[Dixielandjazz] Mostly Self Taught Musicians

Randy Fendrick jfendrick at bak.rr.com
Sat Sep 13 10:59:31 PDT 2003

  While in the Navy School of Music some 45 years ago,  I remember Jerry 
Scheff telling me that a person knows at 15 years of age if they are 
going to be a player or not.  Some of you might know, that for years 
Jerry was Elvis' bass player, and has had an extremely successful 
career as a session player.  He began playing professionally in a dixie 
band at Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Sacramento in the middle 1950's, 
playing both tuba and bass.  Down through the years, as both a player 
and teacher, I have seen his words in action.  What we are really 
talking about is talent and then acquiring the discipline to do the 
things that are necessary to be a good player.  I would be the first to 
admit that it is much easier with a good teacher or at a superb 
conservatory to acquire those skills, but many players develop those 
skills outside of that arena.  The other component in this mix is the 
desire to play.  I have seen many outstanding players both conservatory 
trained and "self taught"  who don't continue to play.  Why?  In 
addition, I have seen mediocre players who were not blessed with a 
great deal of talent or as some people suggest don't have the "chops" 
continue to play and contribute to music all their lives.

One of the beauties of jazz music is that each person brings their own 
identity to their sound, we don't all  possess the same tone, or the 
ability to produce the same articulations but we are able to color the 
sound to our own tastes and abilities.  When I first heard Bill Watrous 
I marveled at his technique.  He was 18 and at the Navy School of 
Music.  When I hear Jim Fitsgerald (sp.) of the Sorta Dixie Jazz Band, 
I am amazed at how he can take the lacquer off the inside of his horn, 
just the opposite of what Watrous does.  Both of these men are 
respected for their talent and their abilities and both continue 
contribute to the milieu that we call jazz music.

Randy Fendrick,
Southside Chicago Seven
Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra

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