Thursday, July 30, 2009

UConn Summer Jazz Camp

This week’s UConn Jazz Camp has been both fun and productive. UConn’s Community School of the Arts has done a terrific job handling all the administrative aspects. We have twenty campers and the distribution of instruments was such that we could create three well-balanced combos and a big band. The days are structured as follows:

9:00 – 10:20 Combo Rehearsals

10:30 – 11:50 Master classes. Each instrument breaks off into their own room to receive instruction in instrumental techniques and required skills unique to each instrument. Saxophones, Brass (trumpets & trombones), piano, bass, guitar, drums.

--- LUNCH --- (jazz videos played)

1:00 – 2:20 Faculty Presentations
(jazz theory & improvisational concepts, jazz history, performance demonstrations, practice tips, the business of music, question & answer sessions).

2:30 – 4:00 Combo Rehearsals or Big Band

Every afternoon one of the faculty members presents a lecture topic of his choice. As I write, Henry Lugo is giving a talk on the recorded histories of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, showing their musical development and outlining their essential recordings. Yesterday, Doug Maher provided an overview of the ENTIRE history of jazz. (I marvel at how he did this in an hour and a half.)

On the first day, the faculty performed for the students and answered their questions. Some interesting discussions ensued. My suspicion that students no longer buy entire CDs was confirmed. They simply download individual songs. How the world has changed!

On Friday the students will perform a brief concert for the parents, choosing selections from the material addressed in combo rehearsals. Here is a list of tunes each group is currently playing:

Combo 1:
Mr. P.C. – by John Coltrane
Doxy – by Sonny Rollins
Bright Mississippi – by Thelonious Monk

Combo 2:
Recordam̩ Рby Joe Henderson
Billie’s Bounce – by Charlie Parker
Watermelon Man – by Herbie Hancock

Combo 3:
Impressions – by John Coltrane
Sonny Moon For Two – by Sonny Rollins

We have seen noticable growth in the students' understanding of chord symbols, scales, and the outlining of song forms. The instructors have brought in recordings of the pieces the students are performing so that they are learning the musical aurally. Working with these young students and seeing them make such huge strides in a short period of time is gratifying to say the least.

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