Recently there was an article in Jazz Ed magazine written by Dr. Andrew J. Allen, an acclaimed jazz saxophonist and an assistant professor of music at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he talks about the importance of teaching jazz through the Big Band. With the JAS Academy resurfacing, after an 8 year hiatus, to focus on the Big Band this article hit a note (pun intended) with the JAS staff.
In his article Dr. Allen explains that two key parts to having a well rounded jazz education are often lost in modern day band curriculum: improvisation and jazz history and literature. According to Dr. Allen big bands are a great way to bring them back in. For improv, if given the opportunity the students could use each other to learn “some comfort and ability to improvise” – whether it’s through jam sessions or solos.
With history and literature when teaching a well known big band piece the learning needs to go beyond being able to perform it but to understand where it came from, what it’s influences were, etc. Let performance “serve as a means to an end: creating technically and musically proficient young players with the intellectual understanding to create meaning for themselves to one extent or another.”
Dr. Allen concludes: “The big band is more than just a performing ensemble: it is one of the best opportunities to introduce students to the great traditions and present of jazz.” Focusing around that idea the 2018 JAS Academy Big Band plans to further educate 20 college level jazz students this summer in a full scholarship, week long program in Aspen, CO. Students will work some of today’s best jazz musicians: Christian McBride, Diane Reeves, Benny Green and Russell Malone in a once in a life-time experience. JAS Academy is now accepting applications through April, 13th 2018 learn more here.
You can read the full article by Dr. Allen here.