Play It Forward: Nadje Noordhuis

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Nadje Noordhuis’ journey has taken her from a youth spent studying classical music in her native Australia to a headlong dive into the world of jazz that has earned her acclaim in the music’s mecca, New York. She was one of ten semi-finalists in the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition and was selected as a Carnegie Hall Young Artist to undertake a weeklong residency with trumpet great Dave Douglas in 2010. Noordhuis is a member of several big bands, including Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, the Diva Jazz Orchestra, and Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra. As a composer, Noordhuis has been commissioned by the Sydney-based Baroque ensemble ThoroughBass and the new music ensemble ExhAust, and was awarded a small ensemble commission at the 2009 Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT). Noordhuis’ long-awaited self-titled debut, was released in 2012 on the Little Mystery Records label, and described as “a lucid, unified and deep first offering from an artist who reminds us that jazz has room for straightforward, accessible beauty too.” - Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen

www.nadjenoordhuis.com


“To play an instrument, you need to practice concentration, set goals, work with others, be patient, overcome problems – how can spending time on these areas be less important than say, Math or Science?”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

NN: My whole childhood was based around music, and the opportunities to perform, travel and teach were made possible through my school band programs. I started taking piano lessons when I was three years old at the Yamaha Music School in Sydney, Australia, so by the time I had begun school I was already very involved with music – I definitely had a head start. My public elementary school had a wonderful music program – every third grader played a band instrument, and we would rehearse several times a week and perform regularly. Because I had studied music longer than my peers, I also learned how to teach them. I had five private students when I was seven years old. Our conductor was also involved with an excellent all-ages band program in the area, so I would go from my school band rehearsal, where I played trumpet, straight to another rehearsal where I would be playing music with older kids and adults. I attended a public high school that specialized in music – at one point I was in five bands and vocal ensemble on top of my regular classes. All these bands were a giant network and family – my close friends were also students musicians. I probably spent more time rehearsing, performing, preparing for competitions, attending camps, teaching and touring than I did at home. So in a nutshell, it was incredibly significant. It took up most of my time. And I loved it.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

NN: There’s no way that I would be playing trumpet for a living had I not had the opportunity to be a part of these education programs growing up. I don’t know what I’d be doing – designing furniture, maybe? It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like. The vast majority of my friends are all musicians, or people that love music, so I assume that if I wasn’t a musician, I would have a completely different set of friends. And I really love the ones I have! Maybe I would still live in Australia, instead of in New York. I’d probably be a different person, to be honest. I sincerely doubt whether I’d be having as much fun!

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

NN: I think that performing from a young age helped me in areas of life that require a certain calmness under pressure. For example, I did public speaking and debating in high school, so that was like performing without a musical instrument. But more importantly, studying music has taught me how to set goals. Every day, the goal is music. I have to be really organized in order to be able to play it as often as I can, and keep on top of my game so I get to play with the best musicians possible. Being a freelance trumpet player and educator for a living means that I have had to learn to run my own business, so I’ve had to develop skills in time management, scheduling, fundraising, teaching, practicing – all so I can actually get on stage and play music with fantastic people. There’s a common misconception that musicians get to sleep in all day and then just turn up at a gig, but I don’t know anyone whose life is like that! There’s always emails to be sent, people to contact, gigs to organize and promote, rehearsals to schedule, and music to write, arrange and format. You have to learn how to manage all of that in order to get to the goal – the gig! It’s really hard for me to separate myself from music since it has been such a big part of my life since I was so young. I don’t know what parts of me are just my personality, and what parts are influenced by music. It’s really just one and the same.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

NN: I often teach within New York City schools, both public and private, and feel so sad for the students who don’t have a music program. They are really missing out! Music education is such an incredible way to teach people how to be great human beings. To play an instrument, you need to practice concentration, set goals, work with others, be patient, overcome problems – how can spending time on these areas be less important than say, Math or Science? Which is going to prepare you more for life after school? I’ve taught clinics in schools that have a band program, and the students seem happy, respectful and organized. I’m not saying that having a music program will fix all social problems, but I do believe that it would significantly help.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

NN: It takes a great deal of dedication, time, money and effort in order to create a program that delivers music to students in the school system. Anyone that takes on the task are my personal heroes! It is wonderful to know that there are a small but mighty bunch of people who believe that music should be a part of everyone’s life, especially those that really need it. I do believe that New York city students need it more than most! This is a tough place to live, and a tougher place to learn. In my opinion, the standardized testing and budget cuts that have been put in place have really taken a lot of fun and a lot of opportunity away from students. I am happy to know that organizations such as this one care enough to give it back, one program at a time.

Play It Forward: Tomoko Ohno

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Tomoko Ohno, born in Tokyo, began piano studies at the age of 4.  As a teenager, she began playing professionally in the Tokyo area jazz scene.  After graduating from Rikkyo University in Law and Politics, Miss Ohno moved to the United States and entered the Jazz Studies Program at William Paterson University in New Jersey, where she studied with Harold Mabern and  Rufus Reid.  During this time she had the opportunity to perform with such artists as Jerome Richardson, Wynton Marsalis, Benny Golson and Joe Henderson.  A recipient of the Student Award of Outstanding Performance and a member of the Dean’s List, Miss Ohno graduated with a B.A. in Jazz Studies.

She has performed at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, The Blue Note, Sweet Basil and The Lenox Lounge in Harlem, in addition to appearing on live radio broadcasts by WBGO and WNYC, and ABC TV’s Good Morning America.  She has performed and/or recorded with Slide Hampton, Claudio Roditi, James Spaulding, Rufus Reid,Hal Linden, The John Lee Quartet, The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band and Sherry Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra,New York Pops, as well as working as a side musician with such diverse musical ensembles as the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and The Spirit of Life Ensemble.

Miss Ohno also leads her own group, and has released three CDs on the Japan-based Tokuma label.  In 1997 her first album, “Powder Blue” was released, and in 1999 her second album, “Affirmation” was released, followed in 2000 by the album “Natural Woman.”  She also has two albums from MDR records in Argentina.”Shadows of Spring” (recorded in Argentina) was released in 2005 and ” Tomoko Ohno in Buenos Aires” was released in 2007. Her lateset piano/spanish guitar duet album “From Tokio to Buenos Aires” was released in 2011.

Miss Ohno is also active as a composer, and has been the recipient of a grant from The Meet The Composer Foundation.  Commissioned works include pieces written for the Englewinds Chamber Ensemble.

www.tomokoohno.com


“My wish is equal musical learning opportunity for all children in this country.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

TO: First of all I am originally from Tokyo Japan.

Yamaha had mommy and me type organ school as after school program at my kindergarten. So my mom signed up when I was 4. There were about 15 organs in the class room and we all sat in front of those organs as mommy and child team. Yes, mothers had to learn how to read music in that class also. We all purchased tin box with magnet notes to learn how to read music.

By the end of that school year my mother heard switching from organ to piano is extremely hard if the child stays with organ too long. So she found a piano teacher and I got my first piano. Besides piano lessons she gave me sight singing lesson and music theory home work. She was not using Italian but German. So I had to sing in German all the way to 6th grade when we had to move suburb of Tokyo for my school.

Meanwhile my elementary school (public) music class was always using Italian..Do Re MI. My school music teacher was also a conductor for NHK (Japan’s oldest TV station)’s chorus group. So she selected a couple of kids to sing and perform and compose for NHK’s music program which was strictly designed for educational purpose. I was one of them. It was the first time someone from the family ever on TV. Big deal. No pay but small gift and free curry rice at the TV station…and learned shooting film takes a lot longer than I thought. I think I was at 3rd grade then.

5th and 6th graders had a opportunity to sign up for marching band. So tried trumpet for a while and learned maybe 3 notes. I switched to snare drum and I loved it. So music kept me very busy at my elementary school year(1-6 grade). They also took us to day time classical concert once in a while since school was located next to the famous concert hall.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

TO: I must say I had very unusual and great music education at public elementary school in Japan. That teacher was always setting goals for us. I learned how to work towards my goal through that music education. Even at law school I had to set a goal at each semester. And I knew the feeling of satisfaction by achieving the goal. Without those experience my life might had been less focused.

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

TO: Analyzing the most effective way to practice new material to get closer to the goal helped me organizing other areas of my life. And I ended up studying English and Spanish to study jazz and tango.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

TO: I live in Northern New Jersey with my husband and 9th grade son who plays violin.

We had to move to the school district has orchestra for our son 4 years ago. His music teacher and orchestra are just great. But our son almost had no musical experience at his previous school. I was so mad when I saw kids were playing air guitar at school concert. This gap is shocking fact to me.

I have played at my friend’s school in Newark NJ in the past. The music teacher was focusing on let each student shine. This is the school district that he doesn’t even leave his bass not even a second. The concert was about black history month. Just wonderful show they put it together because of the teacher’s effort.

I think the gap of each school is so huge in this country when it comes to music education. Somebody should create TV music program which can be shown at all the elementary school each week. Through the program kids can learn how to read music, how to sing, what is piano, what is violin, and each school can compete at the end of the year for singing or playing recorder or something.

America will have no symphony orchestra, no concert hall in 30 years from now if we do not change the early music education system. Good thing best music education is available privately in this country.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

TO: It’s time to set national guidelines for at least elementary school for music education.

Playing piano is part of the exam to get elementary school/kindergarten teaching license in Japan. That might be too much to ask. My wish is equal musical learning opportunity for all children in this country.

Play It Forward: Leslie Havens

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Leslie Havens, Bass Trombone and Tuba, has been a member of the Diva Jazz Orchestra since 1997. A member of the Artie Shaw Orchestra for ten years, she is on the band’s one and only CD and has performed with them in most of the United States, several times on the Mississippi Queen and the S.S. Norway, and in Taiwan and Brazil. She has performed in Carnegie Hall with Arturo Sandoval, with Aretha Franklin at the Newport Jazz Festival, and for the grand opening of the Hanover Theater with Bernadette Peters and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. She has toured Europe (including Russia and Serbia) and South America with Paul Anka and performs regularly with the Boston Brass Ensemble, Quintessential Brass and several symphony orchestras, theatre orchestras and local big bands. Leslie is featured on the CDs of Diva, The Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Jeff Holmes Big Band, Artie Barsamian’s Boston Big Band, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Dan Gabel and the Abletones and Quintessential Brass. She recently co-founded the group the Solstice Sackbuts, which specializes in Renaissance and medieval music in addition to Classical music, pop and jazz and will be releasing a CD with the group soon. She has performed with Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, the Monarch Brass Ensemble and artists such as Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Jack Jones, Al Martino, Lorrie Morgan, the O’Jays, the Lettermen, Kenny Rogers, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and others. An active music educator, Leslie was an adjudicator for the 2011 Massachusetts Jazz Educators Central District Jazz Festival and teaches private brass lessons at Marlborough, Boylston, Harvard and Sudbury Public Schools.

www.DivaJazz.com
http://home.earthlink.net/~quintbrass/
www.SolsticeSackbuts.com


“Music brought me out of my shell when I was a very shy child. I’m now a much different person from that shy little girl, thanks to music.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

LH: As a kid, I took advantage of every musical opportunity at my school. We had a concert band, marching band, pep band and jazz band. We had rehearsals every day, and in high school the different bands competed in regional festivals and we marched in the town parade and played half time shows. In high school I found some arrangements in a file cabinet and put together a brass quartet and we had a few rehearsals after school. Later, I formed a trombone quartet. Though neither group had the opportunity to perform publically, today I lead and perform professionally with two different chamber brass groups.

My 5th grade music teacher picked the trombone for me because I was late for the flute meeting, and he needed trombone players. By pure chance this set a direction for my entire musical career.

The summer after 7th grade my mother met a man who was a band director in the next town. A good trombonist, he gave me a few lessons. He was an example of a good music educator  and encouraged private lessons for his own band students and found local instrumentalists to teach them. His band sounded great. He was a perfectionist and wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best effort all of his students could give him. He told me to audition for the “County Honor Band”. I did so, making first chair and playing with many of his kids. The experience opened my eyes about practicing and playing in good groups. Unfortunately for me, he took his school band on a tour and was offered a better job elsewhere, so he left town at the end of the school year. He had a profound impact on me, though I only knew him for less than a year.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

LH: If there hadn’t been a school band at my school when I was growing up, I wouldn’t be a trombone player now and wouldn’t be supporting myself as a musician.

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

LH: Music brought me out of my shell when I was a very shy child. In recent years, I’ve been delegated to talk to audiences during concerts, so I’ve had to research program notes and get much better at public speaking. I’m now a much different person from that shy little girl, thanks to music.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

LH: I think music educators should take more of a personal role with their students. Most concentrate on what gets measured, such as the quality of the concert and competition scores.  I realize that this is what the communities expect in order to fund the music programs. Band directors are expected to put out a product that is good. I would like to see them take the time to identify talented students and let them know of musical opportunities outside of school. I would  encourage band directors to assist in finding private teachers for students. School music programs have come a long way since I was a kid and many schools do offer after school private lessons to students, but the lessons need to be encouraged. The concerts will sound better and the competition scores will be higher.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

LH: I might have progressed faster as a musician during my formative years had I had continuous private instruction. My 5th grade band had no individual instruction, only a full band of about 25 kids. We were given an elementary method book which I studied at home. At school we played easy arrangements where the trombones only had to play 2 or 3 notes in the whole song. My school band director didn’t listen to us play individually until the 3rd year he had us as students and not everyone was told of musical opportunities outside of school. I didn’t know of anyone in my small town who was a professional musician.

Play It Forward: Roxy Coss

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Saxophonist, flutist, and composer Roxy Coss has become one of the most unique and innovative voices of her generation. A native of Seattle, WA, Coss graduated in 2008 from William Paterson University in NJ on a full Presidential Scholarship. She then moved to New York City where she has played with musicians such as Louis Hayes and the Clark Terry and Claudio Roditi Big Bands. She is currently a member of the Jeremy Pelt Show, and is on Pelt’s latest record (Water and Earth,  HighNote). Her eponymous debut, featuring all original material, came out in 2010. She is also a member of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, and leads her own group, which has a weekly residency at SMOKE Jazz Club.

www.roxycoss.com


“Studying music showed me the importance of dedication, discipline, and diligence… I think it is very important that there are strong music teachers out there, and strong music education programs.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

RC: I was very fortunate to be involved in exceptionally strong music programs in both middle and high school. Music became the central focus for me at this age, and these programs were the main reason why. I was always interested in music, and studied it from a young age. When I got to middle school, I was playing alto saxophone and piano. The Band/Jazz Band director, Robert Knatt, turned me onto the Tenor Sax, and Jazz. The things he introduced me to sparked a deeper passion, and began to build a deeper interest in music   He challenged me in a way no other teacher had before, because he recognized my dedication. He expected greatness, and taught me to work hard for things, and to really learn things in depth. He also taught me a lot of basics in the music, and encouraged me to study privately. He would give me a task and push me a little farther than I was comfortable, and just when I would start to get comfortable with that, he would show me the next task. It built confidence, but also a realistic understanding that studying the music is never complete. As a band we traveled through the US to different competitions and festivals to play. His leadership and cultivation of the program created a tight knit community within the jazz band that allowed a healthy camaraderie and competition that also helped us all to grow musically.  The challenge continued and my musical passion grew in high school with director Clarence Acox. He provided opportunities to travel to places such as New York and Europe. These trips ultimately helped inspire me to commit to music as a profession. Seeing the Jazz community in New York, and seeing what it was like to tour was exciting, inspiring, and invigorating. I knew that I would only find that through music, so I was compelled to follow it. He ingrained in us the importance of swing, and the concept that the critical underlying factor in jazz is the feeling behind it. I will always have this foundation to my playing and composing.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

RC: My life would definitely be different if I had not been involved in these music programs growing up. On a basic level, the culture that I grew up in as a result of these programs led me to the path I am on in life. I began playing my primary instrument because of it, I began playing Jazz because of it, and had the opportunity to experience what the life of a musician is like, on a small scale, through these programs. These factors, paired with my individual passion and interest, led to my decision to pursue music professionally, and contributed greatly to my disposition, influences, and opinions about the music. I essentially grew up in an atmosphere where music was a way of life. Now, music isn’t just my career – it’s my life, and I may not be living the life I live if I didn’t have the opportunities I had growing up.

Additionally, I think it shaped who I am personally. It taught me to follow my interests, and to be myself as much as possible. Studying music, and jazz in particular, forces you to find your individuality. I was taught through these programs from a young age that I had to study the history of the music, and from there, begin to develop my own voice. I believe it is of the utmost importance that musicians have their own voice. The greatest musicians all had and have a unique sound and approach. I continue to strive for this quality for myself, and to shape and refine this individual voice. I think this concept of individuality transfers into the rest of life as well. All of the great musicians I meet tend to be strong individuals, who know themselves well. Being your own boss requires you to show strength, leadership, creativity, diligence, curiosity, and a ton of other qualities that aren’t always required in other fields.  And it necessitates being a unique individual.

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

RC: In addition to the qualities I already mentioned, studying music showed me the importance of dedication, discipline, and diligence. If you commit yourself to something wholly, there is no option but to succeed. The harder you work on something, the more you get out of it. It also showed me that if you push yourself, you can achieve great things, sometimes more than you ever imagined. The times that you take risks and feel incredibly uncomfortable are the times that you end up having the greatest experiences. And it taught me to be passionate about life. Music is creativity and communication at its best – I learned to constantly reach and stretch and try to find something bigger – in life and music; and to work with others to achieve more than I can do on my own. Jazz is particularly reliant on communication and community. This is something I think is integral to a larger successful society, but is becoming less and less emphasized in our culture.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

RC: Music education has a major influence on today’s music. As music education grows, more children are introduced to musical concepts and the life lessons that studying music can provide. There are a lot more jazz bands in high schools than there used to be, and therefore more students are introduced to and taught jazz concepts at a young age. However, I see a big difference in the way I was taught from the way that a lot of teachers are teaching out there. I think the biggest difference is in the expectations: Students are not being challenged, or being met with high expectations. In my experience, if you put a hard-to-reach goal out there for a student, and provide them with the necessary tools to figure out how to achieve it, they are going to put in a lot more work, than if you let them slide, and don’t expect personal responsibility from them. In turn, the student with more challenge will learn more and achieve more.

Also, there is an emphasis on the theoretical approach. There is a lot of study on the written music and theory behind how to play things. All of this is necessary and valid – I studied music theory since I started playing piano at age 5. However, there is a lack of emphasis on the listening aspect – the actual recordings aren’t studied. Students are learning to play transcriptions from a book without hearing the original recordings that they came from. This is causing there to be a lot of musicians out there with a great technical knowledge, but less experience on the bandstand; or being able to hear what is happening in the moment and responding to it.

In terms of music education on a collegiate level, there are a lot of positive and negative aspects of a college music degree and the programs that are currently offered. I came onto the scene in its current state, however I hear that the way that musicians learn – about the music, and how to be a professional, has changed. This is as much from the change in economic climate as it is from the growth of music education. Young musicians used to go from high school, or a classical collegiate training, straight onto the road with working touring bands. Sometimes this is still the case, but there are thousands of talented and well-trained young musicians out there who graduate college and aren’t working, or learning the necessary skills to become competitive. Music education on a collegiate level is lacking direction in terms of real life skills required of musicians. Again, there isn’t much accountability happening. Students learn to get by with as little as possible in a school setting, and then when they get onto the bandstand, they don’t know how to function, or give it their all.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

RC: I think it is very important that there are strong music teachers out there, and strong music education programs. They can offer something unique to our society that is crucial. I think it is important that these educators and educational institutions be dedicated to the art of teaching, and that music education isn’t viewed as Plan B for musicians, or a way for musicians to exploit their musical skills for personal advantage. There are many strong music teachers out there that aren’t the most successful performers, and outstanding musicians, who aren’t necessarily the most efficient educators. Cultivating a strong community of music education will require us to acknowledge these strengths and weaknesses in individuals. But additionally, it is important that masters of the music share their knowledge, and it is important that students learn the history and learn the concepts that music has to offer, and carry on these legacies. For people pursuing other careers, studying music can broaden the mind and strengthen our community as a whole, so it is important that music education continues to grow in general.

Play It Forward: Leigh Pilzer

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

______________________________________________________________________________

Leigh Pilzer is a member of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Bohemian Caverns
Jazz Orchestra, and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. She is
a versatile freelancer, performing with groups ranging from the
National Symphony Orchestra to her own quintet, co-led with trombonist
Jennifer Krupa. Leigh is an accomplished arranger, and has taught Jazz
Theory, Jazz Arranging, and Jazz History at University of Maryland and
Towson University. She holds a B.M. in Jazz Composition and Arranging
from Berklee and M.M.s in Jazz Studies and Saxophone Performance from
University of Maryland.

www.leighpilzer.com


“I can’t really think of a way [music education] hasn’t affected most areas of my life.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

LP: When I started teaching (jazz theory and jazz arranging at the college level) I realized that in order to communicate concepts to students I needed to put myself back into the student head space, to try to remember what it was like not to know this material already. I had to think of the most logical way to present the information, and I had to take into consideration what underlying basics the students may or may not have grasped. That process made me think more clearly about how I utilized the concepts in my own work. I feel like my own knowledge of the subject has increased, because I am more organized in my thinking about it.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

LP: Yes, absolutely. Particularly in high school, where my self-identification totally centered around being a musician. I do not recall ever wishing longingly that I could be part of the “cool” crowd, however one would define that. Maybe I should regret that I never went to a football game, didn’t participate in academic bowls, didn’t go on skiing trips, didn’t work on the school paper or yearbook. Maybe I should. But I don’t. I had a great time playing in as many ensembles as possible and sitting around listening to music with my friends (that would be Miles Davis or The Rite of Spring, not indie rock or Top 40).

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

LP: I can’t really think of a way it hasn’t affected most areas of my life. Most of my friends are musicians. My partner is a musician. I don’t have to try to explain to them the feeling a good performance engenders. To cite a couple of more concrete ways that studying music has affected me, studying music, particularly at the graduate level, has made me a better writer. And giving presentations in class helped me develop a teaching style and the confidence to stand up in front of a group of students.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

LP: I think music theory should be taught at the secondary level more often. Ideally, it should presented in a way that helps students understand that it is much, much more than reducing music to mathematical formulas. Knowledge of music theory can help understand form and phrasing. It can help intonation. It can help a student develop discipline. It should be as much a part of music fundamentals as scales.

To get rather (perhaps too) specific on the topic, the typical approach to teaching ear-training skills needs to be changed. Giving a student a list of melodic fragments to put syllables to, memorize, and come back to parrot in class does not teach the student to recognize the sound of tonic, or leading tone, or understand how musical phrases are constructed (among other things).

Play It Forward: Carol Morgan

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Carol Morgan is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and author who resides in NYC. Originally from Texas, she is a Juilliard graduate who has worked with many remarkable teachers including Chris Gekker, Mark Gould, Ingrid Jensen, and Dennis Dotson. Her fall of 2011, Blue Bamboo Music, Inc. release Blue Glass Music with Joel Frahm, Martin Wind and Matt Wilson received a 4 1/2 star review in DownBeat magazine. Other session work includes solo outings, Opening, Classic Morgana and Passing Time with the Carol Morgan Quintet, as well as filling side-person roles on releases by DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Hawk-Richard Jazz Orchestra, The Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, NPR’s The Engines of Our Ingenuity, Thomas Helton, Henry Darragh and Calvin Owens. In 2008, Carol authored what is now a highly-regarded method for jazz improvisation–a textbook entitled The Practicing Improviser which is available for purchase at her website:

www.carolmorganmusic.com


“The act of reading music develops the mind in ways other subjects do not… Sharing that language [music] with an ensemble expands the mind, and I believe the soul itself.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

CM: Music education, at its best, taught me how to learn and teach myself—facilitating a desire to continue to grow and be productive. I am so grateful to be able to engage in the lifelong pursuit of this growth that the study of music inspires. Then (developmental years) as now, learning and performing music helped/helps me to express all kinds of strong emotions that I would not be comfortable with otherwise.

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

CM: Absolutely. When I was ages 5-9 I studied piano and violin privately. It was when I got to be in a band at school that I really thrived. I was encouraged by playing with others, sharing in concerts and celebrating our work in performances. Once I started playing the trumpet in band in school, I had no doubt that I wanted to become a professional musician. It really made a difference for me to learn music with my friends. Music is a language. Sharing that language with an ensemble expands the mind, and I believe the soul itself.

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

CM: The act of reading music develops the mind in ways other subjects do not, although it is akin to the study of math and also foreign languages. I do believe that by working with ensembles during my music education, I learned to communicate with my colleagues at a high level. I developed an awareness of others uncommon among my age group. Intimate conversation became not only comfortable, but also sought out in relationships. Learning about music has encouraged me to become a very selective music listener—I discovered how powerful music can be. I find music to listen to that moves me. So often, listening to music soothes and heals me. And the study of music has given me similar appreciation of other arts. This definitely and daily positively affects my quality of life. Following along with the idea of learning to teach myself through my musical studies (from question 1-preparing me to be a self-sufficient professional), my music teachers really helped me to become a good teacher. I enjoyed 10 years as a college professor following graduate school before pursuing a performance centric career.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

CM: I have concern that students are being given fewer opportunities to learn about music. I have concern that with these remaining opportunities the serious study of music can get tainted or even lost by an overemphasis on competition. I have concern that the same people who teach music more as sport than art are left to defend their programs to school boards.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

CM: I get really frustrated that so often rhythm is not taught with patience and expectations for critical thinking on the part of the student. Rarely do I meet a private student who fully understands meter and rhythm.

Play It Forward: Sherrie Maricle

An MCB discussion on the role and influence of music education on music professionals today

Play It Forward is a forum for individuals who have been influenced by music throughout their lives to share their stories on how music education has shaped their experience as an educator and/or performer, as well as an individual.

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Dr. Sherrie Maricle is the leader/drummer of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, FIVE PLAY and The DIVA Jazz Trio. She is also the drummer and Director of Education for The New York Pops Orchestra, as well as music director/drummer for acclaimed Broadway Star Maurice Hines. Sherrie created and directs the Musical Magic program for the Ronald McDonald House in New York City. Additionally she is a busy freelance performer and composer. Sherrie has a Ph.D. and M.A from NYU and a B.A. from SUNY Binghamton. In 2009 she received the Mary Lou Williams Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center.

www.divajazz.com


“From grades K – 12, music should be offered in some form as part of the core curriculum. There are countless studies showing the value of music and art on all childhood learning and development.”

MCB: How would you describe the role music education played in your developmental years as a musician and educator?

SM: Music was the central focus of my life since 1974 (I was 11) when I saw Buddy Rich and his Killer Force Orchestra. A teacher took me to the concert. From that point on, I was blessed with excellent teachers throughout my life-some formal via an institution and others (equally significant) from “the field”. Stanley Kay (the founder of DIVA) was my most significant life/music/music business/good human being teacher. Others offered more practical lessons in drumming, arranging, band leading. Jeff Hamilton, Mel Lewis, Skitch Henderson, Tommy Newsom, Tom Boras all transformed me in significant musical ways…not all through formal education. Learning in music is lifelong. I continue to learn from everyone!

MCB: Do you think your life would be vastly different now had you not had a music education program growing up?

SM: I can’t say for sure, as I’m sure I would have found my way to a career in music. It’s my “Dharma, Calling, Passion,” and where there’s a will, there is always a way! However…having excellent teachers in my early life were crucial to my development on multiple levels. Charles Holmes, Hank Slectha, Chris Weber, Joe Scagnoli, Al Hamme were a few of them. Their guidance pointed me the right direction AND they each gave me unique opportunities to grow.

MCB: Has studying music affected other areas of your life, work or personality? If so, what skills and traits do you credit music education with helping to develop?

SM: Plays Well With Others” is something that I aspire to at all times, just like getting that credit in kindergarten. It applies to all aspects of my life. Through music I have learned compassion, cooperation, kindness, caring, collaboration, focus, passion, confidence and many more life-affirming qualities.

MCB: What are your thoughts on the current state of music education based on your experience and what you’re seeing out there?

SM: As an experienced and well-traveled musician and teacher I have seen the best and worst of music education. The resources and information for every aspect of music education has never been more extraordinary but sadly not available to everyone. Therefore the level of talent in our schools (all grades and higher ed) has never been higher, but again, not in every school. From grades K – 12, music should be offered in some form as part of the core curriculum. There are countless studies showing the value of music and art on all childhood learning and development. In higher ed. I worry that music, particularly in my primary field Jazz, is becoming too academic with lack of real world expectations, practicality and experience. That being said, many of the people who transformed music were not formally educated.

MCB: Anything else you’d like to add about your views on music education, what it means to you, the current state, etc.?

SM: I suggest that all musicians fortunate to make a living in the field: teach something to someone. You could transform/guide/improve a life with a few kind, informative words. Take every opportunity to share what you love.