A Call for Collaboration and Reflection

Todd Stoll is the current JEN (Jazz Education Network) President / Vice President of Education for Jazz at Lincoln Center and he recently stated in his President’s message, “As we finish our school years, our semesters, our concerts, and move into the summer, let’s all take a moment to reflect and appreciate this transcendent music that we love and serve. Jazz teaches us about America. The music contains the stories of our nation, good, bad and ugly. Duke Ellington at Carnegie Hall in 1946 making a statement about race with his “Deep South Suite”. Benny Goodman integrating his band a full decade before Major League Baseball. Mary Lou Williams getting off a train, following an assault, and recording her masterpiece “Night Life”. John Coltrane writing “Alabama” following the horrific murder of four little girls in church in Birmingham. The stories go on. This music, our music, is so rich and deeper than the notes”.

While jazz provides a feeling, it isn’t the only reason to study this music. Lessons of inspiration and courage, of overcoming, or coming together are perhaps more important than the technical requirements it takes to play this music. Educational concepts include creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical decision-making. Music makes us human and to swing, one must sacrifice for the good of the greater community. We as an educational community could do a better job in this spirit through collaboration.

April was Jazz Appreciation Month and there were numerous festivals, concerts, lectures, and jam sessions celebrating this genre. Many of us are probably unaware of everything going on within our great state. Jacksonville State University hosted their 8th

annual jazz festival with

guest artist Jeff “Tain” Watts, Troy University hosted their annual jazz festival with guest artists Dr. Tina Claussen and Dr. Matt Hoormann, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame hosted it’s annual jazz festival in Birmingham, Shelton State Community College hosted their HS jazz festival, the University of Alabama and Hoover HS collaborated on a concert, Samford University collaborated with the US Air Force Academy “Falconaires” for a concert, Gadsden State Community College featured guest artist Tim Leahey from the Airmen of Note, and there are numerous of other events that occurred within the state. UAB hosted it’s annual Jazz Summit in February with guest artist Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, so jazz doesn’t have to just occur in one particular month. As a matter of fact, looking ahead the annual Gadsden State Community College Jazz Festival will occur November 7th

and will feature “Women in Jazz”! There are jam sessions all over the state where we can collaborate on the bandstand. I will be working with the JEN Board of Directors to develop an online calendar for our state so that we have a one- stop source of information. Stay tuned for those details!

It is no fault of our own that our profession requires countless hours of preparation and work. It is difficult to carve out time to look at the “big picture”. It is much easier to manage the immediate world we live in. I

ala breve

Matt Leder

remember being a military musician and observing my colleagues. I gigged a great deal while in the military bands and many asked me why I gigged on the “outside” or I why I attended so many live concerts. If you play with the same individuals all of the time and don’t push each other, it is very easy to become complacent. I still gig today to push myself and so that I can keep an eye on the “big picture”. I personally practice, gig, and attend concerts to facilitate growth. One of my students asked me the other day, “Hey Doc, what do you have left to learn…you have your doctoral degree”! Well, the beautiful thing about education is that it never stops. We should all strive to continue in our own educational pursuits. Try to learn something every day!

Music is prevalent throughout our region, yet not everyone collaborates or takes advantage of the resources available within the state. Everyone deserves the time off, but lets use this time to self evaluate. Try to reach to one another to collaborate, “shed” some this summer, go hear some live music, and work on plans to make students aware of the “big picture”. Bringing in guest artists or bringing students to festivals or concerts is one of the best ways to do this. These actions leave lasting impressions. Remember why we got into music in the first place, self evaluate, and work from a place of inspiration.

The Jazz Education Network is a system in place that we could use to “connect the dots”. This is an organization where we can collaborate and share ideas throughout our local region and nationally. Did you know that if you are a high school or middle school director, you could sign up ALL of your students for FREE if you start a JEN Chapter at your school? This gives you access to FREE charts, subscriptions to Downbeat and Jazzed for your students, access to JEN Jazz2U grants for clinicians or performances, opportunities to participate at the annual JEN conferences, etc.? I am currently the Alabama JEN Unit Leader / President and I would be happy to help anyone with creating a secondary or collegiate school JEN Chapter. Please let me know if you would like more information about JEN or if you would like to volunteer your time towards improving jazz education and performance throughout our region. I’d also be open to discussing the possibility of a clinic with your students while we create your local school JEN Chapter. My number is (256) 549-8394 or In the spirit of swing, Dr. Matt Leder.


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