Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2

Karl Ackermann By

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I asked how the Purchase Jazz Studies Program helping students to better prepare for their own future security. Malinverni states, "We make sure that our students learn professional comportment, beginning right away in their freshman years. They are taught that punctuality and thoughtful presentation are essential to staying busy in a competitive environment. Many of our students avail themselves of classes from the Arts and Entrepreneurship courses offered at the college and we are currently working on expanding that curriculum. I think young musicians are always optimistic about the future and very seldom have a specific idea of what will await them upon graduation. And I think that's a good thing. We let them know, as they go through our program that talent is only the first ingredient along the way to professional viability and that, ultimately, their hard work and perseverance will be the determining factors in their musical lives."

Same Time; Different Country: Humber College

Less than an eight-hour drive north of the border, Toronto's Humber College resides in three clusters of campuses. The school—coincidentally—was founded in 1967, the same year as SUNY Purchase. With about twenty-thousand full-time and more than fifty-thousand part-time students, Humber specializes in technology fields, business, liberal arts and the arts. Denny Christianson is the Director of the Music Program at Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts which offers degrees or certificates in Jazz and Commercial Music, Jazz Performance, Music Business, and Music Composition.

As Christianson tells it, "by 1976 [Humber] was drawing top-notch students, as it was the only place in Canada where you could study jazz, and all the top working musicians were on faculty." Still, it wasn't until 2005, following approval from the Minister of Education, that the school began to offer a four-year Bachelor degree.

Christianson describes his role as one of keeping the program focused on the school's mission. "My job is to see that we stay focused on what our mission is, which is to give our students the best possible foundation for a successful career in music, and provide as many paths to that goal as possible. With that in mind, we created a cutting edge degree, with mandatory courses in midi technology, recording and producing master classes, music business, and creative development, which trains them for their 3rd year final recital, and their 4th year recording project in our state of the art recording studio. The results of all of this practical and hands-on experiences is that our students walk out the door with not only a BMus, but they have the mindset and business smarts of a top flight young pro....and tons of them have gone on to postgrad studies at places like Julliard, Berklee, University of Toronto, McGill, etc."

The faculty (seventeen full-time; seventy-five part-time) boasts of ten Juno winners (a Canadian equivalent of the Grammies) and a measure of the program's success is that twenty Humber alum were themselves nominated for the Juno in 2016 and seven won. Producers in Residence have included Tommy LiPuma, Al Schmidt, Greg Wells and Ken Scott while the Artists in Residence program has brought in Michael Brecker, Dave Holland, Vince Mendoza, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Gadd and others. The school features eight classrooms fully equipped for teaching, which become rehearsal space for Humber's fifty-two student ensembles. There is a midi classroom, an electronic classroom for teaching the recording process, the state-of-the-art studio and a five-hundred and fifty seat auditorium utilized as a performing classroom and concert hall.

I asked Christianson if the jazz program at Humber has an academically historical component to examine the roots of the music in the framework of its role in the development of modern jazz. He explained that Humber has ..."a three semester contemporary Music History course which traces all forms of North American music from early 1800 s (full development of New Orleans) and post-Civil War music, into music halls, Broadway, etc., with an earlier path of Delta Blues, into proliferation of R&B, into modern pop music with a parallel path of jazz history. We also offer several World Jazz groups, West African project, led by Waleed Abdulhamid, world hand drumming with Steve Mancuso, Indo jazz from Tabla master Ravi Naimpally, Latin jazz by Hilario Duran, and Brazilian jazz from Gord Sheard."

The Humber program is quite competitive but the program provides an alternative for students who need more preparation. Some students who are not ready for the degree program can qualify for Humber's Foundations course, giving them a year to hone their skills and re-apply. Up to eighty-percent of those students are accepted into the degree program the following year. Once students have been auditioned and sorted into one or more of the fifty-two Humber ensembles they have the unique opportunity to play Monday night sessions at Toronto's Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar. The ensembles are also shuttled out to perform at local schools as part of the "Jazz in the Schools" program that has given eighty-thousand students the opportunity to hear live jazz.

Christianson has focused expectations of how the Humber program can help in shaping the future of jazz. "I feel what we are doing is hugely important, because no one can make it very easily as a player by themselves. The old circuits of jazz venues are gone now, so the new generation have to be business-wise. We are one of the few schools who not only offer a solid foundation as a jazz performer, but also give them a business foundation, and a recording/producing foundation...they will need all of that, plus self-discipline and self-promotion. Mainly through the music business courses I have pointed to, and by consistently mentoring them on their own self-worth...we are seeing a return to demanding the respect of being properly paid.

Thanks to Doug Munro, Pete Malinverni, Denny Christianson, Waleed Abdulhamid and David White for their time, their participation in the interviews and/or pointing me in the right direction.

SUNY Purchase Artists

David White Jazz Orchestra: Flashpoint



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