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Considering A Jazz Studies Program

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by bassdblr, Nov 12, 2006.

  1. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    I wondered if anyone is attending college and majoring in jazz studies or has done this? Where are you going or where have you gone? How much has it helped you in your musicianship and in being a working musician? Is this realy worth the time and expense or are there other or better routes to take? Where do you suggest going?

    Getting ready to apply and do some auditions. But, am older, this can be a big investment but do-able, and hope this is going to be a worthwhile endeavor. Its something I think I have to do, though. Also know that a lot of what you get out of anything is what you put into it. Not trying to be famous, just want to be good at playing jazz and related music, get those gigs, do some teaching privately, and think being in a music intensive environment would help me get there. I have a lot of colllege credits including some music, so I can imagine spending maybe two years at most at a university.

    Any feedback appreciated.
  2. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    Thought I would try again.
  3. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    I go to Berklee. Honestly, there's better ways to do it, I think. Hang around as many small jazz clubs as possible (not possible for many college students since so many of us are under 21, which means the college actually is a better, more legal environment for younger folks), sit in with some cats if you can, pass your card around, get a web site and some recordings of your playing. Get a REALLY good private teacher, preferably someone with some good connections who might be able to get you a gig of some kind.

    I find Berklee hinders my playing. I improve way faster when I'm on a long break (winter or summer) and I can devote plenty of time to sitting down and practicing what I feel I need to practice, not what a teacher gives to a big group of students.
  4. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    I got my undergraduate degree in jazz studies from the Univ. of Washington. I learned a lot and met a lot of musicians. Being around like-minded musicians every day was definitely helpful in keeing me focused. Of course, I was also taking a lot of non-music classes in order to get my degree.

    Personally, if I had only been interested in music and not in all of the other subjects I had a chance to study in college, I might not have gone to school for music. You might be able to get what you want more cheaply and without all of the red tape of college. For example, you can obviously take bass lessons, but you could also try to get lessons from other musicians to help in other areas. You could take lessons from a good jazz pianist to focus on theory and interacting with the piano. You could take lessons with good drummers and focus on rhythm and locking up with the drummer. Try to find like minded musicians and get together and jam with them, not just playing through tunes, but discussing the music, listening to recordings, etc. School was a great place to meet other musicians, but you might be able to get the same networking opportunities by going to local jam sessions and gigs.

    I have no regrets about having gotten my degree in music, but I wasn't just there for the music--I enjoyed being able to study other things as well, and it's nice to have a degree. The degree won't help you get any gigs, but if you are interested in graduate school down the road it is handy. If you are really only interested in working on music and don't care about the degree or studying other subjects, it might work out better to design your own jazz studies program, as it were.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The older I get, the more I think I should have just taken the money I spent at Berklee and moved to NYC and started studying with my current teacher. There are some playing experiences I would have missed, but being an upright player in NYC in the early 80s would have offered experiences to more than offset the ones I missed.

    It just all depends on what YOU want. You can "be good" (whatever that means) and start teaching WITHOUT doing much of anything, depending on where you are. Guy I know teaches "jazz drumming" down in East Bum**** where I'm from, has about 35 students and he couldn't swing from the end of a rope. If you want a deep understanding of the music, you need to put yourself in a situation where you are around a lot of people who HAVE a deep understanding, where you can spend a lot of time thinking about, working on(practicing) and playing this music. The problem with schools is that
    1. they put like with like - most ensembles are made up of players of approximatley the same skill levels. It's more productive to be in a situation where you are not only the "weakest link" in the chain, but also where you have a bunch of folks who inspire/scare/yell at you. Constantly.

    2.welcome to the quarter system - ALL of the material taught is put together in a fashion that you can teach modules that adhere to some specific time frame. NOT the frame of When I Finally Get It. I mean, you're taking Ear Training 101 that has specific goals for the quarter - hear these intervals, these chord functions, transcribe these lines etc. If you pass, you go one to ET 201. Remember, I said PASS, not NAIL. You get a C -, what the **** is that? You gonna be on a gig and not hear **** and say "Well I DID get a C-..."? Ear training , other stuff, it's not about PASSING, it's about actually doing it. If I can't hear something I can't hear. It's not that I can hear a "C-"s worth of it.

    3.middle of the herd - as above, a class like Ear Training is gonna move a the pace of the middle of the class. You get something right away, you don't get to push forward. You DON'T get something, you don't get to work until you DO get it, you don't get to linger until you do.

    Lotta folks go to a school in a major metropolitan to Make Some Noise. They are already the heavy mofo in whatever Podunk they are in and they are looking to Get Heard. So they go to Mannes or New School or Berklee or Wherever and, after getting into the good ensembles and playing sessions with the other Mofos from other Podunks get picked up to do tours with Michael Buble or whoever. If you are in that category, more power to ya. If not, unless the school is REALLY short of bassplayers, you don't get a chance to play with those cats. Lucky me, when I went to Berklee they WERE short of upright players. Getting a performance degree with an education minor at pretty much ANY university is going to put you in a reasonable position to look for work teaching. You're not really gonna get a position at the university level teaching jazz at a jazz specific school without some pretty good gigging experience as well, though. Private teaching is an entirely different story, you don't need ANY qualifications to do that. All you need is a good rap...
  6. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    Thanks guys for all this good input.

    Well, here's some things that really made me think.

    First of all, I am definitely over 21, so I can understand that jazz studies programs are great for someone in the 18-20 year old range in order to have more playing opportunities. So, I can see the appeal and the marketing of all these programs.

    Second, I would be interested in private teaching down the line, but I don't need a degree for that. I have two degrees anyway, so college would be about studying just music.

    Third, I am really getting from all of you that maybe your time could have been better spent doing things differerent from school, like working with a good teacher, getting to those jam sessions, working on the web site, networking, and playing music with musicians who are better players. My major regrets at the end of a week are often about the things I did not get to practice, and, recently, it has been because of the time involved in a work-related class that is eating up my time. More school would take me away from those shedding time that are so valuable for what I am right now musically. I did take some music theory courses, but, again, I felt they were cookie cutter, and attended by many non-motivated students. We went over the same stuff again and again. I opted to buy some good ear training programs instead and study jazz theory on my own and some with my teacher, and am having success with that. Good point too -- that you end you working with people at your own level. I know, from my own experience, that I really get my #(%* kicked when my teacher presents some new, challenging ideas, or I have the opportunity to play with musicians who are better than me.

    Fourth, I just cannot seem to find a jazz program that is really designed for me, for someone older who just does not have years to spend on this. There's no adult oriiented get-to-the-point type of short-time jazz program that I have found. The closest is The Collective, but that would mean moving to NYC and that has been discussed on another thread. Something short term would be the ideal.

    I like the idea of studying bass with other instrumentalists. Never thought of that before. A pianisit would be ideal, since I have basic piano skills. I could learn more about what pianists do and get feedback on my playing, also develop repertoire.

    I am not closing the door on this idea of school, but these are very valid things to consider in deciding what direction I am heading.

    Anyone else have any comments? Would like to hear from you, pro and con.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    No disrespect intended, but there absolutely is such a program: it's called the bandstand. A decent teacher, your own motivation, and playing as many gigs as you can will get you where you want to go.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    And it doesn't hurt to get some kind of rehearsal space and a collection of able-bodied players who want to work on their chops. I haven't gotten to gigging, but the jam sessions that I've organized have been very valuable along with going to regular jam sessions at cafes/bars/whathaveyou. I should also point out that up here in the Bay Area, we have the Jazzschool which nice for people to show up and take classes without having to be a full-time student. However the caveat is that there aren't many classes geared towards higher levels as the lower level classes tend to generate more $$$ for the school. I think the school has been much more useful for networking to get to know other teachers and like-minded students which sounds similar to what Ed is talking about.

    If I had the time and money, I would be trying to talk my teacher into having me on a weekly or twice a week lesson. I have been in a bass soloing class that he offered at the Jazzschool this quarter and it's been having a huge effect on my playing.

    If it were me, I think having alot of discipline, good self-study habits, jam sessions, gigs, and having good, dedicated teacher will go much further than any school. After all, isn't that how the masters did it?
  9. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    Point taken. But, at least around where I live, there are not that many jam sessions, a lot of competition for the gigs available, a school that is putting out educated players all the time, and, in my experience, in the realm of trying to get things going for purposes of learning and practicing, not too many people that want to commit to a weekly rehearsal thing, although I am with one trio doing this right now. Going to a jam session is an opportunity for play two songs max due to it being well attended. Need something more than that. Nevertheless, I am out there trying. As I said here, I am considering options and leaning more towards the design your own jazz program and get out their and do it philosophy. And, yes, hdiddy, thanks, another good idea here to organize my own jam session. I've had that in the back of my mind for awhile and know of a possible venue.

    But, there must be a good reason that so many people are putting their time, money, and energy into attending these programs. They must be getting something out of them. Wondering if I am missing something here.
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ...yeah, by "playing gigs" I guess what I meant is play lots, with others and for others.
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    One more thing just came to mind. Up here there's the Jazzschool, and in Berkeley there's a guy who runs ensemble classes out of his house. Maybe there is someone like that down in LA. The other thing is that there is an annual jazz camp called "JazzCampWest" which features better known players and students can attend for a week straight.

    I'm bringing these up because they're chances to network, not just places to learn music. You could do the same by just attending a city college course I suppose. You kinda need to get some kind of exposure to other players so you can have other people to come to your sessions. Organizing your own jam sessions or even bands is also good in the sense that you end up calling the shots, making your own arrangements, even playing your own compositions. Despite that I have a day gig, I'm able to meet with my group once every couple of weeks, and sometimes I will meet in the middle of the week with a subset of my group to play in a duo/trio format.

    I think the big caveat is that I have the Jazzschool to go to for ensembles so that I can see how the teachers run the classes. I just take that concept home and apply it in my jam sessions. And here's a novel idea for you: Once you get a group going and you have some solid stuff under your belt, employ your teacher to come to your space and have him critique the group as a group class. If you offer enough and make an appt, I'm sure any good teacher will do it. Your very own ensemble course, so to speak. At minimum, you can record the band have him give you criticisms as well. I've been tempted to do this but never got around to doing it.

    EDIT: Augh, one more thing. An old jazz guitar teacher of mine often pushes his students to actually attend Berkelee School of Music, but only for 1 full year. The idea is to maximize on the school learning and allow yourself to get totally immersed in music, but not stay there long enough that it's too much of a waste of time and money. I was toying with the idea at one point. Food for thought.
  12. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA

    Thanks, the ideas keep flowing here. Actually, I have been to a few camps, never to the one you mention, although I heard JazzCampWest is good.

    I have already asked my teacher to listen to some of the trio stuff I do and have received some critiques on my soloing. Maybe I will go all out and ask for feedback about the whole band. Good idea. We are rehearsing soon, and I think I will simply record the whole rehearsal and pull out some of the most important stuff for a joint listen. City/community college classes can be valuable. I have been doing mostly performing group classes on and off for several years. Some contacts, but a lot of the people in these groups do not do much else. and I got stuck with a very poor drummer last time out.

    And, have thought about just one year kind of thing too. Doubt if it would be Berklee, looking more West Coast, but, yes, that would help put the focus on what is important and by having limited time, would probably use my time better. Yes, I am studying with my teacher every week and have plenty of assignments in both jazz and some classical to work on. No problem there. Developing repertoire too.

    Hdiddy, thanks for all your brainstorming here. Much to think about. Still haven't had anyone talk about their glorious, wonderful jazz school experiences. A few other people I know are also trying to put forth a try other things besides school perspective too. I bettter start listening, get past this idea that I am not good enough to really get going on this, and do something different.
  13. Mikey D

    Mikey D

    Nov 30, 2006
    Birmingham, UK
    Sounds similar to the decision I tool a few months ago. I'm 25 and what I thought was quite a respectible electric bass player. Previously taught students etc. Always wanted to further my playing as I am almost 99% self taught and where i used to live jazz wasn't exactly jumping out of clubs to play at, or even other musicians to play with.

    Phoned up for audition, got it, quit job...realised I know bugger all about playing jazz.

    I started at Birmingham Conservatoire doing their jazz degree, and after 2 months I know I have made the right choice. Surrounded by other people as passionate about the music as I am. Some players who aren't that great, but some who for 18 or so are ridiculous! Playing with them alone has spurred me on to practice harder than I ever have....Never mind the teachers.

    Currently I am taught by Jeremy Price (Trombone/musicianship), Hans Koller (Compostition) and more importantly Arnie Somogyi (upright) and Fred Baker (electric bass). (other musicians that teach here you may have heard of include Jean Toussaint, Julian Siegel, Tony Levin, Gene Calderazzo...). Currently I am only just beginning my journey on the upright, but I find my self thinking about playing that more than my electric now.

    Outside of lessons, because I am no longer working full time I don't have that pressure, so if I want to jam with a variety of guys all day everyday I can! I get to see a quality jazz gig almost every night if I want.

    So what will the debt I accumulate over the next few years get me?

    A new found inspiration to play more and practice more.
    A great big bunch of like-minded individuals to play off (hopefully share gigs with in the future! ;) )
    A new found musical interest-Upright Bass!
    Also, a few masterclasses with Dave Holland over the next couple of years hopefully-that alone is worth a lot!

    I've had a 'career' before, but at the moment I have decided that this is for me.

    Just go for it, you can always leave if its not for you!
  14. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    One of the guys in my program is similar to Mikey D. He's 26 and has a degree in engineering, but came here and loves it.

    I can't think of a place I'd rather be than at this school for this program. I am so far beyond happy with it, and will be thrilled to return next year, the year after that, etc. There are things wrong with it -- I think my theory class is a ruddy joke, and Ed's completely right (especially about ear training) but these are things that happen when you institutionalize music education.

    I'm in the foundations program, which is a 1 year thing for anyone who was waitlisted for the degree program. This year, there was about 50% more applicants than any other year before (the degree program is drawing a lot of people) and it was a strong year for bass and guitar auditions (and a ridiculous year for drummers). I'm really happy with my program and the way it's been taught -- if I was in degree this year, I'd get my clock cleaned, but after this year, we're all going to be set really well -- especially the drummers. For some reason, those guys just get rocked extra-hard in class than anyone else.

    There's no question about it, though -- music programs are intense. A good quarter of my class dropped out after midterms. It's been pretty weird going to class when 1 in 4 people aren't there anymore.

    If you want any detailed information on the program, drop me a PM -- I can tell you plenty of stuff.
  15. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    Aaron and Mikey,

    Hey, good to know you are having positive experiences in a jazz program. Thanks for the info. I was beginning to wonder if this was some kind of lost cause. I will check out the Humber College, although looking first more locally for a program. And even if I did this for just a year, I think that would make a huge difference in my playing.

    As far as the other suggestions given here, have done some jam sessions, met new players, signed up for some classes and performing group at a local college to kind of test drive being in a college music environment, have some good demo recordings from my trio for my teacher to go over with me and give some pointers, and my jazz combo demo is just about done and there are potential gigs waiting, and am going to meet with a guitarist to see if we can work together on standards and maybe eventually play out.

    But there's still something that is calling to me to go to school and just totally immerse myself in a music environment, jam all day if I want, and practice practice practice, so I am going to be working on this.
  16. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    I'm at New School. My advice: study at a non-Jazz conservatory - or not for that matter, but absolutely have at least one teacher/mentor on your ass and be on the scene - at jams/sessions etc. I've known people at school that studied with great teachers, practiced scales and Giant Steps 8 hours a day and after 4 years they couldn't get a gig, no one knew them, they had no sound, and they couldn't play I Can't Get Started.
  17. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    This is an interesting thread for me because I have similar thoughts. I have two suggestions for you and some selfish interst in having you keep exploring this and updating us.

    1) Now that Lynn Seaton has joined as an advisor, I would love to see you pose this question to him. He is the perfect guy to ask and I'd love to see his answer.

    2) If you're in LA, get in touch with John Clayton at USC. See if you can get a private lesson and talk to him about this. He'll have good advice. If you can't get to him, try with Christoph Luty who works closely with John, teaches at Cal State Long Beach and plays in the Jeff Hamilton Trio. He probably tours less than John, so he might be easier to reach, but he's only a step away. Very nice guy, take a lesson from him and talk to him about your decision and options.

    Then, let us know!

  18. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA

    Alexi, Thanks. Sorry, I don't get it. You're a New School. Isn't that a jazz program? Why would you recommend a non-jazz program? Curious. Yes, agreed. I am getting more on the scene. I will be heading to jazz jams in the next week or so. My teacher wants me to do that anyway. That would be the ultimate horror story --- to go to a school, practice 8 hours a day and not be able to get a gig. Sure it happens too.

    Troy. Yeah, what would John Clayton say? I went to a master class of his once. I think he might be someone I could at least email. He has a myspace site too. Good idea.

    Really, I am more focusing on getting out there, getting ready to play tunes at a jam, a few gigs, also got together with a guitarist last week for awhile to jam some tunes.
  19. Ale


    Jul 5, 2006
    Endorsing Artist: IGiG Cases
    Hi guys , sorry if this is OT , but i have a small question ,
    What does it cost to study music in the US ?
    Here in Sweden , its free to study at the royal music colleges , wich i think is great. But i understand that its very hard to decide wheter study or not when it cost so much ?
  20. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    I've seen that it is rare to be able to communicate about JAZZ in an academic setting. About the essence of the music - not about scale + chord = good sound crap. It's very strange inside the school. I'd have to write about it extensively, or a long long conversation. I would say talk to the students that are attending the schools you are interested in - especially Seniors and older students. Only they ever know the truth.

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