Washington, D.C. Reclaims its Role as a Jazz Destination
University of Maryland, College Park
Chris Vadala, PhD is the director of jazz studies and professor of saxophone, leading eight other jazz professors at UMD. Bassist Tom Baldwin and drummer and vibes player Chuck Redd are just two of many hard-gigging jazz professors. There are some 30 jazz majors and up to 100 students enrolled in related classes each semester. About five instrumentalists graduate in jazz studies yearly. They can earn a bachelor's or master's degree or a related doctorate.
Quite a few UMD graduates teach in university jazz programs. Trombonist Jen Krupa is a member of many noteworthy ensembles including the world famous Diva Jazz Orchestra. Trumpeter Terell Stafford heads jazz studies at Temple University and Kenny Rittenhouse teaches at George Mason and performs with Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. The Kenny Rittenhouse Septet recently released New York Suite. Many other UMD graduates have music careers. Some have joined military bands such as the Airmen of Note, Army Blues, Army Jazz Ambassadors, Navy Commodores, The Next Wave Naval Academy band, West Point Army Jazz Knights, Marine band and military jazz bands overseas. Some teach and others are busy free-lancers.
High school musicians take note: many career military musicians retire after playing good music in the service, then enter a second career phase in which they record numerous albums and reap top industry awards. Joining a service band can be a smart move.
Adult Jazz Education
Adult jazz education programs are having a huge impact on the level of musicianship in the region. Two teaching artists offer programs teaching jazz improvisation to instrumentalists and vocalists. They serve about 500 students each year.
Northern Virginia guitarist and jazz instructor Paul Pieper established two programs in 2007 with the goal of making jazz training enjoyable for adult students: The Jazz Workshop and The Vocal Workshop. "The focus is on straight ahead jazz," says Pieper. He tries to confer "a gigging musician's skill set" and useful repertoire. "I want to teach people things that have the most practical value," he says, "things that will actually make them sound better. They might need less theory and more ear training."
The Jazz Workshop
Students in The Jazz Workshop (52 and growing) attend three or four two-hour sessions per month. Also leading these sessions are bassists Gavin Fallow (also an accomplished violinist) and Bhagwan Khalsa, who also plays guitar and piano. Khalsa plays with the Eric Byrd Trio and co-directs B & B Music Lessons with Brad Clements (offering individual home instruction). Pieper says, "Students are mostly doing this to enjoy themselves and have music make their lives a bit richer." Most will remain hobbyists.
The Vocal Workshop
Inspired by the late Ronnie Wells, Pieper established The Vocal Workshop in 2009, installing as instructor pianist Chris Grasso, well-known accompanist and music director at the Mandarin Oriental Restaurant in DC. (Check out his concerts with stellar vocalist Sharon Clark.) In the workshop's eight-week sessions, singers perform in a trio and end with a public performance at Blues Alley. Sessions are held in Northern Virginia, the District and Maryland. They focus on the classic repertoire of The Great American Songbook.
Jazz Band Masterclass
Saxophonist and educator Jeff Antoniuk takes a different approach. When he created Jazz Band Masterclass 10 years ago, teaching in combo classes was a novel concept. His classes are grouped by ability level and improvisation and theory are emphasized. Twice monthly, 13 different bands meet in the District and nearby Annapolis, Maryland. Antoniuk is so busy with the program that he had to give up a long-term adjunct teaching position at Towson University. He also brought in acclaimed bassist Amy Shook and classical/jazz pianist, conductor and composer Fred Hughes to lead some of the bands.
inDepth Jazz Clinics & Concerts