Why offer a Jazz Band? It’s a fair question. What makes jazz band worth teaching? Why not start a mariachi band or flute choir? Can a swing jazz band enhance my concert program? More importantly, how can a jazz band benefit your students?
Jazz is a unique form of art. More importantly, this American art form has a uniquely rich history and tradition. Jazz music provides students with opportunities to be creative.
This genre includes a variety of ways music can be express oneself. Jazz bands in the United States seem to be popular with student musicians who enjoy developing their creativity and advancing the technique and expressive capabilities.
A school’s jazz band carries with it popularity that attracts members of the community. Even more, jazz bands often are used as public relations vehicles. Be careful when planning to use jazz bands for a means other than the educational purpose of teaching in the jazz idiom. The vision of the overall music program should be the primary goal.
Jazz bands should supplement the concert program, not replace it. The concert program should educate the child using its core values. These values need to meet the needs and required skill sets required of the developing student musician. The “tail should not wag the dog.” Communicate your concerns to the administration clearly and logically. By doing so, decision-makers will understand your values as a professional music educator and “probably” respect the work you are doing.
What should the educational focus be in a jazz band? Is it for the audience or students? How do I prioritize what students should learn? All of these are essential concerns. Traditional jazz music focuses on swing style. Historically, swing style and improvisation are the two fundamental concepts that music educators feel should be introduced and mastered. Also, be sure to expose students to a variety of styles of music such as funk, rock, Latin, and gospel. Additional emphasis should be on the development of aural skills and motor skill mastery.
Who is Eligible?
Firstly, any student who has developed specific fundamental playing skills should have the opportunity to be part of a jazz band. Young students may engage in lab jazz bands that serve as an excellent vehicle for introducing the “jazz experience.” Even more, a unique aspect of these types of ensembles is that players often get the “one player on a part” perspective. Consequently, each player is valuable, and every instrumental part is a portion of the greater whole.
When should jazz bands rehearse? This answer varies. First of all, if you can incorporate this ensemble into the class curriculum, then students should receive considerably more benefits. Students in a jazz class will have an opportunity and exposure to learn about theory, history, and improvisation. Unfortunately, may programs don’t have the luxury to have two band classes in a day (concert and jazz bands.)
Having the jazz band as an extra-curricular activity after school is a much more realistic solution for many schools. Directors who have after school rehearsals can eliminate several other schedule conflicts and can maintain a certain level of scheduling flexibility. Likewise, music educators may find out that they may also be able to obtain a club or extra-duty stipend for their efforts.
Since extra-curricular jazz bands typically have much less rehearsal time than ensembles scheduled as a class, it is essential to plan for any performances at strategic times. Above all, these rehearsal schedules should balance the time needed for appropriate rehearsal preparation. Consequently, these skills include the development of being able to swing, improvise, learn theory, aural, and motor skills.
As a band director, you have decided to start a jazz band program. Great! Even more, you want to get all of your “ducks” in a row. Consider sensible policies regardless the ensemble is class-bassed or extra-curricular. You will probably want to create systems that are simple, logical, and enforceable. Consequently, students, parents, and administrators are not keen on drastically different expectations when compared to the concert program. If differences in policies between course ensembles and extra-curricular ensembles are needed, be sure to communicate these differences regularly.
In conclusion, having a jazz band in your school is an excellent way to beef up your band program. These groups are exciting and enhance the overall student experience. Besides, jazz bands are popular with the community and student body. With eventual and steady growth, administrators will grow to respect your work and be open to providing you with additional advocacy-oriented opportunities and monetary support.