Jazz Studies

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo on a side note, Tim Genis and Lee Vinson of the Boston Symphony both attended Eastman. Genis didn't finish because he won an audition in the far east and ended up finishing his degree once he returned to America I believe.
See? So Genis was good enough without a degree, eh?

I suppose having the degree is a good thing too. If you want to go into teaching, you're definitely prepared for it. But I've yet to meet a 15 or 16 year old kid who says his dream is becoming a music teacher. They all want to play! Richard Dreyfus in Mr. Holland's Opus started out that way, didn't it?
 

Frost

Silver Member
I don't think you've said too much at all, it is just a pragmatic viewpoint. Personally I like to hold to the view that it is worth doing what you love, regardless of how practical it is in order to fulfill self-actualization and live your life without regrets.

Working at Best Buy wouldn't be that bad if I could come home, knowing I was an accomplished musician and play the kind of music I want to make at a club with my best mates.


Well, I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy your education. I'm saying that after you've spent all the money, what do you have? I don't think it's too hard to set a reasonable goal for yourself first, then decide how to go about getting it. I see too many people going to music school with absolutely no plan for what to do with it when they're done. If I was the parent paying for it, I'd be pissed if my kid got a music degree and is working as a salesman at a BestBuy.

For instance, if I said, "I want to be part of the percussion section for the Boston Symphony Orchestra", and knowing there are only four or five guys who do that full-time, my first thought is not to enroll in a music school setting myself on some meandering path to a music degree. My first thought would be, "How do I talk to the guys in the BSO so I can pick their brains on how they got there?". This is the same advice I give kids interested in business - if you want to run a nice money-making gas station, don't go out and get an MBA, talk to a guy who owns and runs a successful gas station. Once you get the information from the people who are doing what you want to do, then you go about devising a plan to achieve that goal.

I'm all for education. I think it's great. But just reading some news on the internet I found a story on how 100,000 law school graduates this year will not have a job to interview for! True or not (most likely true) the financial situation sucks out there. If it's bad for people used to expecting to go into some kind of business to pay off their student loans, what about those students who don't know where their degrees will take them? It just doesn't seem right to spend 100K for an education with no idea how to make a living after you have it. Imagine showing up for an interview to manage a small local business - who would you hire? The guy with the JD degree out of law school who can run a business? Or the guy with the BA in Music Performance who just wants to be a musician anyway?

I apologize, I've said too much. Continue....
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
Yeah, I don't necessarily agree with that. What will land him gigs is how good a musician he is, and the quality of his presentation and his relationships. ..
Without a competitive edge he doesn't get in the door to demonstrate his quality of presentation, while the only relationships made or sustained are with other anonymous individuals of a similar mindset. The subways of Europe are filled with such people.
- the tradition of cutting is jive BS, for example- so I credit him for thinking like an artist ahead of his years..
The following jazz musicians disagree and originally made their names via the cutting session menality. In fact every single musician listed below played jazz publicly for the first time at an actual cutting session.

Louis Armstrong
Duke Ellington
Lester Young
Count Basie
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Roy Eldridge
Bix Beiderbecke
Benny Goodman
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Art Tatum
Fats Waller
Earl Hines
Gene Krupa
Dave Tough
Sid Catlett
Chick Webb
Roy Haynes
Coleman Hawkins

Personally, I have a lot of faith in him, without actually knowing him. We're from the same hippie town that has produced a lot of great musicians over the decades, and I'm very familiar with what seems to be his attitude. It never stopped anyone I know from being a real musician and getting and holding work.
Todd, I think I need some proof of this because I think with all respect this may be an overreaching statement. I would also like to know what kind of work we're discussing here? If a nice session with some good guys for no money is your thing than god bless the musicians who do it. However, one would think that an actual music major would like some kind of financial return. Besides if Portland is what you claim it to be, then one would have to believe that most full time musicians who read this thread will be flocking there immediately, making that place most competitive indeed.

As I've already stated he can follow my advice if he chooses. I did my part. And as for us and this thread...agree to disagree.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Without a competitive edge he doesn't get in the door to demonstrate his quality of presentation, while the only relationships made or sustained are with other anonymous individuals of a similar mindset. The subways of Europe are filled with such people.
Like I said, quality of relationships. I don't know how much clearer I can be on that point. It's almost as if you just feel like arguing. I kind of wish you would say what you mean by competitive edge- you keep using it and it sounds like an empty phrase to me.

The following jazz musicians disagree and originally made their names via the cutting session menality. In fact every single musician listed below played jazz publicly for the first time at an actual cutting session.
I'm aware that it's part of the tradition. So is heroin. I just don't think it's necessary or constructive.

Todd, I think I need some proof of this because I think with all respect this may be an overreaching statement. I would also like to know what kind of work we're discussing here? If a nice session with some good guys for no money is your thing than god bless the musicians who do it. However, one would think that an actual music major would like some kind of financial return. Besides if Portland is what you claim it to be, then one would have to believe that most full time musicians who read this thread will be flocking there immediately, making that place most competitive indeed.
Proof of what? It's hard for me to tell what kind of extraordinary claim you think I've made. I just said I've known a lot of guys with similar attitudes who are excellent, working musicians in various capacities. I'm an example of this. I did not say they/we were millionaires. Work = anything in music, not a day job. Gigs and students. WTF.
 

RobertM

Platinum Member
I think Matt and Bo both make good points. Maybe their advice is harsh or sounds elitist or arrogant, but it really is the plain truth. Any kind of solid, good music school is going to be extremely competitive, especially places like Manhattan, North Texas, Berkelee, etc., etc. I think it is good for Vincent, as a high school junior, to hear this advice. People I know who have gone to North Texas, for example, to study jazz with Ed Soph and be good enough to play in the One O'Clock Lab Band were very talented jazz players before showing up at NT; some of them had been playing since age 2 or 4 or 6 and had been studying with a smart teacher (not just a run-of-the-mill drum or guitar teacher at Guitar Center) for years before auditioning for a place like NT.

Vincent should definitely go after his dreams, sure; but he should do it with some kind of dose of reality. Top music programs, like any other top program, are going to be highly competitive and will contain their usual crew of cut-throat denizens--it is just a fact of life that anyone will have to deal with and survive. And you may have to face the reality of discovering that you are not good enough to compete with those around you--that's another fact of life that happens all the time. This does not mean that you can never play jazz with people or play in an ensemble or be a working musician; it just means that you may not wind up being a big session player or go-to-guy on the scene, etc. However, getting your degree and working hard at such a program can at least provide you with some kind of musical satisfaction. I kind of think this is Todd's point: you can still play music and make some money at it, but it may not be your day job or sole source of income, that's all. You may have to work hard to fit it into your life (an average drummer like me who plays local gigs), whereas a really successful student at one of these high-end programs will develop a career based on their playing and the connections they have formed through playing (for example, Keith Carlock or Matt Chamberlain: from the halls of North Texas to serious music careers).

The streets are filled with people with master degrees and PhDs who did well enough to get the degree, but who also did not make it into their profession of choice. Happens all the time--and I know this from personal experience, having seen a ton of my friends and colleagues get high-level degrees with only a few of them landing desired jobs.

I think Vincent should visit those schools he's interested in, sit in on classes, meet some of the professors and students--in other words, try to get to know the feel of the schools that he would like to attend. This is a wise thing for any high schooler to do upon getting close to college selection time, and it is an experience that may help Vincent decide whether or not he'll be happy at a particular program/school.

Good luck!
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
Like I said, quality of relationships. I don't know how much clearer I can be on that point. It's almost as if you just feel like arguing. I kind of wish you would say what you mean by competitive edge- you keep using it and it sounds like an empty phrase to me.
No Todd, as usual /and my opinion only/ you become exasperated when strangers on the Internet don't fall in line with your point of view hook line and sinker. For me I felt this was a no brainer. You obviously disagreed, followed by my agree to disagree...in other words a cordial disagreement. I think the bigger question is why are you taking this personally?
I'm aware that it's part of the tradition. So is heroin. I just don't think it's necessary or constructive. .
To compare the relevance of American music competition venues like the jazz carving session with hard core substance abuse is an enormous reach that IN MY OPINION defies practical logic and hard facts copiously documented. You were provided an enormous list of the greatest jazz names to ever exist, who to a man recalled their competition days as among the most productive times of their lives. Their exact words are public knowledge and are readily available for anyone to read. Why not consider that overwhelming body of evidence with appropriate consideration? In my opinion, your comeback did not demonstrate that.
Proof of what? It's hard for me to tell what kind of extraordinary claim you think I've made. I just said I've known a lot of guys with similar attitudes who are excellent, working musicians in various capacities. I'm an example of this. I did not say they/we were millionaires. Work = anything in music, not a day job. Gigs and students. WTF.
Todd, my exact words were the following: I think with all respect this may be an overreaching statement.

Please take note of the carefully positioned phrase may be followed by the respectful term overreaching which when positioned after the phrase may be makes my point a benign disagreement by any standard. The word extraordinary was a drama word inserted by you for effect. No one mentioned millionaires either. Nor did they use energized phrases like declaring him condemned to a life of unemployability and hopeless debt as you did in your original post. Recently I have noticed this practice to be common in your posts, and although most likely unintentional, creates a false mood of antagonism never intended.

In the future, I respectfully ask that you interpret only the words provided. Seeing as how I wrote those sentences I would be the one best equipped to judge the direction they were meant to travel.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
However, getting your degree and working hard at such a program can at least provide you with some kind of musical satisfaction. I kind of think this is Todd's point: you can still play music and make some money at it, but it may not be your day job or sole source of income, that's all.
Nice thoughtful post, Robert. There's a way to say these things without dumping all over people. Just to clarify, music is in fact my sole source of income. I could definitely stand to get more calls, but for now the students are keeping the mortgage paid on time, which is more than a lot of non-artists can say.

My points on this thread are actually pretty narrowly focused and in plain English, but people have been taking liberties with projecting their own issues onto them.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
Well there you go acorn484.

You have two very differing points of view to choose from, delivered with passion no less.

But of course this is a jazz thread, meaning that no one would expect anything but fervent passion, faith of convictions and a couple of well intentioned punches thrown.

Kind of like competition, huh?

Good luck man.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
No Todd, as usual /and my opinion only/ you become exasperated when strangers on the Internet don't fall in line with your point of view hook line and sinker. For me I felt this was a no brainer. You obviously disagreed, followed by my agree to disagree...in other words a cordial disagreement. I think the bigger question is why are you taking this personally?
I was a little put off by the harsh tone you and Bo introduced to this thread, despite the eraser phrases like "agree to disagree". I thought I did a pretty good job of biting my tongue. The OP also happens to be from my home town, my high school, and studies with a close friend of mine. I've never met him before, but to me that's kind of like extended family.

To compare the relevance of American music competition venues like the jazz carving session with hard core substance abuse is an enormous reach that IN MY OPINION defies practical logic and hard facts copiously documented. You were provided an enormous list of the greatest jazz names to ever exist, who to a man recalled their competition days as among the most productive times of their lives. Their exact words are public knowledge and are readily available for anyone to read. Why not consider that overwhelming body of evidence with appropriate consideration? In my opinion, your comeback did not demonstrate that.
Like I said, I'm aware of the history- I don't need a lesson in the tradition. I don't happen to approve of every facet of it in 2011.

Todd, my exact words were the following: I think with all respect this may be an overreaching statement.

Please take note of the carefully positioned phrase may be followed by the respectful term overreaching which when positioned after the phrase may be makes my point a benign disagreement by any standard. The word extraordinary was a drama word inserted by you for effect. No one mentioned millionaires either. Nor did they use energized phrases like declaring him condemned to a life of unemployability and hopeless debt as you did in your original post. Recently I have noticed this practice to be common in your posts, and although most likely unintentional, creates a false mood of antagonism never intended.
I'm just trying to figure out what you're talking about, and I'm sorry, but this explanation isn't helping. You came off as questioning whether I was making stuff up.

The phrase "condemned to a life of unemployability and hopeless debt" is a direct response to Bo's talk of 100K college loans and your line "(i)n your spare time /and in your case you will have plenty/ you can visit those big city jazz clubs". It's an editorial paraphrase- I do that a lot, as you've noticed. Sometimes I'm trying to be biting, sometimes I'm trying to be funny, sometimes I'm trying to inspire people think about what they're saying.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
I'm just trying to figure out what you're talking about, and I'm sorry, but this explanation isn't helping. You came off as questioning whether I was making stuff up.
I'm sorry Todd but I feel you converted what was supposed to be a help thread into an issue about you. A couple of weeks ago you asked me why you were having trouble communicating with people on this board. If you recall I was encouraging and supportive but wary that you were misinterpreting tone and reading too much into everything. I then strongly encouraged you to stay with the discussions. But now I'm beginning to see things first hand. Most times I would say something like this in a pm, but if you noticed that didn't work.

Regarding what you mention above...no... I thought you were overreaching as I actually said, and I'm very sorry that explanation isn't helping. If I thought you had made something up, I would have said that. And I have to tell the mind reading gimmick for judging another person's true intentions is not the greatest way to make your point. Again just my opinion.

It's great that you know this guy's teacher /information that would have been supremely helpful towards understanding your demeanor in the beginning btw/ and that Portland is the kind of place you describe.

I apologize to the threadstarter for the derail and I'm going to bow out now.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
An excellent demonstration of a competitive environment ...
Yeah, but I think if we make this forum about competition rather than discussion we might as well flush it down the toilet now. We'll ask the OP how much it helped answer his question.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yeah, but I think if we make this forum about competition rather than discussion we might as well flush it down the toilet now. We'll ask the OP how much it helped answer his question.
I've been all ears (eyes) on this thread because I know nothing about it, but the message I'm getting as a reader is there's heaps of competition in all of the schools. Todd's comments suggest that attitudes in the schools are not uniform and that you can get fine without buying into the competition if your musicianship is good enough.

Early on Jeff suggested a school where his teacher works but he didn't mention the vibe. I'm assuming he would have taken the OP's concerns into account.

Personally, I'm hopeless with competition and fully relate to the OP's issues. However, music (as with any of the arts) inevitably has many, many more people wanting in than there are places available. Given the vagaries of human nature, it's hard to imagine an arts environment where there isn't hot competition for the best places.

The whole dynamic has the effect of driving wages down. For example, designers at my work are expected to be masterful on a wide range of software packages yet they are paid heaps less than I am, and I'm just a glorified calculator.

You gotta be in it for the love, that's for sure and you have to decide if the negatives outweigh the positives.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I'm sorry Todd but I feel you converted what was supposed to be a help thread into an issue about you.
Well, it's all there in thread. Anyone bored enough to care can judge for themselves. Rereading my brief comments I don't see it. I don't want to be a jerk, and I'd be happy if someone could PM me to show me where I have been. Everything I've gotten so far has been supportive.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
I've been all ears (eyes) on this thread because I know nothing about it, but the message I'm getting as a reader is there's heaps of competition in all of the schools. Todd's comments suggest that attitudes in the schools are not uniform and that you can get fine without buying into the competition if your musicianship is good enough.

Early on Jeff suggested a school where his teacher works but he didn't mention the vibe. I'm assuming he would have taken the OP's concerns into account.

Personally, I'm hopeless with competition and fully relate to the OP's issues. However, music (as with any of the arts) inevitably has many, many more people wanting in than there are places available. Given the vagaries of human nature, it's hard to imagine an arts environment where there isn't hot competition for the best places.

The whole dynamic has the effect of driving wages down. For example, designers at my work are expected to be masterful on a wide range of software packages yet they are paid heaps less than I am, and I'm just a glorified calculator.

You gotta be in it for the love, that's for sure and you have to decide if the negatives outweigh the positives.
You have been through it. I think that the original idea from Bo was well taken, and that is music is a competitive business, and few are irreplaceable, those being, Buddy, Ring, Bonzo and Meg White if you only have one sister. That being said, undo competition can really be a hindrance, and if you are going to shell out the big bucks, you may be better off at a school where you get the support you need to learn and grow, rather than one where you are always left in the lurch by the competition. It's a good question to ask; but not one that the OP was asking.
 

deltdrum

Senior Member
Honestly I would just put some gas money together and just go tour around. You'll know where you want to be when you check it out, and then just go do your homework to make sure that the place is what you're looking for. Just have an open mind, and go U of I.
 

acorn484

Junior Member
I would like to mention a few things after reading the previous posts.

First of all, I think I should be clear about the definition of competition as it was used in my two posts in this thread. My usage was not intended to refer to a "competitive" school as in there being lots of great players. I would love to attend a school with players better than myself as I know from experience this improves one's playing. I used the term cut-throat for a reason. If you look up cutthroat in the Oxford American Dictionaries you'll find: (of a competitive situation or activity) fierce and intense; involving the use of ruthless measures. I certainly wouldn't like to be at a school that encourages this. I've found that a competitive attitude makes me (and I'm sure others) become more self-absorbed in how I sound and then begin to start thinking more and stop listening to other band members. This in turn causes the music to sound worse and for it to be less enjoyable to play. This isn't what I'm looking for in jazz music.

I don't think competition is a wholesome motivator to play music. I believe someone can become a phenomenal player without a competitive attitude playing a part in them achieving that. I like practicing to improve my playing, not to improve my playing so as to be better than other people. We are already instinctively overly competitive, why encourage this more in our music?

Below is a quote by preeminent jazz educator and bassist John Clayton. It is from the October 2008 edition of Downbeat Magazine in an article about whether competition is a good or bad thing in jazz education:

"If there is value in competition, it would be as a motivational tool for students. I am, however, strongly opposed to encouraging students to compete against each other. It's unhealthy, it destroys egos, it encourages the flawed concept of the arts as being objective - that one can have a "best" trumpet player. It is not a part of the professional jazz world."

That pretty much sums up my point of view on competition in music. Many others, like Wynton Marsalis, have a differing opinion. But, from my experience and observation I agree with Clayton's view. Also, pay particular attention to the last sentence of his quote.

There are plenty of individual comments I'm tempted to address. However, after seeing how this has worked out for other people posting on this thread, I think it would be unwise.

Peace,

Vincent
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
"If there is value in competition, it would be as a motivational tool for students. I am, however, strongly opposed to encouraging students to compete against each other. It's unhealthy, it destroys egos, it encourages the flawed concept of the arts as being objective - that one can have a "best" trumpet player. It is not a part of the professional jazz world."
Let's jump back in on this statement. OK - I get it, we can all agree to disagree, and maybe I perceived Acorn's post in the wrong light. I still stick to my first adage: if you're gonna pay alot of money, You should expect some kind of tangible result. That's all I was basically saying. If you study jazz performance, then this to me says you are NOT planning on making payment on your bills by teaching music. You want to do it as a performer. With all due respect to those of you who teach music: that's great. But don't ever tell me you didn't want to be a player first.

I explained it to some high school students like this: you don't go up to the counter at McDonald's to order a Big Mac and then as soon as you get it, throw it away without eating it. Yet, this is exactly what I see happening in colleges everywhere. We pay for these educations, and along the way, things change, or we decide to take another route. Proponents would say its an expansion of horizons. Opponents would say that reality set-in so you better find a way to get a job. So, if you go up to the counter at your college and say you want a Jazz Performance Degree, then four years later you have the degree but you're doing something else, what the heck did you just order? You paid for a Big Mac but ended up with a Happy Meal instead? Does that make sense?

I suppose what I say is controversial because I'm really calling jazz education and music education out on the floor. It has become such an institution in and of itself, and society has bought in to it, that to suggest there's another way would mean I'm tearing away at the system. And I am, in a way. All those great players who became educators - they like working the 9-to-5 and being able to stay home to raise families. Age sets in and going out on the road or slugging it out in clubs is really a game for the young, unless your Buddy Rich (or insert still working jazz musician here).

(Wow, if that doesn't anger some of you, eh?)

But getting back to the statement above: how can there not be an objective measure of musician-artists when, as we all start out, we start out imitating and emulating the greats. Hell, in school you're taught to emulate the greats, because they are the greats. You only get noticed when you play something familiar that potential employers can use. I know we're all about being individuals and such, but how many of you have gone to play with a band and someone says, play it like so-and-so? I'm sure jazz great Jimmy Haslip paid alot of dues playing the bass part to Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On more than he can remember. We are all encouraged in school to play like demons and to make those tunes in the Real Book our own, but until you've really played them to death by paying your dues, do you think people want to hear you experimenting with them too soon? I say no.

So this, in turn, kinda' turns John Clayton statement upside-down. We go to school to learn how to be great by emulating the greats, but you're not considered on the path to greatness until you can show you can do what has come before you. And this is expected of everybody going to music school? So Mr. Clayton disagrees with competitiveness in school, but the system itself negates that attitude, doesn't it? And how do you gauge when somebody has earned their degree then? There has to be an objective standard applied in order to earn the degree: you put in the hours, you've taken the lab courses, you played in the requisite amount of college bands, you gave blood at the nurses office....if there is no objective standard, how do you figure it's time? Do they make you walk on rice paper without breaking it? Do you snatch the pebble out of the masters' hand? Who then can be the master? The very act of offering a degree in any artform means somebody came up with an objective standard. And if you ask me, somebody's making an awful lot of money. And it ain't the students, eh?
 

bigd

Silver Member
I'm not sure where anyone is going with a degree in Jazz anyway. In my area I can't even see a jazz group. When jazz is played it's in a one club with a crowd of very few. I can on the other had see a paid professional regional orchestra as well as a major symphony orchestra. If I attend those gigs I attend with thousands not 30 people. Where does one go to make money playing jazz?
 
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