Jazz Pedagogy for Music Educators

By Patrick Brown, Musician and Educator

INTRODUCTION

Jazz is often taught through performance at the college/university level and is usually aimed towards those already interested in jazz. In this performance-based setting, jazz education is commonly based around jazz theory and improvisation specific to performers. Teaching jazz courses specifically designed for the music education major curriculum can be an effective strategy in spreading the love of jazz in primary (elementary) and secondary (middle and high) schools. This, in turn, will help create more jazz listeners, not just jazz performers.

JAZZ EDUCATION

Jazz is an original American art form making it a vital part of America’s history. A large number of students do not experience jazz until they start high school or even college. Some students are fortunate enough to have a middle school jazz experience, although it is rare. Therefore, all collegiate music students could benefit from some type of introductory jazz course.

There is a strong need for more emphasis on jazz education in primary and secondary schools and upon graduation, collegiate music education majors will directly affect the education that K-12 students receive. Because of this, it is imperative to equip music education students with the tools necessary to teach jazz so that they may comfortably integrate it into their future classrooms.

CURRICULUM

Music history and world music, which encompass a wide range of musical styles, are standard parts of the collegiate music education curriculum. These programs may also provide training in general music methods, conducting, and marching band techniques. Including jazz as a stand-alone subject in the curriculum rather than a summarized inclusion in other courses would aid in creating more well rounded music educators. In order to succeed in establishing and conducting such a course, collaboration between the jazz studies and the music education faculty members is crucial.

One example of how to incorporate jazz into the music education curriculum would be a “Jazz Pedagogy for Music Educators” class or similar introductory jazz course specifically designed for music education majors. Though the benefits of such a course can be great, there are few colleges and universities that currently offer it.

A “Jazz Pedagogy for Music Educators” class would cover all aspects of K-12 jazz education. In its design, it would be similar to a typical jazz pedagogy class; however, the focus would be on jazz education in primary and secondary schools. Curriculum topics and objectives of a “Jazz Pedagogy For Music Educators” class might include: overview of jazz history and styles, familiarity of jazz education texts and resources, jazz appreciation in elementary schools, appropriate rehearsal techniques for small group and large jazz ensembles, suggested listening, and developing a pedagogical approach to teaching beginning jazz improvisation.


Jazz Pedagogy For Music Educators SAMPLE Outline

  • Overview of jazz history and styles Important Jazz Figures
    • Performers
    • Composers
    • Bandleaders
    • Bands
  • Jazz Eras
    • Ragtime
    • Early Jazz/Dixieland
    • Swing/Big Band
    • Bebop
    • Cool Jazz
    • Hard Bop
    • Free Jazz
    • Fusion
    • Latin Jazz
  • Jazz appreciation in elementary schools (K-5)
    • Resource Materials
    • Curriculum
  • Jazz performance in middle and high schools (6-12)
    • Resource Materials
    • Curriculum
    • Rehearsal Techniques (Vocal and Instrumental)
  • Suggested listening
    • Who to listen to
    • What to listen for
  • Beginning jazz improvisation
    • Resource Materials
    • Pedagogy of Improvisation

 


If the collegiate music education program does not allow the opportunity for a required jazz pedagogy class then it should be offered, at the very least, as an elective within the curriculum. If, perhaps, a jazz- specific class for music education students were not possible at all, then another way to incorporate jazz into the music education curriculum would be introducing jazz education workshops.

These workshops/masterclasses could be incorporated into standard music education classes and/or be offered as extra opportunities for students. These workshops could be taught by a member of the jazz studies faculty and would include an in- depth discussion and demonstration on a particular topic in jazz education. Topics may include: jazz in elementary schools, beginning jazz improvisation, jazz ensemble rehearsal techniques, and jazz listening.

JAZZ APPRECIATION

Various sources have stated that jazz makes up 2-3 percent of all record sales. Therefore, it is an understatement to say that jazz needs more listeners. Better understanding helps create those listeners and this very point stresses the importance of jazz education. Jazz musicians need to remember that to some degree, every jazz performer is teaching jazz appreciation. Jazz appreciation may be taught long before the performance component is ever introduced, which is why teaching jazz at the elementary school level is of utmost importance.

SUMMARY

Collegiate jazz studies and music education departments need to work closely together as there are many possibilities for collaborations and opportunities. The goal should be to connect more students with jazz and it is the responsibility of the music educator to provide students with the information necessary to do so.


Patrick Brown is currently a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is pursuing a DMA in Jazz Studies/Saxophone and is an adjunct instructor of saxophone and woodwinds at Union College in Lincoln, NE. Originally from North Carolina, Patrick has served as an adjunct instructor of saxophone and/or jazz studies at Davidson College, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Wingate University and Mitchell Community College. Patrick has performed with Glenn Miller Orchestra, Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Aretha Franklin, and North Carolina Symphony, among other notable artists. patrickbrownmusic.com