Jazz Studies

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I know I have no right to post on threads that explore jazz or technique, but I will offer this little snippet. "Part timers", "hobbyists", "weekend warriors", whatever, get a pretty negative press on this forum. In some contexts, rightly so, but on other occasions, unfairly I feel. Anyhow, most here understand the intensity of any career building process. To suggest that competitiveness doesn't play a part in that process is false. The moment you introduce selection, you introduce competitiveness. When any player is selected for a gig, session, whatever, even if there is no formal competition structure, the need to stand out is absolute, & that entails comparison.

Although not at a technically strong level, I did earn/scratch my living from drumming for about 6 years. I recognise it's tougher now, but the basics are still the same. During this time, of course, I was competing for work, & I found that process to be taxing. Over a period of years, I almost totally lost my love for music, & certainly felt drained of inspiration & creativity.

Now I'm back at it for the fun of it, I find the love & passion has returned. Not only that, but my drive & creativity is on anoher level compared to the business Hierarchical structure I existed in before. It feels like a release, & I'd say I'm likely to excell in this environment. Because I don't have to play to put food on the table, I select when, & with who I play. I'm in a happy place.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
I used to be strongly compeititive, youre right about that man, but I feel as though Ive learned a lot and Ive also changed a lot as a person. I was experiencing a lot of negativity and frustration, things were getting pretty dark, I was losing sight of why I loved music. And now I feel like Im seeing things clearer, or at least in a more positive light, and I dont really feel like Im having to compete with anybody. I can be happy just being who I am and doing my own thing. I dunno. And seriously, Im not trying to argue with you or start some fight, you know Ive got respect for you and what youre doing and what youre gonna be doing in the future, were just headed down different paths. All the best to you man.
Britt I hope you also know that I feel the same. I have no doubt that you'll be one of the main guys someday and I sincerely hope we'll play music together sooner than later. The years I've spent growing up on DW with you, Karl, Tom, Duncan, and Duke back in the day have been very important to me. I'm glad this forum gave us a chance to do this before our inevitable associations in real life. For many years this was the one place on the Internet where the guys like us could hang without the incredible BS experienced elsewhere.

You're right that we're probably going down different paths right now but I'm happy that you're comfortable with where you are now and are at peace with it. I think that's great.

Still, this issue is how did you get to the satisfaction place you are now?... and I think you have to say that competitive Britt made that possible, otherwise you would have never made it into William Patterson in the first place to have your epiphany. See this is all I'm talking about, because point we're at right now in the business /I am told/ is the hardest part of all, and there's nothing fun about it.

Anyone here who has met me or seen my interviews knows I'm pretty laid back in the 3D world. I do the competitive thing because I feel you have to at this point in the game. Unlike your probably smarter move of doing the slow nuture in a 4 year institution, I took the AIM /MI route and jumped right in guns blazing. I can see a lot of the better stuff just over the hill right now, but still I have to climb the blasted thing and I'm probably about 60% up the incline. You'll see soon enough yourself and when that happens I'll bet some of the old stuff will come out a little for survival alone. Then when we're both comfortable enough to take a breath, we'll probably laugh about these days at some drum show or festival, while we're telling a bunch of little kids that competition doesn't matter.

But for now you have to keep moving forward and you don't do that by not being willing to do just that.

Much respect Britt.

Matt
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Okay, so it's accepted that all the schools have a competitive element and, inevitably, some students will be more competitive than others. Seems to me that Vincent is asking about the prevailing culture of the various schools so he can decide which is best for him.

Can that info be made available on this thread?
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
It's a beautiful thing when folks can discuss things. It really lends testimony to the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists on this forum.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
Okay, so it's accepted that all the schools have a competitive element and, inevitably, some students will be more competitive than others. Seems to me that Vincent is asking about the prevailing culture of the various schools so he can decide which is best for him.

Can that info be made available on this thread?
Polly I think it already has been made available. Intense cutthroat competition is the prevailing culture at any jazz school worth its salt, either in the admission phase or regarding the internal social dynamic... while most times it's actually both.

And in response to Drummist222:
Maybe all jazz schools have a cutthroat, competitive atmosphere. However, that would be at odds with the nature of schools in practically every other academic discipline. In my experience, there are always great schools where people work hard but aren't jerks to each other. Certainly, your professors need to point out your flaws, whether or not they scream at you in front of thousands of people, but I think that's also different from having an overly competitive atmosphere. Do you guys really think that a stab-everyone-in-the-back attitude is really necessary, or just the motivation to work hard? If it's the former, could you explain why?

You are correct that many other disciplines do not pursue this tact, although I am pretty certain that law and medical students will certainly take you to task. But who said anything about backstabbing or being jerks for the sake of it? Intense competition is what it is. One person is placed in front of the other with obvious winners and losers. That's it...nothing else. For example, history majors aren't stacked publicly one in front of the other after each classroom assignment, because it's not always required. Music majors are, mostly because it's essential towards the creation of the best music possible. And when you combine that with the artist emotional dynamic then you've got a volatile mix.

But see there we go again with that whole best thing really doesn't exist. Well here's yet another example of that being entirely wrong. And there's even a prescribed methodology that obviously recognizes the fallacy of that argument. That's also why a lot of the guys who enter music schools with this attitude don't hang around for very long.

Now I think the trick is to do this with your ethics in tact. That's certainly what I've been taught and taught hard. But when it's really tough, a lot of people can't handle that and they resort to low road tactics. And it only takes a handful of these guys to create a prevailing cutthroat culture...because their actions don't affect just themselves. Everyone is affected.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Yeah, I'm not understanding how people are taking competitive to mean backstabbing, or volatile, or demeaning. In a competitive school atmosphere, you either can do it, or you can't. Not getting the involvement to play in ensembles is bad enough for the musician ego.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Yeah, I'm not understanding how people are taking competitive to mean backstabbing, or volatile, or demeaning. In a competitive school atmosphere, you either can do it, or you can't. Not getting the involvement to play in ensembles is bad enough for the musician ego.
I remember years ago, someone put razor blades in the pianos at Julliard so people would cut their fingers before an audition. could have been a rumor.

Educational environments should be supportive environments. And while there is nothing wrong with competition, and it exists for parts, scholarships, grades etc. overly-competitive environments are not for everyone. I think Todd Bishop and Britt really articulated that nicely. (Todd, you really did articulate that nicely.) Nothing more really need be said.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
One thing that I don't think anyone brought up was something very common: Going to a smaller school for your undergrad to develop your skills and play with ensembles. Then go to a larger school for your masters degree. Many people who attended U of Miami or North Texas did it as grad students after honing their skills at a smaller school.

Jeff
 
You are correct that many other disciplines do not pursue this tact, although I am pretty certain that law and medical students will certainly take you to task. But who said anything about backstabbing or being jerks for the sake of it?
While the OP may not have used the word 'backstabbing' per se, he did say this:
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.
To me, that's the same as backstabbing. Law schools and med schools are intense, but they have varying cultures just like any other kind of school. I also know that there are history programs that have a cutthroat atmosphere, with everyone stabbing each other in the back to get the best grades.

Yeah, I'm not understanding how people are taking competitive to mean backstabbing, or volatile, or demeaning. In a competitive school atmosphere, you either can do it, or you can't. Not getting the involvement to play in ensembles is bad enough for the musician ego.
But the OP didn't just say 'competitive'. He said 'cutthroat competitive' (see the above quote). There certainly are schools out there that are backstabbing, volatile, and demeaning. That's all the OP wants to avoid (assuming I'm understanding him correctly, which I think I am.)

Polly I think it already has been made available. Intense cutthroat competition is the prevailing culture at any jazz school worth its salt, either in the admission phase or regarding the internal social dynamic... while most times it's actually both.
I think that the OP is looking for a school where the internal social dynamic does not have a cutthroat competitive atmosphere, and you seem to be implying that they do exist, but they're rare. I don't see a good indication of which schools fit this criterion anywhere in this thread. The OP seems to be fine with attending a selective school, meaning the admissions process is competitive. This is my whole point: I don't think the original question has been answered, and I think it should be.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
This is my whole point: I don't think the original question has been answered, and I think it should be.
I think that this thread is a perfect example of how over-competitiveness can lead to an atmosphere where there is a loss of focus. I think your points are clear and considered and that is that people have varying degrees of competitiveness. and finding a school that balances that in your character is not easy. It takes work, visits, discussions and an internet board won't do that for you in its entirely; but it should lend a hand.

@Jeff, Great point, I think there is also a financial consideration, and even going to a Community College for two years where you do your general course work (and live home)may be a good idea. This sax player I play with told me he spent two years at a CC being the drummer because there were no drummers there. He got to play all the Big Band gigs and do as much ensemble work as he wanted.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
@Jeff, Great point, I think there is also a financial consideration, and even going to a Community College for two years where you do your general course work (and live home)may be a good idea. This sax player I play with told me he spent two years at a CC being the drummer because there were no drummers there. He got to play all the Big Band gigs and do as much ensemble work as he wanted.
I actually was not thinking about community colleges, but you do bring up some good points. No matter what college or university they attend, I always suggest that my students take some community college credits during the summers. That way, the credits will transfer over and lighten the student's workload at the university of his/her choice (so there will be more time for music/practicing). As many people know, being a music major means taking more credits per semester than most majors.

As far as community college music programs, there are some. But many don;t have music programs. I do have a friend that I perform with that teaches and heads up the jazz studies program at a CC in DC.

You'd have to be careful. Your point about going for two years and then transferring may not work for music. Many college music programs require that the transfer be made sooner. By the third year, the student would have missed out on many courses such as theory, piano, and ear training that might not be taught at the CC.

But to get into a big name grad school, the student would probably need more attention as an undergrad than most community colleges provide. There are great jazz programs all over. VCU here in Richmond has been ranked very high (in Downbeat or Jazz Times, maybe both - I'd have to check). As Todd mentioned, there are other colleges close to the OP. Those could be a starting point. The Op could then transfer to another school or stay and graduate from the college - then go to a more "well known" grad school.

Jeff
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
But to get into a big name grad school, the student would probably need more attention as an undergrad than most community colleges provide. There are great jazz programs all over. VCU here in Richmond has been ranked very high (in Downbeat or Jazz Times, maybe both - I'd have to check). As Todd mentioned, there are other colleges close to the OP. Those could be a starting point. The Op could then transfer to another school or stay and graduate from the college - then go to a more "well known" grad school.

Jeff
Good points. Where I am the CC have pretty rigorous music programs; but most of them do not have a drum set program or even a primary lesson program. I think that is rare in a CC. So if you have a set teacher that you can work with that is a big factor in staying home.

But if the students goes to CC and then thinks about a four year option at a Uni for a BA and MM, that would be a beneficial option for many students. Transferring in a music school can be problematic because you still need to place out of any theory or ear training courses. But a good personal tutor can help in that regard and may offer you more assistance than you would get at university.G
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Good points. Where I am the CC have pretty rigorous music programs; but most of them do not have a drum set program or even a primary lesson program. I think that is rare in a CC. So if you have a set teacher that you can work with that is a big factor in staying home.

But if the students goes to CC and then thinks about a four year option at a Uni for a BA and MM, that would be a beneficial option for many students. Transferring in a music school can be problematic because you still need to place out of any theory or ear training courses. But a good personal tutor can help in that regard and may offer you more assistance than you would get at university.G
So this really wouldn't be the time to argue the merits of playing along to Rock Band?

Just kidding ;)
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
So this really wouldn't be the time to argue the merits of playing along to Rock Band?

Just kidding ;)
If your taking apart the x box and rebuilding it before each play, I think that would have great benefits. Some of those technical pioneers didn't even graduate college. I don't think Steve Jobs did. He spent most of his time at Hare Krishna Temples and traveling to India with a shaved head. Hey those were the days.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I actually was not thinking about community colleges, but you do bring up some good points. No matter what college or university they attend, I always suggest that my students take some community college credits during the summers. That way, the credits will transfer over and lighten the student's workload at the university of his/her choice (so there will be more time for music/practicing). As many people know, being a music major means taking more credits per semester than most majors.

As far as community college music programs, there are some. But many don;t have music programs. I do have a friend that I perform with that teaches and heads up the jazz studies program at a CC in DC.

You'd have to be careful. Your point about going for two years and then transferring may not work for music. Many college music programs require that the transfer be made sooner. By the third year, the student would have missed out on many courses such as theory, piano, and ear training that might not be taught at the CC.

But to get into a big name grad school, the student would probably need more attention as an undergrad than most community colleges provide. There are great jazz programs all over. VCU here in Richmond has been ranked very high (in Downbeat or Jazz Times, maybe both - I'd have to check). As Todd mentioned, there are other colleges close to the OP. Those could be a starting point. The Op could then transfer to another school or stay and graduate from the college - then go to a more "well known" grad school.
Yes- a lot of guys do their bulk of their work at less expensive (but still excellent) state schools, then attend the big places for shorter periods after their stuff is well together, primarily to make contacts. I never got around to addressing one of Bo's points that I agree with- that it's insane to take out a hundred grand in loans to go to Berklee or some other private school for four years.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
But the OP didn't just say 'competitive'. He said 'cutthroat competitive' (see the above quote). There certainly are schools out there that are backstabbing, volatile, and demeaning. That's all the OP wants to avoid (assuming I'm understanding him correctly, which I think I am.)

I think that the OP is looking for a school where the internal social dynamic does not have a cutthroat competitive atmosphere, and you seem to be implying that they do exist, but they're rare. I don't see a good indication of which schools fit this criterion anywhere in this thread. The OP seems to be fine with attending a selective school, meaning the admissions process is competitive. This is my whole point: I don't think the original question has been answered, and I think it should be.
Paragraph 1: I got that. Then I said all large competitive enviornments eventually lead to the cutthroat mentality when even a handful resort to low road tactics. Therefore all these higher profile institutions eventually become cutthroat competitive because the actions of even a few cutthroats spread to the entire population.Your original comments pointed directly towards perceived personality flaws you felt were inherent of competitive people who would choose the cutthroat competitive atmosphere over no competition at all, or in my estimation a place even worse, where everyone is equal by virtue of their willing to participate, a climate IMO entirely contrary to good music.

Paragraph 2: The original question was not answered because it was a very bad question. The OP set up a list of mandatory criteria then listed schools contrary to anything he wanted. Bo Eder myself and others immediately delved into the pitfalls of this course. Then as is often the case, someone derailed the thread by generalizing so as to create a debate about the larger issue of competition. Then, judging by his second very definitive remarks, it became obvious this was the OP's intention all along, who then stepped aside and allowed an unnecessary ruckus to ensue. As the day wore on everyone's pm boxes started to fill.

When the OPs second and third points were evaluated, the all competition is bad generalizer persisited in keeping the new game afloat, when all along his own youth was spent in one of the most cutthroat competitive climates in the history of the world, and was smart enough understand the obvious contradiction, as well as the contradictions of John Clayton and Dick Berk. I then persisited in as usual trying to avoid not to having words I didn't say stuffed into my mouth, then became part of an even larger generalization when Ken pointed out that even this thread was a competition, which was entirely fair seeing as how I had made a similar generalization within the context of individual posts.

This was followed by several voice of reason posts, at least two let's keep the thread on track posts /when it was obvious most weren't even reading them anymore while merely gleaning a mood/ one or two who just showed up because that's what they do, Garvin's three year old Matt=drama gimmick, a Britt/ Matt reunion, followed by at least two more was the point answered? posts, followed still by your initial appearance, two more almost stoic Ken cameos (what's up Ken?) followed at last by Jeff's obvious and best advice. But will the OP accept Jeff's wonderful insights or just go to a cutthroat place anyway, and have his butt handed to him by Christmas 2013?

That was all followed by this pithy synposis.

What did I miss?

Guys it's always the same here. That's why I'm starting to think blogs are where my future eventually lies. I've already been offered a very enticing arrangement in a great setting, and that may well be the eventual course. IMO what goes on here now is completely nuts. At least in the chaotic mid to late 2000s something relevant came from these discussions. IMO now it's just yacking for the sake of yacking.

Later.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
two more almost stoic Ken cameos (what's up Ken?) followed at last by Jeff's obvious and best advice. But will the OP accept Jeff's wonderful insights or just go to a cutthroat place anyway, and have his butt handed to him by Christmas 2013?


Later.
Every actor has his part to play. Is it time for curtain calls?

How you doin'?
 
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Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Yes- a lot of guys do their bulk of their work at less expensive (but still excellent) state schools, then attend the big places for shorter periods after their stuff is well together, primarily to make contacts. I never got around to addressing one of Bo's points that I agree with- that it's insane to take out a hundred grand in loans to go to Berklee or some other private school for four years.
Yeah, that was my initial gripe. People spending so much money - which is why I approached the issue the way I did. I wasn't even so concerned about how I would be treated if I ever got to one of those schools. My argument was simple: if you pay alot of money - then there better be some kind of return for your dollar. Otherwise, you really did go up to the counter to buy a Big Mac, and then threw it away before eating it. Go to Berklee (or in my case, USC) if you must, just know that it may or may not matter.

There are several musicians working here at Disneyland that went to USC - and they're just as a bitter as the guys who went to Cal State Long Beach!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
This same person decrying all aspects of music competition marched corps with the frickin Santa Clara Vanguard during the most famous era in drum corps history. For those unclear what this means let me clarify. Santa Clara is a multiple world champion corps. They're not just a corps. For most--- alongside the Cadets and the Blue Devils--- they are the most successful and intensely competitive drum corps in the history of the world.

In other words to have marched in that corps between the ages of 18-22---and during that particular era--- you didn't just have to be competitive, you had to be Blackbeard cutthroat competitive on a level never seen before or since.

I just wonder how this same person reconciles his hard core opinions about the intense negativity of youthful competition, when at that same age he was a high profile practitioner poster boy of the very behavior he condemns now. He may have a different opinion now but when he was in his formative times he certainly adopted a very different strategy to get a leg up.
Despite some acrimony and resulting loss of nuance, this has been an interesting thread, so I hope people don't mind if pursue this side thing a little further. I think he must be talking about me (in which case I appreciate the nice things from the beginning of the comment). Just to demystify the corps thing a little bit- that happened almost entirely because I had been involved in corps before, had good relationships, and was interested in and able to handle the gig when the opportunity came up. One of my friends at University of Oregon had marched SCV in '84, and was still in close contact with people down there. Ralph Hardimon also attended the U of O with my brother in the 70's, and I met him several times when I was little- I'm sure that helped. My old instructor with the Salem Argonauts, and corps legend, Alan Kristensen, also worked with the Vanguard that year, and he may have put in a good word for me, too. I actually considered my corps career to be over, but in the spring my friend got word that they lost a tenor player and a pit guy, and needed replacements. So I went down and played for Ralph, along with one other person from LA (there was no cattle call), and he took us both and assigned us to the pit. I was a battery guy and wanted the tenor spot, but that wasn't realistic given that this was April and the season started 6 weeks later. But the thing kind of fell in my lap.

There is also the approach of my old teacher at USC- who Bo mentioned- Gregg Field: you decide when you're 16 that you're going play with the Basie band and stop at nothing until you get it (or not). The approach that worked for me in this case was just to be on the scene, maintain good contacts, and be the kind of person/player people want to throw opportunities to. There is more than one way to skin a cat in this business.

And, yes, there are indeed a lot of highly competitive, ego-driven people involved with corps at that level, but it's a trait that the instructors have to spend a lot of time beating out of them- it's a barrier to the focus and section consciousness required for top level performance (sometimes they don't succeed; one of the greatest lines I ever saw- '87 Vanguard- was racked with ego issues and it cost them the title). There are also a lot of other people who just know how to take care of business. My friend Nate Beck, who I marched with first with the Argos and then SCV, is like that- he's a humble guy, and was never a flashy performer, but marched snare with the Vanguard for three seasons, and won a championship and at least one high drums.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Yeah, that was my initial gripe. People spending so much money - which is why I approached the issue the way I did. I wasn't even so concerned about how I would be treated if I ever got to one of those schools. My argument was simple: if you pay alot of money - then there better be some kind of return for your dollar. Otherwise, you really did go up to the counter to buy a Big Mac, and then threw it away before eating it. Go to Berklee (or in my case, USC) if you must, just know that it may or may not matter.

There are several musicians working here at Disneyland that went to USC - and they're just as a bitter as the guys who went to Cal State Long Beach!
And just to overstate the obvious, not getting into tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Debt is a no-no if you are going to try your hand at being a pro musician.
 
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