January 23, 2013

Jazz Networking

The JazzEd Network organization made a good choice with their name. After the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) folded a few years ago, the space was quickly filled with the JazzEd Network, an organization that successfully builds on the fact that jazz now predominantly lives in academia. Their recent annual conference in Atlanta demonstrated their embrace of networking technology with a conference app for your smart phone, a social media stream, Facebook, LinkedIn, tweets and YouTube all up and running. The 3-1/2 day conference included 84 performances, including professional musicians and students, and combinations thereof. A music industry hall offered everything from new brands of saxophones to improvisation method books to the latest ways to read fakebook tunes without paper. Seventy-seven clinics were offered, with titles ranging from the down-to-earth (“Combining Chops and Soul”) to the world of cyberspace (“Asynchronous and Synchronous e-Learning — A Case Study in Globally Networked Learning Environments”).
I was pleased that my proposed clinic had been accepted by the JazzEd evaluation team. I was able to screen the 1996 film “Joe Williams/A Portrait in Song.” This film was produced by the Jazz Archive at Hamilton College. Filmmaker Burrill Crohn captured Joe in full voice with the Count Basie Orchestra in Hamilton’s own Wellin Hall. The concert was interspersed with archival footage from Joe’s career, interviews with fellow musicians, and crafted in a manner to show Joe’s humanity as well as his vocal talents. The JazzEd audience for the film was exactly what you’d hope for. Everyone knew who Joe was, and throughout the film I heard laughter, saw some tears, and heard exclamations of appreciation when Joe or another musician offered some pearls of wisdom. I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. The comments and questions afterwards were astute and informed. Perhaps the best moment was when a gentleman in the audience raised his hand and thanked us for showing the film, and then said, “because I played lead trumpet that night.” What a nice surprise to have Basie trumpeter Mike Williams in the audience. He was offered a nice round of applause.
In addition, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Carl Allen joined me for fascinating interviews for the Jazz Archive.
It’s a rare jazz musician these days who does not have some kind of educational component in his offerings. Making a living as just a player is almost impossible. At the conference you see people networking constantly, exchanging information about what they do and what they can offer. I have to imagine there was some quid pro quo going on (if your school books me, my school will book you). If you’re interested in the JazzEd network, check out their website here. There’s no argument that the future of jazz lies with these kind of organizations and for the high school and middle school teacher it’s an especially useful resource to investigate.
If I attend another conference in the future I will remember to bring my wallet to the airport. I magically turned a five hour trip into a twelve hour ordeal. I don’t recommend it.

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