a Jazz Vocal Ensemble, and a Jazz Guitar Ensemble. Within these varied groups, students get a broad range of musical styles to learn about and to play in. I feel that in today’s musical environment, it’s particularly important to not only understand the past, but to be totally open-minded about the future. This means not only having a solid traditional foundation from which to build off of, but also an acceptance of non-traditional forms of musical expression that not only often break the rules, but, sometimes completely ignore them altogether. Music, as well as art in general, keeps moving forward and we need to be able to move with it.

With the passing of time it is an inevitable fact that the first generation of jazz practitioner is leaving us. Given this, what do you feel is the responsibility of jazz education in providing a succession from a “non-schooled” practitioner legacy to a jazz academe trained practitioner teacher and player? Are you addressing this in any way in the hiring and teaching at your program?

Todd Coolman
Very simply, we hire faculty who can play AND who can teach, and who have had distinguished levels of success in BOTH areas. We also have great diversity of experience expressed within our faculty that allows the students to be exposed to multiple teaching and playing styles. Our responsibility is to bring as much of the “street” into the classroom as possible.

Dr. Wayne E. Goins
I think the non-schooled approach is under-rated because those "non-schooled" musicians were some of the greatest pioneers ever. In fact, I force my students to get off the page as fast as they can and learn to use their ears. It's the weakest part of their playing. On the other hand, I push even harder the fact that jazz is a thinking person's music and that everything they hear and play has to be approached from a theoretical perspective. Intelligent music as opposed to stabbing in the wind for a lucky lick or phrase. It has everything to do with consistency and a high level of artistry, not to mention the ability to analyze almost anything you hear on the spot and be able to play it back with some level of informed precision.

David Roitstein
We have tried to make our students' experience as "unacademic" as possible, and still get an accredited degree. The focus on the jazz "apprenticeship" idea is a big part of that (see above). It is a very intense education, but is more flexible and responsive, and not as
separate from the real music world as most schools are.

Dr. David Schroeder
I am fortunate in being able to hire some of the most significant jazz musicians on the planet onto my jazz faculty at NYU Steinhardt, including Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Chris Potter, Billy Drummond, Vijay Iyer, Kenny Werner, etc. The mentoring process continues to move forward in an organic and positive way at NYU Steinhardt.

Chris Vadala
We hire players that are strong teachers to impart info to our students and pass on both the "street" and academic approaches to jazz pedagogy. We bring in icons like Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Joe Lovano, Phil Woods, Christian McBride, Dave Holland, Gary Burton, McCoy Tyner, Joshua Redman and many others to offer master classes and forums, as well as live performances.

Paul Wertico
Jazz is much more than musical rules and regulations. Our program’s Jazz Essential class teaches the historical context (social, cultural, economic, environmental, etc.) into which, and in many ways because of, different musical styles were born. I’ve been fortunate to not only have heard and met many of the greats, but I’ve also had the opportunity to play with a good number of them. I try to share those experiences with our students. Also, our school’s downtown Chicago location offers easy access to clubs where many remaining living legends often perform, so students are encouraged to take advantage of that opportunity and to listen and learn from those sources. As far as the teachers in our program, they are all working musicians and are all great players, as well as great instructors.

1 Comment

  • Dec 02, 2010 at 12:56PM Dena DeRose

    Great article... just to add something of significance--- There needs to be more women jazz musicians teaching in the university and conservatory levels so as to be role models, as well as the guys, of this great art form ! !

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