Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jazz Ensemble

During winter recess I wrote a series of articles about jazz ensemble direction and rehearsal practices.  Topics included the incorporation of sight-reading, improvisation instruction, and structured listening into rehearsals, as well as ideas pertaining to concerts and audience development.  To wrap things up, I am posting excerpts from this semester's revised course outline.  It summarizes and includes many of the ideas touched upon in my previous posts.  In addition to describing the ensemble and my instructional goals, the outline includes a breakdown of how rehearsals are structured, and a new grading plan.

UConn Jazz Ensemble

Spring Semester, 2013
    Course #: MUSI 1115, 5305, section 1 (one credit)
Rehearsal schedule:  Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3 – 5.
     Room:  von der Mehden recital hall
In keeping with the selective nature of the UConn jazz studies program and the music department as a whole, the UConn Jazz Ensemble, unlike the typical 17-piece big band seen at most academic institutions, ranges from nine to twelve instrumentalists. The comparatively small size of the ensemble makes off-campus performances practical and facilitates instruction in improvisation and musical interaction within rehearsals. Each semester the Jazz Ensemble focuses on the music of a specific composer, arranger or professional band. Past composers include Michael Abene, Phil Allen, Bill Cunliffe, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Earl MacDonald, Rob McConnell, Jim McNeely, John Mills, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Rivello and Nathan Parker-Smith.

This semester, the ensemble will prepare the arrangements of Marty Paich, as recorded on the Art Pepper + Eleven album (1959).  Marty Paich's bio can be read at:  http://www.martypaich.com.  New music, composed and arranged Earl MacDonald will be a secondary focus. Professor MacDonald also encourages and welcomes student arrangements.

The instructor’s goals in directing this ensemble remain the same as in past semesters:
  • nuture and develop skills in jazz improvisation, musicianship and interaction. 
  • prepare the students for professional performance situations. 
  • acquaint students with the stylistic nuances of swing, through instruction, demonstration, and the study of recordings. 
  • elevate the sight-reading abilities of the individual ensemble members. 
  • expose the Music Education majors (future band teachers!) to jazz literature and rehearsal techniques. 
  • inspire the students by inviting guest artists to campus or organizing off-campus field trips to see live jazz performances. 
  • present exciting, well-programmed concerts of the highest caliber. 
  • create a “buzz” of excitement both on and off campus about the exciting, swingin’ jazz ensemble at UConn! 
  • have fun, playing great music!
On-campus performances:
02/25/13 (Monday), 7:30 pm      UConn Jazz Showcase, Spring 2013
04/08/13 (Thursday), 7:30 pm    UConn Jazz Ensemble concert

Off-campus performances:
02/14/13             Manchester High School Jazz Festival.   4 p.m. arrival.  4:50 – 5:40 performance.
04/04/13            Benrimon Gallery, New York, NY (Chelsea)
04/29/13            Black-eyed Sally’s, Hartford, CT.  7:30 p.m. (w/ Hartt and WestConn jazz ensembles)

Professor MacDonald is currently investigating additional off-campus performance opportunities.

Grading will be based upon the quality and consistency of preparation (20%), “spot tests” (10%), improvisation and listening assignments (15%), transcription projects (15%), successful concert presentations (40%), attendance, punctuality/tardiness, and conduct in rehearsals.

Three transcription projects (worth 5% each) will be assigned over the semester, consisting of two choruses (minimum) from any recording of Bb rhythm changes, F blues, Donna Lee or Airegin --- all of which are found on the selected Art Pepper album.  You will notate, learn and perform these solos by memory.  You will be taught how to extract licks from these solos to learn in 12 keys and apply to other tunes.  Additional choruses/solos will count towards extra credit. 

Should you be assigned a solo on another piece from the Art Pepper + 11 repertoire, you may substitute a transcribed solo from that piece, to help in your preparations for the concerts.

Due dates
:  Feb. 21, March 28, April 11.

Rehearsal Structure:

3:00 – 3:20:
     Group A: newbie improvisation instruction
     Group B: drum set and amplifier transfer and set-up
3:20 – 4:20:
     concert repertoire
4:20 – 4:50:

3:00 – 3:20:
     Group A: newbie improvisation instruction
     Group B: drum set and amplifier transfer and set-up
3:20 – 4:20:
     concert repertoire
4:20 – 4:35:
     testing – improvisation and jazz skills
4:35 – 4:50:
     improv/jazz skills lesson

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