[Dixielandjazz] Youth Band Festivals ASTA / IAJE- Kid Players - Pipa

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 5 07:58:18 PST 2005

Back from BAMS. The Chinese girl Pipa Player is extraordinary. If you
remotely enjoy banjo pickers, go see her. She is like the Bela Fleck of
Beijing. What a great treat. What an interesting meld of jazz, classic,
oriental music and an instrument with a 2000 year old history. That plus a
pretty and witty girl makes it a very worthwhile evening.

KID PLAYERS. Please do not misunderstand my posts about Jonathan. I did not
say he was the equal of say, Tamas, or Venuti, or Stein etc. How could he
be? What I did say is that he is IMO THE BEST PRE TEEN JAZZ MUSICIAN THAT I
HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE, and that HE IS A PRODIGY. Tamas posted that he
is a "possible" national treasure. I would change "possible" to "probable".
If, as Phil Woods opines, success in music is a journey, then J is at the
beginning of his and I am very pleased to be an onlooker.

Regarding the ASTA format here is how it worked (from J's mother)

A) This was a true competition- it was done by video tape. It was live two
   years ago but there were apparently some negative feelings from those who
   flew out there, paying their own way, and lost.
B) The judges, very well known violinists in the jazz world did this FREE OF
   CHARGE. They also paid their own way to attend and coach the winners.

C) There were 12 winners in all- 4 in each age category: best groove; best
   style, best musicianship and best improvisation). The youngest winners
   won $500, the juniors won $750 and the seniors won $1000.
D) There was an application fee of $25.

My major point about IAJE vs. ASTA formats is that the ASTA set up gives
NATIONAL RECOGNITION to individual players who excel whereas the IAJE format
does not. plus the ASTA judges, or adjudicators, do it FREE but it seems
that IAJE charges. (See B above... apparently STJS was unable to get a
similar commitment from IAJE) I also agree with Tamas that by and large,
there are very few youth jazz bands that are really good. And that on the
other hand, there are some excellent individual youth jazz players.

However I also cheerfully pay to hear youth bands whenever I can. I see that
as "payback" for my own lifestyle in music. Almost like a duty, if you will,
to encourage the kids. I just change my "listening" criteria in those
instances and attempt to relate my ears to the time when I was their age
paying dues by playing/sitting in etc. I think it behooves all musicians to
encourage the kids with both your attention and your wallet. Those who don't
are selfish PERIOD.

The reason am not enamoured with the IAJE format is because, IMO, it puts
the kids into a mindset that it is OK to "Pay to Play", a mindset I am
totally against. One reason is because there are MANY MUSICAL SCAMS out
there these days wherein GREEDY PROMOTERS line up "wannabe star youth bands"
and charge them to perform in major cities throughout the US. Members on
this list that are unaware of them are those that are not aware of the
general music scene in the USA. (not a fault, just an observation)

So these kids/bands, pay their own travel & lodging, plus anywhere from $100
to $500 to "compete" in a large concert venue where the audience also pays
admission to hear them. One band out of say, 50, will win a prize that
covers their expenses and a little extra. The "LURE"? "All That Exposure".
Meanwhile, the promoter makes a fortune from band entry fees, and audience
entry fees. 

Wiggins and I offer to do the same set up with OKOM bands if you guys want
"THE EXPOSURE." Just send either of us $500. ;-) VBG.

Where did the kids learn that it was OK or beneficial to do that sort of
thing? At these pay to play H.S. Festivals with "adjudicators" etc. Where
everybody gets paid except the performers.

If that happens a lot in California (it does not here in the eastern US),
then no wonder you have all those OKOM bands out there playing for nothing.
You figure that's the right thing to do as you still seek out that exposure
or fame through some kind of lucky break. Better you should invest in a
Nigerian Money Transfer Scam.

Get the gigs for the youth bands instead, and/or go to see/hear them at gigs
instead of just providing a once a year venue. Go pay to hear trumpeter
Brett Boyd with New Celebration Jazz Band if you live in North New Jersey.
He may not be Bobby Hackett, but then he's a teenager. Go pay to hear
Jonathan with Polcer of Levinson in NYC, or with Galvanized at the
Connecticut Jazz Festival. He may not be Joe Venuti, but for goodness sake,
he is 9 years old. I would guess he is better at 9 than Venuti was at 9.
(What were we doing at 9 besides playing with Lincoln Logs?) Make their gigs
viable because the best way for young people to continue improving as jazz
musicians or bands is to play gigs.

And if you are a musician or fan of the mindset that you would not pay to
hear them because they are not good enough, shame on you. Do something
worthwhile in your life, pass the music on, before you depart this world.

Steve Barbone

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