[Dixielandjazz] New Players--a sad situation

billsharp sharp-b at clearwire.net
Thu Jan 25 12:08:07 PST 2007

Unless you live in a large metropolitan area, most of us live in a 
barren wasteland of available talent for new players for OKOM. For 2 
years I have played in a Django-style Hot Jazz trio, and have searched 
high schools and colleges for persons who 1) can read, and 2) would 
like to learn the older tunes by putting themselves in the center of an 
already-formed group.  We consist of 2 guitars and a bass, and for this 
type of music, you really need a violin, or clarinet, or accordion, to 
play the lead lines and  the hot solos characteristic of the Gypsy 
style music.  We have followed numerous leads, and have had many 
players  express an initial interest come to a rehearsal, but never pan 
out basically because 1)  they can't read, even though we try to take a 
gentle approach to the initial tunes we give them, tunes consisting 
simply of whole, half, quarter and eighth notes, such as Exactly Like 
You, Limehouse Blues etc.  If they showed even the slightest interest, 
we'd supply them with Example Cds and the music leadsheets.   2) They 
won't be committed to the practice element involved on their part, 
since it (the ability to play the stuff ) doesn't come "right now" -- - 
I mean immediately, then they either don't have the time for the 
commitment, or won't take the time, even though we offer to slowly move 
them along, and help them in the process of learning.  We even tell 
them that we don't expect them to be proficient in the field until they 
have had ample time and opportunity to learn.

  One of the great tragedies we're finding is that those who teach 
violin,  either in the schools or privately, are all classically 
trained, and when I speak to these instructors, they've never heard of 
Stephane Graphelli, or what role the violin might play in jazz.  
They're almost reluctant to give you the names of any talented 
violinists because they seem to be afraid that we might corrupt the 
kids. (Oh, by the way, the youth jazz camps are incredible, and there 
are some mighty talented kids attending them, but have there been very 
many cases where they try to get violin players into the camps? Do they 
even believe they should?)

  Accordion players are in a breed all by themselves, since most of them 
are trained to be soloists, rather than group players, and are happy 
leaving it that way.  These "musicians" learn a mess of tunes at which 
they get really good playing, but put them into a group situation, with 
new music in front of them, and their eyes begin rolling in their 
sockets. When we've invited "really good" accordion players over to the 
house to see if they might like to learn this "jazz stuff",  the 
rehearsal goes something like this:  Accordionist gets out instrument 
and warms up by playing a few tunes they know, sounding incredibly 
talented, seeming to know their instrument inside and out - -oops, they 
don't - -put a piece of music in front of them, and you get the feeling 
they'd like to Google-map themselves a way out of the room.

Most young clarinet players just don't seem to have any kind of chops 
for even the simplest jazz.. One would like to have just a minimal 
amount of proficiency to begin working with, but aside from the notes 
they play in concert band, or on the marching field, these kids have 
very little notion that there is any other type of music available for 
clarinet players. . ..also true for trombone players.
For the majority of young players,  after they leave the band room, 
their main instrument seems to be iPod.

  .. . ..  almost ready to bring in a washboard player to play lead - 
-(that's  in the dictionary under the word "frustration")

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list