"A New Dawn for Schools' Jazz Education?" was the question posed by a joint Jazz Services/Barbican Creative Learning seminar on 9th July. This first examination of the implications for jazz education of the Government's new National Plan for Music Education was lead by Richard Hallam, the principal architect of the Plan. The full report on the seminar is set out below, and the attachments referred to can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
“A NEW DAWN FOR JAZZ EDUCATION?”
Jazz Services’ and Barbican Creative Learning Seminar on the National Plan for Music Education and Jazz Education at the Barbican on 9 July 2012
Ivor Widdison, Jazz Services’ Education Panel chair, introduced the seminar as follows:
“Inevitably, the emphasis today is going to be on the hubs, what they will be looking for from providers and what jazz education can offer. Jazz Services is also very interested in two other parts of the National Plan. First, the fact that the Government’s new in-house Teaching Agency has been charged with developing a teacher-training module to boost primary teachers’ skills and confidence in teaching music. And secondly, that by 2013. ACE and Creative & Cultural Skills will have facilitated development of a new music education qualification with a view to achieving a more professional workforce.”
(Jazz Services’ emphasis on the importance of a jazz presence on the working group developing the new Qualified Music Educator qualification was rewarded at the conclusion of the seminar when it emerged that a jazz education practitioner would indeed be welcome on the working group – nominations have been submitted to ACE accordingly.)
“Given the severity of funding cuts generally and the gradual reduction over three years of government funding through the National Plan, we are entitled to a measure of scepticism about the future of music education. But we do have a National Plan which represents a government commitment to music education. And if music survives the National Curriculum review then that commitment will have become very real!”
Richard Hallam, the National Music Grant Director made the keynote contribution to the seminar, drawing upon his experience as a professional musician, influential music educator and Government adviser. “First Light” was a stimulating contribution laced with a substantial dose of real politique. His key messages could be summarised thus (the power point presentation follows):
- The emphasis for jazz educators and hubs themselves must be on good quality provision, rather than accepting inferior outcomes for the sake of bumping up the numbers.
- Political reality – uppermost in the eyes and minds of politicians will be the fact that £202m has been invested in music education for the next three years. While that may seem inadequate to you it won’t to them, so best to see it as a half full rather than half empty glass.
- Don’t assume others share your passion.
- Sustainability is and will always be key to effective good quality provision.
- We must try to agree what good practice looks like and then capture and share it as exemplary practice. They are the things we can do irrespective of Government and other funders’ policies.
- If we can ensure that what happens during this economic downturn is good and effective then when the economy picks up we will have the evidence and the examples to win arguments for more funds to do more of those things we believe in.
[Please refer to Dick Hallam’s presentation, which can be downloaded below]
There were two valuable contributions from the perspective of two very different hubs. From the South of England, Dr Dan Somogyi, hub leader, SoundStorm (Bournemouth & Poole Hub) and Jasmin Earnshaw-Brown, Lead Officer for Tuition (and Vocal Co-ordinator) Northumberland Creative & Performing Arts.
[Please refer to Dan Somogyi and Jasmin Earnshaw-Brown’s presentations, which can be downloaded below]
Examples of what jazz education can offer the hubs came from Debbie Kent, Professional Lead & Music Lead, Babcock LDP Music Service, Devon. Five Will Michael diplomas in as many years, testifies to Devon’s commitment to jazz education. A summary of Debbie’s presentation follows:
[Please refer to Debbie Kent’s presentation, which can be downloaded below]
Bill Martin’s achievement as head of music at Yamaha Music Europe included the introduction of several significant jazz education initiatives which promise to have a lasting legacy. His credo for the seminar read as follows:
“Jazz Spoken Here
The words 'jazz' and 'improvising' have been spotted lurking around on music curriculum documents for three decades. But since only a minority of classroom or instrumental teachers are confident improvisers the impact of this has been minimal.
If young people experience jazz at all during their school careers it is most likely to be via big band music. We have many superb youth jazz orchestras across the UK, particularly for the gifted and talented and for those of at least an intermediate-level performing standard. However, others read from bought-in arrangements, without much help to learn or even understand the jazz language with its particular dialect of timing, articulation, groove, swing, improvising, etc. This is a bit like trying to learn a language just from a book and then speaking it (if you're British) with an uncompromisingly British accent. It is quite different from learning jazz and improvising by listening to, or being led by, real jazz artists who can communicate not only the pitches but all the other nuances of the language, too. This approach is essential in making early encounters with jazz an authentic musical experience.
Before I launched my music education consultancy in June I was working with Yamaha's global brand within British music education, using it powerfully to help me design and deliver a range of high-impact education partnerships and projects.
One such project was Jazz Experience. I designed it in response to this lack of access to authentic jazz and improvising in schools. My thinking was that real change to the status quo could be achieved only by boosting teachers' skills so Jazz Experience launched in 2009, with a teacher improvisation workshop tour in year one and a national jazz ensemble competition for 11-18s in year two. We ran the programme twice and by May 2012 had engaged 190 class and instrumental teachers in the workshops.
Experience had taught me that success is more likely when those delivering the workshop understand the particular challenges music teachers face and can overcome objections from a teaching point of view. For that reason I paired leading jazz educators Richard Michael and Andrea Vicari with a top jazz musician, including Julian Joseph, Peter Ind, Tim Garland, Neil Cowley and Geoff Warren. The results were inspiring and exciting for teachers, leaving them with boosted confidence in improvising, some milestones for their own professional development and improvising activities they could begin to use when they got back to school the following day.
The competition phase of the programme produced 45 ensembles, with 17 being selected to play at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and six winning ensembles getting inspiring gigs at Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head.
Jazz & Hubs
The 122 new music education hubs, which launch in September 2012, have been charged, among other things, with increasing access to instrumental and vocal learning for young people.
The lack of focus on improvising across the breadth of the music education community is perhaps unsurprising. After all, less than 20 per cent of those who are legally entitled to ‘music’ within the curriculum have been able to access instrumental lessons. Providing a foundation of progressive instrumental and vocal skills will be crucial to hub success, in the eyes of young people, schools, Arts Council, Ofsted and the DFE.
But if this learning were restricted to purely technical matters, without helping young people to express themselves musically, an enormous opportunity will have been squandered. My suggestion for hubs is that they can bring a staggering range of benefits to young people by bringing improvising centre stage in vocal and instrumental learning. The impact I have already witnessed in my own work could be shared most effectively in the following ways:
- Providing a strong improvising focus for beginners and intermediates as part of their instrumental/vocal learning.
- Using jazz musicians who are fluent improvisers within the jazz language to deliver it.
- Involving conservatoire jazz departments and their best students, professional jazz artists, venues and jazz educators, working alongside instrumental and class teachers. The valuable spin-off here would be on-the-job professional development for teachers (in jazz and improv) and the musicians (in education).
- Focus on small-group improvising with no more than 10 musicians in a group. In that way everyone develops skills in soloing, comping, listening and groove.
- Improvisation should be extended to a range of genres: early music, world musics, folk, blues and contemporary classical.
The hubs provide an opportunity now to really ramp up the impact of music education on young people. Fostering improvising skills among beginners and intermediates liberates their musical creativity, helps develop critical and generative thinking, self-reflection, study skills, etc. More importantly it gives them access to a far broader range of musical opportunities outside their school work, in any genre. This will be a central theme of my own consultancy work with music education clients in the coming years.”
Tony Haynes, Composer/Director, Grand Union Orchestra, pioneers of “world jazz”, and providers of high quality jazz education for over 20 years reminded the seminar that
“People – especially the music and education establishment and its institutions – still have great difficulty with jazz. It is not a convenient historical form or genre (like ‘baroque music’ or ‘gamelan’) but an attitude or approach to music-making.
“I believe therefore that the best way to approach the teaching of it is to identify the distinctive features that differentiate it from classical musics.
- improvisation obviously (solo and collective)
- the primacy or identity of the individual musician
- the creative responsibility of the individual musician
- individual identity also accepting responsibility for working collaboratively in an ensemble
- its capacity to absorb or incorporate virtually any musical idea or technique
- such ideas and techniques now including virtually all the world’s major musical tradition
- its capacity therefore to express with great immediacy the world we live in
- and, perhaps more contentiously
- its equation of personal, artistic or musical freedom with other (social, political, historical) freedoms;
“I have absolutely no doubt about the importance of all these principles from an artistic perspective, and I would argue that only what’s good or truthful in art can be valid or useful when it comes to art education!
The objective, it seems to me, is to translate these into acceptable pedagogic principles without compromising their artistic integrity.
“Improvisation also teaches other important life skills – the ability to think on our feet, live on our wits. It also simultaneously encourages leadership qualities, while teaching the empathy needed to collaborate, to fit into an ensemble. A further important part of the ‘ jazz ethos’ is the development and employment of entrepreneurial skills – in promoting and selling your own work or that of your band, and /or putting on gigs and festivals.
Jazz is the music of the liberated and the most liberated of musics – and it is a music that constantly needs to re-invent itself.”