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The Art and Science of Jazz

The Student Performer Cycle

By Published: October 20, 2010
The creative capacity "soul" has not entered into this discussion because it is virtually outside of it. This capacity waits and if the student has potential, builds in depth and intensity waiting for the proper moment of release. It is this moment of release that marks the transition between the student and the performer. It is important to remember that student and performer exist simultaneously in one musician. One role or the other becomes dominant at a particular moment but both exist at all times. Thus, we are not discussing rigid categorization and inflexible segmentation but rather an interesting blend of diverse factors in a state of evolution leading to a comfortable balance in the musician. That moment of transition occurs when the capacity to create becomes a prime mover. It does not obliterate other factors but rather becomes more compelling at that particular moment. Thus, we are led to the conclusion of a reordering of factors to describe the role of the player.

The Player: Soul—Ear—Hands—Mind

At this point the urge to play, to create, to express has asserted itself. This creative moment must be turned into sound and the sound needs the medium of technique to make itself heard. But how does the"soul" get its ideas to the "hands"? It is here that the role of the ear as a bridge becomes most significant. The lack of ear development has prevented many potential musicians from becoming musicians. The fact that the ear is responsible for linking the factors of creativity to hand response is one of the most difficult concepts for non musicians to accept. The student musician also has difficulty with this concept. He feels more comfortable blaming his hands rather than his ear for wrong notes. If the fundamental musical and physical skills are developed, most "wrong notes" are caused by the inability of the ear to accurately anticipate the music and relay the information to the hands. Since the hands are trained to respond, this is exactly what they do. Their response is in the form of a reflex.This reflex is initiated directly by the ear without conscious intellect. The mind as a consciously calculating tool has already served its function in the student role. By the time the musician has begun to function in the performing role, the mind has become the least significant factor. It, of course, retains its capacity to comprehend and indeed the mind's awareness and grasp of a principle or sound might be stronger as a consequence of having been performed. It is not, however, the prime mover. The mind's function is transformed from a prime mover to an incidental factor. The mind is analytical but the analysis is in retrospect. Too often musicians allow an analytical approach to dictate the direction of their music. This obviously curtails spontaneity and leads to an overly predictable or mechanical approach to music.

The inter-relationship of the factors and roles of musicianship is a topic of great interest to many students. If it is considered as a guiding outline and not a dogmatic categorization, I think that it will be most helpful to musicians aspiring to expand their own scope as students and performers of music.

The eternal cycle of development

Student: Mind—Hands—Ear—Soul

Player: Soul—Ear—Hands—Mind

and so it continues...

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