This past week Sean Dobbins brought some of his jazz students to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café where his Trio was featured. These young musicians from the Spartan Youth Band had a chance to play in one of the best jazz clubs in America. Last week’s blog was a tribute to Sean’s dedication to keeping jazz going forward in Detroit. Wednesday night was the proof. We had a chance to listen and see these accomplished young musicians. What struck me was that they had acquired the same passion, manners and assurance that Sean possesses. They spoke to each other as equals.
Hearing such wonderful music coming from young people raised a nagging question. What can we learn from jazz teachers to help kids master other complicated courses such as science, math, language arts, or whatever?
Maybe it is that jazz-band teachers do one thing right in teaching that other teachers should think more about. They talk to the students as if they will soon be playing in a band with them.
Herbie Hancock – “A great teacher stimulates his student’s creativity enough so that they go out & find the answers themselves.
We all have been asked “who is your favorite teacher?”. We automatically think back to our school days for an answer. Did we stop learning after we left school? Had we learned everything we needed to know? Probably not, we are all students every day of our lives and we go through life surrounded by teachers. Every day I meet people whose lives are both inspiring and instructive, There is so much to be learned, if only I weren’t always in such a hurry. We owe so much to those generous folks who take some time to share their gifts with us, those friends who include the kind act of teaching in their day. Include these mentors in your list of favorite teachers.
We are all capable of learning and teaching, but some people are better at teaching than others. It is a gift. It is hard work. It takes purpose, patience and sometimes humility. We forget that this is exactly what we want in a teacher. Someone who is OK with letting us feel that we are capable of surpassing them. That is exactly what I see when I think back to those good teachers who were so patient with me. I see this gift today when I am around artists and musicians.
If we look at a jazz band we will witness teachers learning and learners teaching, all on the fly. Jazz musicians are always ready to learn from each other, probably because they have had teachers and band mates who genuinely have deserved respect. No one can teach jazz except some one who can play the music. All jazz musicians and most artists, whether they know it or not, are in a continuous learning mode. Every note, brushstroke or word can be a little different and worth thinking about. I remain in awe of both jazz musicians and teachers. They have skills that I lack, but I am learning.
OUR CONTINUING EDUCATION
LISTENING AND SEEING
The greatest teacher we have is life itself. Daily we are barraged by sights, sounds, suggestions, silences and urges that give us something to think about. If we are lucky we will have had an art or music teacher in our lives, someone who encouraged us to see and listen to the ordinary stuff around us. They told us that it is OK to be unique. They gave us the assurance that failure is just part of the process.
Jazz and art are individual and personal. It requires time, focus, listening, preparation, repetition, and sometimes a teacher.
This past week I was reminded what a great place Detroit is for learning There were so many remarkably nice people both teaching and learning.
I have an artist friend, Michael Horner who has been pretty good at everything he has tried including being a jazz drummer, boxer and professional golfer. Right now, Michael is on the search for the next best thing in art. He is hard working and open minded and just might find it. Along the way he also was good enough to instruct others as well. He still finds time to help someone just starting out. This week I watched him give a young artist encouragement at the Detroit Artist’s Breakfast Club, which is a casual gathering of all kinds of Detroit artists. Everyone gets a chance to show and discuss their art for a few minutes. It is really is a large support group for artists, a great place to get encouragement and a chance to chat and learn. Earnest artists fill the place every Monday. Friendly hands are helping Detroit to rise one student at a time.
THIS MONTH’S BLOGS WILL LOOK AT SOME ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF TEACHING JAZZ
Passion / Personal ownership and accountability / Getting along / High expectations and excellence / Reward
Meanwhile, any chance we get we should honor our teachers. One way is to come out and enjoy the music coming out of the classroom at your local jazz club like the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Don’t forget to smile at the teacher.
COMING TO THE DIRTY DOG THIS WEEK
May 2 – May 5
PROFESSOR RALPHE ARMSTRONG
A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a well educated argument that Detroit’s jazz is on the rise. Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music.
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