Jazz Ensemble Students Gain Serious Skills

 by Joel Stratton

Jazz trumpet & guitar

Teaching a whole world of music to a newcomer can be a daunting task. Early on, I succumbed to sulking over not having enough hours in the day to comprehensively teach jazz improvisation, interpretation, and history.

Even more important to me is imparting the spirit of jazz to my students. Jazz, in my opinion, is the freedom you have to work within confines of structure. That structure is so integral to understanding how much leeway you have in jazz. So, like I said earlier, daunting.

Jazz, in my opinion, is the freedom you
have to work within confines of structure.

 

In the Music House Student Jazz Ensemble I teach, I help each band member agree on a tune and then interpret it through their own kaleidoscope of personal experience and strengths.

  Jazz piano    Screen_Shot_2016-10-17_at_12.22.51_PM-695188-edited.png  

Our pianist, Nathan Dunkerley, comments on the feeling of jazz (in typical forthright fashion), "It made music worthwhile. In rock bands I was told to find a system that works for me and then stick with it. When I joined the Jazz Ensemble, I was encouraged to alter that system and try new things. Rather than playing the same chords over and over, I felt free enough to put my own spin on it." 

That spin Nathan talks about is no joke. I've seen him grow from a timid and hesitant improviser to a very confident young pianist. Not only is jazz fun to play and listen to, it's a genre that can strengthen your musicianship and earn a greater understanding of the music you're playing. 

"It made music worthwhile. In rock bands I was told to find a system that works for me and then stick with it. When I joined the Jazz Ensemble, I was encouraged to alter that system..."
-Nathan Dunkerley

Elaborating on the benefits of exploring jazz, our guitarist, Jack Johnston notes, "It really helped me get a better understanding of scales and modes. It's starting to feel natural to switch modes, I don't have to think about it as much." 

These students of the Music House Jazz Ensemble are obviously starting to 'get' the intersection of structure and improvisation which learning and playing jazz helps to solidify. It's incredibly rewarding to watch this understanding take shape and then be applied to whatever piece we're learning at the moment. Teaching the Jazz Ensemble is an undertaking, no doubt, but the student transformations I've witnessed are inspiring to say the least. 

 

 

 

Learn more about becoming a part of the Music House Jazz Ensemble! Click here for info.




Written by
Joel Stratton

Joel stratton

Joel Stratton is a rising multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator in the Kansas City area. Since moving to Kansas City to pursue a degree in Jazz Studies at the renowned University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music & Dance, he has recorded or performed with a wide variety of groups. Joel is currently assembling a self produced album of original material.