[Dixielandjazz] Beth's remark about young members

billsharp sharp-b at clearwire.net
Thu May 27 20:36:28 PDT 2010

  Date: Tue, 25 May 2010 12:14:59 -0700
From: "Beth Schweitzer" <beth at portafortuna.com>
To: "billsharp" <sharp-b at clearwire.net>
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Adding youthful Members

Hi Bill,

I agree that we need to attract more young people, but I think the real
problem is in attracting a younger audience - not younger musicians. I
see lots of great youth jazz bands at our club concerts and other venues
(the The Capital Focus Trad Jazz Band came to St. Louis from the Potomac
River Jazz Club last week and can be found on the Internet at:
http://www.prjc.org/cfjb/). And there are so many great young groups and
soloists popping up at festivals all over. It's really wonderful to see

But I see very few young people attending the concerts and festivals,
even the ones where we have youth bands. That's where we need to put our
heads together. How do we get young people interested in listening to
OKOM? What can we do to make it "cool" or "hot" or whatever temperature
is in style today? Without an audience, does it matter if we have the


No, No No Beth.  Wrong!   We absolutely do need younger players, many 
more than the small handful you mention. To not realize this is a head 
-in-the sand view of reality.   Yes we occasionally do have youth 
groups at festivals and concerts, but I don't think there are "lots".  
I would say there are a few, a tiny handful.   Here's what we presently 
do with our youth bands - - - we support them by providing music and a 
person to conduct and teach them, and occasionally have them at a club 
meeting in their local area, yes.   But what you saw and deem wonderful 
is  not enough.

The problem with most youth bands ( like the ones you most likely saw) 
is that so many consist of junior high and high school students, and 
the audience is usually the moms dads and other relatives who are there 
to cheer them on.  Seriously, it is great to be finding kids to play 
this music, but for that age group, it's mainly "a game" to them - 
--just something to do, like any other "sport" in high school.   Having 
dozens of those groups does not mean that we are really finding the 
more serious musicians who really want to dig in and become 
"professional".  Seeing these many youth bands foists upon us the 
illusion we all get upon seeing  these young bands - - -the illusion 
that we are doing something to perpetuate OKOM.  If having all those 
youth bands was the answer, then why aren't they sticking around after 
they graduate high school (the age group at whom all our efforts are 
directed)?   We have been doing it for years, but it's not working ( 
you'd almost think it's government run, in that case).

  I believe that we should, through cooperating jazz clubs, garner huge 
support for one specific premier young-member band.  I also believe 
that to really make it work, the band should be a college age group who 
can drive themselves places,  legally be adults, and already have lots 
of training, but not experience.  We then give them the experience and 
exposure they so badly need by guaranteeing them playing opportunities 
at many jazz clubs who have all agreed to have them.  I would stay away 
from high school-aged kids because I think many of them do it as a "fun 
thing" but not necessarily a serous thing, and because mom and dad want 
them active in something to stay out of trouble.  College-age kids are 
the ones we should go after. If a kid is still playing music when they 
go to college, it's usually a very serious thing to them.

Everyone likes youth groups the way people like puppies - -"Oh, they 
are so cute" . At numerous Sacramento Jazz Jubilees, I have often seen 
a whole day of "cute" youth bands.  But what age group do you really 
want coming to our clubs?  I say it's young adults, who will spend a 
few bucks, listen, applaud, and dance their tails off. Those that are 
18 and above.  Let's say you're a young person who wants to take a date 
to hear some really good music,  Would you ask the person out by 
saying,  " Say Babe, there's a really good high school jazz band 
playing.  Want to go?"  Or would you rather be invited to  (in the 
modern lingo) "hear a really hot group of young guys who really kick 
ass playing jazz" ? There's a whole mess of college -age kids out there 
ready to play that kick-ass jazz I'm talking about.  We should tap into 
them, and give them our jazz venues to develop their craft.

I would bet you that any band supported in that fashion, after one year 
of multiple-club support and appearances, would be ready to hit our 
jazz circuit.

A second commitment of the numerous clubs would be to support for 4, 5, 
or 6 years  a new hot young group each year to train for our jazz 
scene.   What might that perhaps do to our audiences, in terms of the 
age of the attendees? Think about it.  Does the possibility of getting 
younger  audiences improve?  There's no absolute answer, but it's 
highly possible, and beats the present prognosis for our jazz clubs. 
Their demise..  If we don't do something, we will lose our scene.


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