Future of Jazz Education?

In April 2008, the International Association for Jazz Education declared bankruptcy and was suddenly disbanded after having served the jazz education community for nearly 40 years. Meanwhile, MENC: The National Association for Music Education announced that it may no longer be having national conferences in the United States.

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As a Seattle native and former school music teacher, such developments were particularly surprising. Many do not realize this, but Seattle is increasingly regarded nowadays as an important center for innovations in jazz education and popular music pedagogy. In each of the recent Essentially Ellington festivals, Seattle high school bands have attained the highest honors. Garfield High School has produced many important jazz and rock musicians, including Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Ernestine Anderson, as well as rock drummer Dan Peters (from Screaming Trees, Nirvana and Mudhoney). Nearby, Roosevelt High School has also produced many notable musicians, including Mike McCready (rock guitarist with Pearl Jam), Duff McKagan (rock bassist with Guns N’ Roses and Iggy Pop) and various others. Another important contributor to the local jazz scene has been Washington Middle School, which for many years has had one of the finest middle school level jazz programs in the world.




Community organizations, such as Earshot Jazz and Experience Music Project, have also contributed to local school music programs through various partnerships.

In the middle school music program that I taught in Seattle several years back, the students benefited greatly from a residency of Jovino Santos Neto, funded by Earshot Jazz. I was also able to attain grant funding from the Simpson Center for the Humanities to bring local artists from many different traditions into the school music program: an Irish fiddler, blues songwriter, Thai and Ghanaian musicians, and various others.

Hopefully the International Association for Jazz Education will be replaced by another organization soon, and I have a feeling that the solution might come from Seattle. Meanwhile jazz education and popular music pedagogy are fully in a groove with many exciting new developments in Europe and Australasia.


Eugene said...

I visited Seattle and had a private tour of the Experience Music Project last year. They have a tremendous thing going on out there and are committed to education of all kinds which is terrific - even if it is packaged for pop consumption.

Jazz education is an untapped source of wealth and opportunity for anyone who can design, package and deliver it in a clear and sequential order.

Anonymous said...

MENC stepped up and met this challenge. As a member, I was glad they moved so quickly and substantively. Of course, you'll deride their efforts, but that's to be expected at this point.

Sociomusicology said...

I am not sure if this comment is directed toward me or toward Eugene. Anyway, please note that my writings on this topic are from mid-July, and I noticed that MENC posted bylaws for a new Society for Jazz Education on its website just a few weeks ago (September 12). It seems that the anonymous writer assumes I only have negative things to say about MENC. Actually, I have been a member of MENC, and have published in its main research journal, presented at its conferences, and frequently cite its periodicals. On this very website I have also written some positive things about MENC, including that it has played “a very important role in the field of music education in the United States, essentially unrivaled in terms of its impact” and that MENC has been “known for taking a progressive view of music and education” in previous generations. However, I have also acknowledged the shame that I feel (along with - it seems - every notable writer in the field of music education philosophy) when confronted with MENC’s most high-profile campaign in recent years, the National Anthem Project. I think it is quite clear that this wartime propaganda campaign is misguided and destructive, and I have no regrets about saying that loudly and clearly, and believe history will prove that my opinion was quite reasonable. I hope the leadership of MENC will never do something so disappointing again. It is simply absurd to suggest that the memorization of patriotic words provides evidence of quality music education. It is a perverse and philosophically indefensible position that could only happen under the conditions of (1) wartime nationalism, and (2) poor leadership. I do not despise MENC. Rather, my feelings are ambivalent, and have been for several years now. While I respect the good that MENC has accomplished, I simultaneously regret certain aspects of its recent agenda, specifically the troubling nature of its partnerships with the military and various corporations, and its misuse of research findings for the purpose of advocacy. I am also convinced that most internationalist music scholars agree with me on these points, which are so often affirmed at conferences that are not MENC-affiliated. Anyway, I hope MENC will keep striving for improvement, and as always, comments from readers are welcomed.