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Rob Linton

In many ways, music helps define and shape lives. It comforts people in times of need,
and really allows for people to express themselves. Style of music is also very important to
consider when you want to express yourself. For me, I express myself in my jazz ensemble by
playing standup bass. From soloing to walking bass lines, there are just so many different ways
to express your observation of the piece. In this essay, I will be discussing what jazz means to me
and how it relates to Swales Six Characteristics.
Jazz has been around for several generations now. Some star founders include Miles
Davis and John Coltrane. For the most part, our Jazz band meets Tuesdays, Thursdays, and
Fridays. We have about 3 concerts each semester and we perform for friends and family, as well
as for people who could offer future jobs. We all are a very close knit group and its really cool to
now realize that we are sort of our own culture in the music department.
The first of Swales Characteristics is common goals. Every project has a common goal.
Jazz Ensemble is very similar to a project. Some common goals include making a piece sound
musical, staying together, having correct intonation and Rhythm, all the way to showing up for
rehearsals and listening to the conductor. The most important common goal is preparing a piece
to be able to successfully perform in front of a group of people. Why perform if you will never
get to play in front of people? Common goals are important for most things to be successful,
which is why they are needed in everything you do, including music.
The second Swales Characteristic is intercommunication. Communication is by far one
of the most important parts of a jazz ensemble. After playing the main melody, you have to pass
around solos. Once you start to wrap up your solo, you que the ensemble and either someone else
begins soloing, or you go back to the melody to wrap up the piece. Without intercommunication,

you will not be able to successfully perform, and the musicianship and quality will lack. Also,
intercommunication does not have to be for only playing. It could be communicating with the
director why you missed a rehearsal, or letting the outside world know when and where you are
performing. It is just like a business because you have to communicate in order to be successful.
The third Swales Characteristic is Participatory Mechanisms. In order to get people
involved, you need to be able to get them to participate. Psychologically, you can use positive or
negative reinforcement. For example, tell students/colleagues that if we practice, then we will
have a good concert/recital. All humans need reasons for why they do things, and the most
important, musically, is just the joy of making beautiful music.
The forth Swales Characteristic is one or more genres. A way that our jazz ensemble has
one or more genre is by playing different styles of jazz, such as Latin jazz, blues jazz, etc. It
keeps things interesting in the rehearsal room and it can be very fun because you never know
what to expect. Also, we have different types of ensembles. There is Big Band which is a large
jazz ensemble, and there is Jazz Combos, which is a smaller setting, consisting of one of each
type of instrument. Different genres mean not getting bored of the same thing, which is why
people keep coming back.
The fifth Swales Characteristic is Lexis. Lexis is the slang terms we use in the ensemble.
Like all cultures, everyone has a slang terminology. Some of these include Quit rushing which
means the beat is not steady and the group is playing too fast. This also applies to Quit
dragging, which means too slow. Other than that, there is not much more terminology we use.
The final Swales Characteristic is Oldtimers vs. Newbies. In this case, usually the
oldtimers know what they are doing. They are the more experienced and help guide the newbies.
This was one of the highlights Will Cambell, director of our jazz program, informed me.

Oldtimers can actually mean old people like lesson teachers, or professionals, but it can also
mean leaders of sections who have been in the program for a while. The relationship can also be
applied to the conductor and the players, since the conductor has a doctorate in jazz, and is very
All in all, the culture of jazz is very relaxing and fun. In fact it is just so many emotions
all piled into one style of music. It is one of the best types of music and is just so relaxing and
enjoyable to play. I did not realize how big our culture was until doing this paper, and I now feel
very knowledgeable about the department and our jazz ensemble.