As a music educator, I have experience with all different levels of musicians. Beginners are always a challenge, however, beginning jazz musicians are a greater challenge for a number of reasons, the main one being that it's hard to make a beginning improvisor sound like he is playing music! Not only is the beginning jazz student most likely struggling with his or her instrument, they are struggling with these theoretical concepts like chord tones, lydian scales, song forms, and swing rhythm. Not to mention the issue that many younger players are not exposed to listening to jazz music; it's rarely on the radio or television these days. And this is a huge disconnect between jazz education and the typical student participation in the middle school or high school concert band: In a concert band, one can become an adequate to impressive player with no more homework than practicing one's instrument, while the jazz student is expected to, on top of practicing his instrument, having the time to listen to recordings and study all these new theoretical concepts. It can be extremely frustrating for the young jazz student, even if they come from a strong concert band experience, to feel some kind of success in this new arena. Nevertheless, I found the vast majority of the jazz campers to be keen on learning new skills and having fun in the process.(Make sure you pronounce "process" like a Manitoban: The "pro" sounds like how you would say " pro Basketball"........)
|Dude, there are SOOOO many types of Metal.......|
There were some great master classes, which were usually mid-day: Steve Kirby had everybody come up on the stage and sing and clap together, and also spoke about obstacles to learning, such as fear of failure and personal distractions. Jimmy Greene gave an extremely enlightening lecture on the blues, as well as mentioning a recording by Jimmy Smith called Organ Grinder's Swing, and lauding it so swingingly descriptively that it made me want to go check it out! I described my master class as "doing what I normally do at home, which is just walk around the house and play different instruments." I premiered a samba-type tune that I wrote for my son entitled "Baby Liam's Bouncy Chair", which is one of the few tunes that I wrote this summer. Another master class was mostly questions from the campers and answers from the faculty, which culminated in a rousing performance by the faculty ensemble.
I reiterate that a camp such as this one is formidable, because you have to combine a lot of complex information and hopefully put it into practice during the week, while still making it fun and enjoyable. Not everyone in the camp will even go on to major in music, let alone become jazz musicians. But we want to give everyone a good experience with learning jazz, as well as creating a new audience: Hopefully all of the campers will go on to appreciate jazz more than they did before. There are no short cuts to becoming a jazz player, but there is a way to approach it that is gratifying in the short term and the long term. I think we accomplished that during the jazz camp, and I think we'll do even better next year.