Stanford Jazz Workshop Seeking Jazz Players for Paid Internship

Prestigious summer jazz education program looking for players aged 18-25 to learn from pro teachers and act as mentors to younger students

Junior Mance
Jorge Roeder, teaching a class full of bass students at the Stanford Jazz Workshop
Theo Croker, working with student combo at Stanford Jazz Workshop
Charles McPherson in performance at Stanford Jazz Workshop

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Attention: young jazz musicians. The Stanford Jazz Workshop is looking for a few good women and men for its Jazz Mentors teacher internship program, connected with its two-week Jazz Camp on July 17-30, 2010. You must be 18-25 years old and an accomplished player with a functional knowledge of “straight-ahead” jazz For the complete application requirements, go to the Stanford Jazz Workshop web site. The internship is paid (!) and includes room and board during the two-week stay at the Palo Alto campus. And you must commit to coming back to the camp for the next year’s session.

The Stanford Jazz Workshop is now in its 39th year and the Stanford Jazz Camp associated with the program has been going full-tilt since 1985. The camp brings together kids aged 12-17 from all over the country to learn jazz from a faculty of accomplished musicians and educators. The two-week camp provides the setting for this unique internship, in which young musicians shadow the camp’s teachers and basically learn the ropes for instructing the younger kids in the ways and means of playing jazz. Although the term “intern mentor” might seem like a contradiction, in fact these interns end up being important models for the youngsters, while the interns in turn soak up knowledge and vibes from selected veteran teachers/players, who have included people like Matt Wilson, Geoff Keezer, Jimmy Heath and Wycliffe Gordon. Mentor leaders for this year’s session are Charles McPherson and Junior Mance. That makes for the apprenticeship of a lifetime for a budding jazz musician.

The executive director of the program, Jim Nadel, explained that their program had been using interns off and on for a long time, but about eight years ago they realized that it made more sense to have the interns come back the next summer to continue their development as young educators. “By the second year, they’re doing some real teaching,” said Nadel. “And when they’re done with the program, they really know our teaching methods.”

A teacher of jazz courses himself at Stanford the rest of the year, Nadel added that the methods used at the camp are pretty diverse. “Our success is due to a bunch of different approaches,” explained Nadel. “You know, there’s not one way to study jazz. When you get a community with lots of different points of view, it makes it much richer.”

Nadel has been knocked out by the caliber of the interns. “Every year, the interns get a concert slot as part of the Stanford Jazz Festival – our performance component. And their concerts have been astounding with original material. These kids play a lot together during that time and they take it very seriously.” Nadel added that although several of the interns come from established collegiate jazz programs, it’s not a prerequisite. “They do have to want to be in a program like this,” Nadel noted. “That’s the important thing.”

The interns are also encouraged to keep in touch throughout the year not only with each other but also with the camp students. “We find that the relationships these kids develop with each other are very important for personal and professional reasons.”

When asked how he measures the success of a program like this, Nadel spoke of so many intangibles. “I see their names out there playing with all sorts of people. But it’s really about more than making a name for yourself as a jazz musician. I really believe that for every Joshua Redman [a former SJW attendee], there are probably thousands that simply have a great experience. Learning to play jazz can provide other benefits. You learn to be a part of a team. You have to persevere. These are great life lessons.”

Nadel said that in previous years they have depended on referrals from professional musicians and educators, as well as word of mouth, and that led to about 60 applications for the half dozen or so slots. He’s expecting many more this year with stories like this one making their way out into the general public.

When I asked Nadel what piece of advice he would give to potential applicants, he recommended that they simply follow the instructions provided on the application materials. “Too often, we get tapes in which the applicants don’t give us three songs, as we’ve asked or don’t take the first solo on the tune or whatever.”