Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jazz Schooling vs. Contemporary Music Schooling

I had a question come in about the pros and cons of a jazz school vs a contemporary music program. So, here's the question and my thoughts on the subject, for all that care...

pros and cons.

What are the pros and cons of a Jazz school vs. a school that teaches contemporary music (in your opinion)?

You know, there's value in any program as long as it's run in the correct way. I always tell students to look alot harder at the actual teachers they'll be taking from...their skill sets, their experiences, how they relate to the students, etc....than the actual program itself. The program is important, but a great program syllabus with a few mediocre teachers makes for a bad experience all around. I loved the teachers at my university...they were very approachable, very open...the university was in south Mississippi (not exactly the mecca of all that is cool in music), but my experience was top notch because I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of my schooling and I knew that the professors there had the skill sets available to give that to me.

The problem I see with alot of contemporary schools is that they focus heavily on pop...exactly what you need to play it, etc. You don't grow your skills as wide as you could when studying an art form such as jazz. I went into my jazz program (and all of my professors knew it) with the mindset that I was a pop drummer trying to learn a foreign art form. So everything I learned about jazz and the techniques it uses, the writing, fills, chord structures...I would immediately begin to apply that in some way to my pop/rock/etc playing. And you know what...I came out LIGHT YEARS ahead of where I thought I was going to be. I was such a better player, especially on the pop side of things. Anything they asked for live or in the studio I was able to do with some ease...because I had developed those skills. It's true, if you can play jazz correctly, you can play anything. What alot of guys get caught up in though is they begin to love jazz, and then view all other musical forms as inferior. And they're not...they may not be as complex, they may not require as deep of a skill set, but they are valid forms of music that need to be respected and learned for what they are.

Another problem I have with "popular" music schooling...What is popular nowadays? Major labels are tanking because of the decline of the cd...major artists are taking a huge hit...radio isn't what it used to be...the market is changing drastically and quickly. There are bands that make quirky music that 2,000 people worldwide love and would buy anything they release...and you know what, they make a decent living as musicians. But their music isn't "popular" music...or contemporary...or whatever. It's a little left of all of that.

College is a cool time...use it to really open up your mind and soak up those new experiences. I would opt for the school that A) Had the best teachers B) had a vibrant live music scene around it C) would afford you the most interesting life experiences and D) will give you the skill set you believe you need to achieve your life goals. A mediocre school can be an out of this world experience if you get ahold of one passionate and talented teacher.

I don't know if that helps, but it's my take on the whole thing.



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