[Dixielandjazz] Students in Jazz

Randy Fendrick jfendrick at bak.rr.com
Mon Jan 8 09:57:38 PST 2007

Having taught over 25 years in comprehensive and alternative high 
schools.  I like what is taking place in some of our schools.  My 
grandson, just happens to attend the school that I retired from some 7 
years ago.  He is playing in their big band and as far as I can see is 
getting a good start in playing jazz.  Maybe, not what most on the list 
would call OKOM, but jazz in the sense that he is learning the basis of 
this form of music, that is, music theory and improvisation.  When I 
taught there, jazz band was in the daily schedule and students met 5 
days a week.  They played many student jazz festivals and had a 
reasonable sounding jazz band. Several went on to play professionally, 
one a well known jazz bassist.  I was the orchestra conductor, because 
I had a minor in music, with a major in history and taught history as 
my regular gig.  The band guy didn't want to do the orchestra, and he 
wanted jazz band.  As a result, I arranged my class schedule so that my 
prep period coincided with jazz band and I was able to go in and work 
with the jazz band, conduct sectional rehearsals, sub for the guy when 
he was away, and play just to keep the chops working during the week.  
The band guy and I left the same year.  In pops the new guys, they are 
a series of disasters until finally a newly minted teacher arrives.  By 
that time, jazz band had been removed from the daily schedule, the 
marching band, concert band and orchestra had all reached all time 
lows, and the music department was a disaster.  The new guy brings a 
new found enthusiasm to the program, reinstates jazz band, only it is 
on Monday nights from 6-9:00.  I thought 3 hours of playing, well 
that's better than none.  Then I spoke with my grandson, the first hour 
is theory, sprinkled with listening, then they play.  It is a graded 
class with viable goals for the students to reach.  The teacher a reed 
player with extensive road and cruise ship experience knows the perils 
and joys of music and is really excited about getting the kids to 
understand that jazz is an art form, that requires practice, an open 
minded attitude and dedication.  As a result, when I decided to get out 
of the big band business and clean out my garage I donated a big band 
library of approximately 1000 tunes to their library.  Also, in that 
library are many of OKOM arrangements that teacher wants to incorporate 
back into his curriculum.  What a person needs to make it happen is 
commitment by the teacher, who has both the talent and dedication to 
making this happen.  If that doesn't happen, it wont.

Randy Fendrick,
Southside Chicago Seven
Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra

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