Aaron Goldberg: Growing as a Band Leader
AG: In fact in the States it's very much the same. Again, it was just a stroke of luck. If you look at the ranks of professional jazz musicians in the United States, the Americans that went on to become professionals at high level, about 75 to 80 percent of them all came from the same fifteen or twenty high schools around the country, and those were the high schools with the strong jazz programs. The majority of high schools don't have jazz programs at all; they may have a little bit of music instruction but it's usually something like a concert band or maybe a small orchestra. The number of schools that have jazz program is very small and the number of schools with excellent teachers is just a handful in the entire country and consistently these high schools produce top level professional jazz musicians.
All my friends went to the same high schools in Houston, Saint Louis, Seattle, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Chicago or Boston. There is a tradition at those high schools where the younger students look up to these older students who then go on to make CDs and become famous and so they know it's possible to do that. Eric Harland and Robert Glasper both went to the same high school in Houston. I'm giving lessons to a drummer from Houston, who went to that same high school as Eric, and there is a tradition of drummers that go to that high school and they all become professional musicians and talk to each other and learn from each other. I asked him: "Why there are so many good players from this school? I expected him to say because there is a great teacher but really the answer was because there is a good teacher but also the tradition of musicians teaching each other.
AAJ: What is the role of Bob Sinicrope in teaching jazz at your high school?
AG: Bob Sinicrope is one of the greatest jazz teachers I have ever met. He just won an award from IAJE [International Association for Jazz Education]the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Awardand I was so ecstatic about it because he really deserves some recognition for his hard work. His efforts have gone into teaching students to love jazz, not to become professional musicians because most of the students that go to my high school go on to become doctors and lawyers, urban professionals of all kinds.
AAJ: You were the lucky exception.
AG: I was the exception not necessarily because I was betterin fact of the musicians that I started to study jazz with I was by far the least experienced and in some ways the most hopelessbut I just fell in love with the music, maybe more deeply than some other people did, and I had the courage to take an alternate career path from some of my friends who I am sure would have loved to continue to study music, but it wasn't really in the realm of possibility. For me, I forced it into the realm of possibility.