Elephants Everywhere! (Part 1/4)

In case you missed it, please read my post: Elephant in the Room

I want this room to be huge! Ideally, we’re not excluding anyone. But there are elephants everywhere! And they’re getting bigger and bigger. I’m afraid to say that that means our room may have to be smaller and smaller.

Let me explain. No more rooms, no more elephants.

Teachers from the ‘read-execute’ tradition are beginning to see that jazz education offers a better balance between ‘listen-execute’ and ‘read-execute.’ They want to incorporate jazz into their curriculum. In some cases, they want to offer jazz as an alternative.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could get all these teachers together, give them a few workshops and then send them on their way to properly teach the jazz tradition? Wouldn’t that be ideal? We could start changing the world tomorrow!

Unfortunately, I’m discovering more and more that their infrastructure can’t support jazz education. From the big music institutions (i.e. RCM) to the individual teachers, there are so many obstacles (elephants) preventing it from happening properly. Moreover, they don’t believe that jazz education requiresspecialists and so the ‘jazz education’ they do offer is a mere extension of their current program. For example, teachers enroll in a few workshops, they get their students to learn ‘Happy Birthday’ by ear and they add an Oscar Peterson transcription to the grade 7 exam syllabus. All shortcuts.

If jazz education wants to go mainstream (students aged 16 and below), it’ll either have to start independently in very small pockets with groups of specialists, or institutions will have to incorporate these specialists into their programs (which would likely require a complete overhaul). Lately, I’ve been thinking that the former is more realistic.

Here’s another elephant: All of these workshops I’ve been giving have focused on ‘how to teach jazz piano.’ But what’s a jazz education without jazz ensembles? Do these teachers have room in their studios for a piano, bass, drums and horns? Nope! Their infrastructure can’t support it! Not to mention that it would take another workshop to explain that they’re not qualified to direct a jazz ensemble!

This raises an issue with these workshops. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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