Daily Doses: “How I’m gon’ be mad at a kid with freckles?”
I had the good fortune to work with the middle school band at a Kindergarten through 12th grade school on the lower east side of Manhattan imaginatively named "New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math".
I love hearing young kids play. They struggle with such sincerity and exude pure joy when things go well. Thirty years of teaching jazz and we always work on the same issues: play in balance, listen to the best of the style of music you're playing, listen and respond with empathy, understand the function of your part and feel the lift of the swing rhythm.
The kids were very responsive and played with a lot of feeling. When some of the lower brass section didn't now their notes (though looking very cute huffing and puffing on too big trombones and baritone horns), we discussed individual practice of difficult passages.
We talked about your responsibility to the group and the need for personal integrity. Then we went into what integrity means. We talked about playing all wild, loud and intelligently (especially on drums) and highlighted the difference between creating excitement with fun, flamboyant noise and communicating ideas. We concluded by talking about the need to sing your own song when soloing.
I always encourage kids to improvise and find something deeply important and personal to play.
Oh, they were playing "Killer Joe", a great song to improvise on due to the fundamental simplicity of the harmony. I think I'm gonna compile a list of songs conducive to beginning jazz improvisers. I love going to schools. It’s really like recreation for me but much more meaningful.
Teachers at the school thank me but it's so much fun I should be thanking them. In the early 80's we used to call schools to give workshops and now all these years later it still gives me goose bumps…watching those kids expressing themselves with instruments at 3:15 in the afternoon.