[Dixielandjazz] Thread: Growing a Jazz Audience-- It can't be done--

Norman Vickers nvickers1 at cox.net
Wed May 30 03:18:27 PDT 2012

To:  DJML; Musicians & Jazzfans list

From:  Norman Vickers, Jazz Society of Pensacola


Trumpeter/ jazz educator/ leader of Stan Kenton Alumni Jazz band Mike Vax
responds, especially to Phil Pospychala




Mike Vax wrote: 

Well OK. I have been following this thread with great interest, since I am
so involved with Jazz Education.  I wasn't sure what I was going to say
until I read Mr. Pospychala's rant.  So here goes.  

I have never been opposed to everyone having favorites.  I try to instill in
the young people that there is no "best" in music.  It is not a competition.
While there are some forms of jazz I like much more than others, and early
jazz is one of my favorite forms, people who think like Mr. Pospychala do
nothing but hurt "jazz music" per se.  

Here is the first thing to think about.  Bix was a very creative musician.
Had he lived a long life, do you think he would have sounded exactly like he
did when he was 25 years old?  He would have changed his style over the
years.  Would he have played bebop?  Probably not, but he sure could have if
he wanted to!  I have this arguement all the time with the people whose
heads are in the sand with "traditional jazz."  The musicians who were
playing jazz music in the teens and twenties were the "avant garde"
musicians of their time.  They were constantly breaking new ground.

Jazz is not a museum piece.  It is a creative art form.  It changes and
evolves. And yes - some of the ways it has evolved are not "my cup of tea,"
but I can respect what they are doing.

His quote that Count Basie "ruined the Moton Band" is complete

Anyone who has made a living in the big band idiom like I have for 50 years,
says that the Count Basie Orchestra is the epitome of swing based big band
music.  And yes those bands of the 30's were marvelous! Jimmy Lunceford,
Fletcher Henderson and others were amazing bands.  But then Mr. P sounds
like he wouldn't even like those bands either, as they are too "late" for
his liking.  I can just imagine what he would say about my Stan Kenton
Alumni Band. (Which reaches thousands of young people each year.)

Well, I can tell you that there are wonderful kids out there playing all
kinds of jazz and enjoying it.  Maybe not "your kind," but would you rather
that jazz music after 1930 just died????  At my festival, we have lots of
students involved and a high school big band always opens our Saturday night
gala concert.  We have an Educational Outreach program where we go into
schools for FREE and perform the history of jazz - INCLUDING your early
jazz.  But sad to say for Mr. P, we do get a little more modern as well.
But - we are turning all kinds of kids on to jazz, who have never heard it
before. And guess what - every school that we have performed in has had new
students who want to join the band program.

As you can see, this touched a nerve with me.  I want ALL forms of jazz to
continue into the next generation, not just one type. 

So - will we increase the jazz audience by "leaps and bounds?"  NO!  But we
will continue to build on the small percentage of the population that has
always liked it.  I'm sorry, Mr. P, if what they might like isn't to your

Mike Vax



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