You are on page 1of 13

Council for Research in Music Education

Jazz and Academia: Street Music in the Ivory Tower

Author(s): Bill Dobbins
Source: Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, No. 96, Research in Jazz
Education II (Spring, 1988), pp. 30-41
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Council for Research in Music
Stable URL:
Accessed: 18-01-2016 19:33 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content
in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.
For more information about JSTOR, please contact

University of Illinois Press and Council for Research in Music Education are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,
preserve and extend access to Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education.

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Jazz and Academia:

Street Music in the IvoryTower

Bill Dobbins
Eastman School of Music

Before the late 1960's the words "jazz" and "academia" were
generally assumed to be mutually exclusive. My own experience as a
student at Kent State University between 1964 and 1970 was, for the
most part, a constant struggle against just such an attitude. Those of
us who formed the school's firstongoing jazz ensemble were thrown
out of practice rooms, prohibited from signing out school instruments
to play jazz and, in general, stronglydiscouraged fromhaving anything
to do with America's greatest musical contribution to world culture.
Only when the ensemble continued to receive highlyvisible praise and
support from university student and administrative organizations did
the school of music involve itself, taking credit for musical
developments which they had aggressively fought at every turn. In-
deed, many of our institutionshad no thought of developing a jazz cur-
riculum until such a move showed a decided potential for attracting
larger numbers of students to music schools where both enrollment
and talent were on a steady decline. Yet, however suspect the motives
may have been, itseems clear that the study, composition, and perfor-
mance of jazz in academic institutionsis now a relatively normal state
of affairs, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. It
seems imperative, therefore, that we begin to search for ways in
which the attitudes and aesthetics of jazz and the academic musical
environment can constructively complement and stimulate each

The relationship between jazz and the traditional conservatory or

music school reveals telling similarities to the relationship between
black and white American culture. White Americans generally feel no
great need to know about the culture of black America, since such

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
BillDobbins 31

knowledgegenerallydoes not increase theirpotentialforeconomic

advantage or upward social mobility:quite the contrary, since
elements of black culturewhichdifferappreciablyfromwhiteculture
are stilloftenconsidered to be inferioror, at least, backward. Black
Americans,on the otherhand, have always had to knowa great deal
about the cultureof whiteAmerica simplyin orderto survive.Where
participationin white society was actively sought, a still deeper
assimilationof whiteculturewas necessary.

Similarly,Americanswho are primarily involvedin music withEuro-

pean or symphonicroots generallyfeel no great need to knowabout
jazz, even thoughithas evolved withintheirown countryand is, so far,
the most remarkablemusical phenomenonof our century.Jazz musi-
cians are stilloftenconsidered inferior or, at least, lowbrow.The term
"jazzer", perhaps the musical equivalentof "nigger", is stillcommon
currencyeven in institutions where jazz itselfis believed to have at-
tained true respectability.It is worthnoting,in this regard,that even
most black students in American conservatories and music schools
are primarilyinvolvedin the studyof "legitimate" music ratherthan
jazz. Jazz musicians, on the other hand, have generallybeen quite
knowledgeable about other musics, including the European
"classical" tradition.This interesthas been partlypractical, both in
terms of increasing the potential for employmentand achieving
greatercredibility inthe worldof "high culture". Ithas also stemmed,
however, froman insatiable curiosityabout all musics, even those
withwhichone is notactivelyinvolved.This creative curiosityis prob-
ably one of the main factors which led to the development of the
earliest jazz, as well as its many subsequent stylisticvariants and

Since musical academia has, so far,been somewhat reluctantto

ventureintothe worldof jazz, we should begin by discussing several
aspects of the jazz musician's disciplinewhich are of great practical
value to all aspiringmusicians, regardless of theirstylisticspecializa-
tion.Amongthe most importantof these are the abilityto maintaina
stricttempo witha deep physical pulse, the abilityto make practical
use of the basic principlesand vocabularyof traditionalmusic theory
and harmony,the applicationof music as a creativelyinterdependent
relationshipbetween the individualand the group,and the integration
of the musical experience intoeverydaylife.

The most fundamentalelement of all musics, includingjazz, is

rhythm. The drum is the instrumentwhich most easily captures the
essence ofjazz. The best jazz springsfroma strongrhythmic founda-
tion,whetheror not itis actuallycombined withdance. The feelingor
regular pulse also corresponds to such basic human activities as

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
32 Jazz and Academia

walking,skipping,and running,as well as involuntaryprocesses such

as breathingand heartbeat. That is why the repetitionof periodic
rhythmssupported by a steady tempo is a common feature of folk
music throughouttheworld.The streetsofour modernvillages maybe
paved with concrete and asphalt, but underneathlies the soil which
connects all human beings withlifein its most elemental form.

The concepts of rubato and aperiodic rhythmhave so dominated

symphonicmusic thatit is not easy to findsymphonicmusicians who
can reallymaintaina steady pulse. Increasing dependence on con-
ductors, even for relativelysmall chamber ensembles has certainly
not helped to improvethe situation.Yet the abilityto concentratecol-
lectivelyon the pulse of the music, while it is being played, can
generate a powerfulfeeling of common musical intentand well
focussed creative energy.Such a highlevel of rhythmic accuracy and
control is an invaluable asset to any performer,regardless of the
musical idiominvolved.

The hypnoticrhythmic the Count Basie and

call of Louis Armstrong,
Duke Ellingtonorchestras,the Ahmad Jamal trioand countless other
legendaryjazz groups, has reached an audience which crosses all
racial, ethnic,and politicalboundaries. Furthermore,it has enriched
the lives of thisaudience witha music of great emotionaland spiritual
depth which,at the same time, maintainsa clear connection to folk
and popularmusic. I do notmean to implyhere thateitherjazz or sym-
phonic music is inherentlyof greater aesthetic value than folkor
popular music. Rather, I wish to inviteat least a littlesuspicion of
music which is devoid of folkroots,particularlyin cases where such
music failsto move a sincerelyinterestedlistener,even ifthatlistener
has no formalmusic education. The use of periodic rhythm and folk
melodies has, intentionally or not,providedan unspecialized audience
witha real access to the music of Bartokand Stravinskyas well as
Basie and Ellington.

In addition to the sharpening of rhythmicskills, experience and

traininginjazz, more than any othermusic, offersa practical applica-
tion of all the basic skills and technics studied in traditionalmusic
theory and harmony courses. If jazz did not exist, the musical
vocabularies and dialects whichevolved in European music from1650
to 1950 would be, in a practical sense, as dead as theLatinlanguage.
A language, whetherverbal or musical, is onlytrulyalive as long as
people use itas a mode of basic communicationineverydaylife.With
the exceptionoforganists,who are sometimes stilltrainedinthe artof
improvisation,improvisationhas played no significantrole in sym-
phonic or chamber music for more than a century.Consequently,
most musicians who do notplayjazz forgetanythingto do withtheory,

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
BillDobbins 33

harmonyand analysis soon aftertheirformalmusic education is com-

pleted. Outside of jazz there is no creative musical environmentin
which these skills must be put to practical use, even forthe main-
tenance of mere functional musical competence. It is certain,
however,thatifsymphonicmusicians had a greaterinterestinthe for-
mal, harmonicand conversational roles of theirindividualparts in an
orchestralwork,theywould experience and performthe music quite

Justas importantas the process of improvisationitselfis the jazz

musician's constantuse and developmentof aural skillsand sensitivi-
ty. Even thoughthere is a steadily growinglibraryof importantim-
provised solos, compositions,and arrangementswhich are available
inpublishedform,itis stillunlikelythatjazz studentswillbe able to ob-
tain printedscores of most pieces which they wish to study. This
means, of course, that the music must be painstakinglytranscribed
fromrecordings.While this is an extremelylaborious process, it en-
sures the necessity forstudentsto develop theirears in order to ac-
curately recognize specific musical vocabulary. In traditionsof im-
provisedmusic one mustpersonallyearn the privilegeof receivingthe
repertoire.Nothingof real importancecan simplybe given to the stu-
dent with the exception of technical guidance and constructive
criticism.It is hoped thatthe repertoireof jazz will never become as
easily accessible as the repertoireof the European musical tradition.
Imagine how much higherthe level of aural sensitivity would be inour
conservatories and music schools if everyone had to personally
transcribethe music of Bach, Chopin, Ravel, or even Schoenberg
fromrecordingsin order to study and performit. The music would
mean much more to everyone,and onlythe most sincerelydevoted
would survivesuch rigorousdiscipline. In India the studyof music is
considered a life's devotion, and is not to be taken at all casually
Master classes may go on for ten to twelve hours. In modern
technological societies, however,the studyof music tends more and
more to be packaged in easily digestible fifty-minute segments in
which convenience is valued more highlythan passion.

Anotherinvaluableaspect ofthejazz experience is the creativelyin-

terdependentintegrationof the individualand the group. This is also
an importantcharacteristicof manytraditionalAfricansocieties. With
few exceptions, the most importantand lastingcontributionsto jazz
have been made by regularlyworkinggroups or throughcollabora-
tionsof two or more musicians towardthe achievementof a common
artisticgoal. The big bands and small groups ofCount Basie, Duke Ell-
ington, Ahmad Jamal, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy
Gillespie,the ModernJazz Quartet,Horace Silver,ArtBlakey,George
Russell, Gil Evans, Miles Davis, BillEvans, JohnColtrane,Omette Col-

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
34 Jazz and Academia

eman, Keith Jarrett, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble of
Chicago have been a far greater force in bringingjazz to where it is to-
day than the effortsof any individual musicians (the main exceptions
being Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker). Such collaborations as Gil
Evans with Miles Davis, George Russell with Bill Evans and Hall Over-
ton withThelonious Monk have also resulted in importantmusical con-
tributions. Of course, the most remarkable collaboration in the history
of jazz was that of Billy Strayhorn with Duke Ellington.

The creative process of jazz stems from free and spontaneous

musical interaction among musicians who share a common artistic vi-
sion. In fact, it is this musical, emotional, and spiritual interaction,
perhaps even more than the technical content itself, which inspires
and mystifies an attentive audience. There are only two important
prerequisites for the successful development of group improvisation:
recognition and consideration of both the strengths and weaknesses
of each individual (both technical and stylistic) and the understanding
that listening to the contributions of the other musicians in the group is
just as important as making one's own contributions. Ifthese general
ground rules were expressed in socio-political terms they would sound
like blueprints for a Utopian society. The full meaning of each musi-
cian's contribution can only be assessed in relation to the creative
goals of the group, while the musical identityof the group and the
quality of its product depend, in turn, on the contribution of each
member. The experience of such a relationship is greatly intensified in
improvised music. In a classical string quartet the composer has
decided how much information is needed in each part and precisely
when that information should appear. In jazz, however, the player's
theoretically unlimited freedom must be ever sensitive to the respon-
sibility of making such decisions in the moment. Since such instan-
taneous response is only possible on an intuitive level, each player
must personally earn whatever degree of freedom he or she wishes to
attain through the most rigorous musical discipline. By playing
together regularly over a period of several years, a group of im-
provisers may develop an even higher level of creative freedom and
sympathetic interaction. While many such groups may never attain
their highest potential, it is certainly a goal which is well worth striving
for. If it is true that the greatest possible freedom is achieved only
through the greatest possible discipline, then this is especially true in
improvised music, where the level of discipline determines not only
the quality of expression of the content, but even the content itself.

The most disappointing trend in jazz during the past twenty years
has been the focus on media superstars rather than on working
groups. Apart from the groups of Sun Ra, Phil Woods, and the Art
Ensemble of Chicago, there are virtually no American jazz groups

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Bill Dobbins 35

which have been performing regularly with a stable personnel for

more than a year or two. The economic decline of the jazz club scene
and the monopolization of the recording industryby multinational cor-
porations are two of the most significant contributing factors. These
factors have, in turn, been encouraged by the increasing populariza-
tion of home video entertainment and cable television. During the
1940's there were hundreds of big bands throughout America in which
professional musicians could earn a living playing jazz or, at least,
music with a high degree of jazz content. In the hundreds of college
jazz ensembles which exist today students are, in effect, paying to per-
form the music for nonpaying audiences, with scant prospects of
employment as jazz performers after graduation. In order for the
music to regain a level of creative energy comparable to that of the
most productive earlier periods, these trends must be reversed. The
greatest contributions which jazz education could make are the
development of a future paying audience for creative music and the
development of a musical environment which encourages and
facilitates the formation of ongoing musical relationships among our
most talented young musicians of all stylistic persuasions.

Possibly the most valuable aspect of the jazz experience is the in-
tegration of the musical experience into everyday life. Jazz musicians
have not only developed the abilityto use musical instruments as tools
through which to reveal their innermost feelings but have, as a
by-product, expanded the technical and expressive possibilities of
these instruments to staggering dimensions. The altissimo range of
the saxophones, the extreme high register of brass instruments, the
use of plunger, growl, and multiphonic technics, the development of
pizzicato bass technic and pedalling and harmonic effects on the
piano are some of the more obvious examples. To the true jazz musi-
cian music is not simply a livelihood, but the expression of life itself.
As withthe true religious experience, many claim a knowledge of itbut
only a very few show the evidence of it in their lives. It is difficult,ifnot
impossible, to know forcertain whether the spiritual leaders of jazz ac-
tually chose the music or were, in fact, chosen by it. What is certain,
however, is that the unreserved dedication of musicians such as
Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and
Omette Coleman has been an inexhaustible source of spiritual and ar-
tistic inspiration.

The word "spiritual" is not only appropriate, but even unavoidable

forseveral reasons. Much of the musical content of jazz, and probably
even more of its spirit, is rooted in the tradition of the black church.
Further, the lives and music of Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams,
John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and George Russell, to cite only a few, have
been sustained and nourished by a deep spiritual dimension. Finally,

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
36 Jazz and Academia

the dedication to something beyond personal gain or gratification is

sorely needed, not only in the world of contemporary music but in
society at large. The pursuit of excellence and the development of our
full creative potential is its own reward. The distraction and
discouragement from such aims is, equally, its own punishment.

Having examined some important aspects of the jazz tradition

which have the potential to revitalize our musical culture, it is equally
important to focus attention on several aspects of musical academia
which are indispensable in the development and sustenance of a
healthy musical environment. The most important of these are the
development of effective and finely tuned verbal skills, a healthy
respect for tradition and the artistic contributions of previous genera-
tions, and a healthy disrespect forcommerce and its manifestations in
the commercial music business. The tenacious assumption that
"legitimate" musicians command superior technic and mastery of in-
tonation is both highlyprejudicial and generally unfounded. An impar-
tial observer would most likely find audiences of all stylistic persua-
sions to be equally tolerant or intolerant of obvious musical deficien-
cies, given a comparable level of education and cultural exposure.

The need fora masterful command of verbal skills has become ever
more acute during the past twenty years. This is particularly true in
relation to jazz. Before 1960 most jazz musicians were trained and
educated in a largely informalenvironment. Learning fromolder musi-
cians "on the job", developing close friendships with experienced
musical mentors and peers, and the study of classic recordings were
among the most common methods of continuing the ongoing process
of musical maturation. Since there was littleserious mention of jazz
withinthe structured environment of musical academia, aspiring jazz
musicians sought out the music in the environment where itwas lived
and performed: night clubs, theatres, and dance halls. These
establishments, as well as nearby restaurants, coffee houses, and the
apartments or lofts of the musicians themselves, functioned as the
studios, classrooms, and lecture halls of the earliest jazz education.
From the point of view of immediate and close contact between stu-
dent and master the situation was, in many ways, preferable to that of
today's formally structured jazz education. Practical aspects of the
discipline and the relationship between the artists and the audience
were clearly visible, and knowledge about specific technics or con-
cepts could be obtained directly fromthe source. In such a fertileand
incessantly active environment there was no need forelaborate verbal
explanation or clarification, since direct observation and even par-
ticipation were usually within easy access.

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
BillDobbins 27

Since the demise ofthe club scene, as well as the steadilydecreas-

ingdemand forlivejazz by a payingpublic,the situationhas radically
changed. The role of the media and the music business in this regard
will be dealt within a moment.Whateverthe causes, however,the
resulthas been the gradual transplantingof jazz education fromthe
streets to academic institutions. The marvel is that the music even
survivedat all. It is trulya testimonyto the magnetismand spiritual
power of the music thatyoungjazz musicians who had no encourage-
mentfromthe society at large took such an interestthat musical in-
stitutionswere eventuallycompelled to make a space forjazz studies,
even ifonlyto increase theirown potentialforeconomic survival.

Probablythe single most importanttask forthe jazz musician deal-

ing with this new environmentis the development of verbal skills
whichare capable ofcommunicatingthe mechanics and aesthetics of
an essentially aural musical tradition.That such a task can be ac-
complished is amply illustratedby the traditionof eastern Indian
music. The fact that Indianmaster musicians can speak in a detailed
and highlysophisticatedmannerabout the technics and vocabularyof
theirtraditionof improvisationhas in no way unveiled the music's
mysteriesnor sapped its creative vitality.Whileexperience is always
the best teacher, a studentcan gain much more fromthatexperience
iftheteacher has clearlyexplainedand demonstratedthe skillsand at-
titudesnecessary forthe creation of a highqualityperformance.

It is not only older, self-educated jazz musicians who sometimes

have difficulty inverballyexpressingtheirmusical ideas. Alltoo often,
jazz students who are aspiringto become professionalperformersor
writersare so obsessed withtechnical skillsthattheylose sightofthe
value of an abilityto communicate theirknowledgeto others, ifand
when theybecome involvedinteaching.The factthatan ever increas-
ingnumberof seasoned professionalsare now earningat least partof
theirlivingfromteaching further demonstratesthe importanceof the
developmentof communicationskills.A veteran performercan often
communicatea great deal simplyby playing.Young teachers who are
stillmasteringbasic improvisational skills,however,undoubtedlyneed
a strongcommand of verbal language in orderto help studentsto ap-
preciate the history,aesthetics, and practice of jazz concepts which
cannot yet be fullydemonstrated by the teachers themselves. In-
sightfulcommentary on classic jazz recordings, the analysis of
transcribedsolos, compositions,and arrangements,and discussion of
the relationshipbetween art and life are only several of many ex-
amples which come to mind.

The most importantreason forthe necessity of verballyarticulate

educators, however,is the calculated precisionwithwhichthe media

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
38 Jazz and Academia

uses words for purely manipulative purposes. Furthermore, the direc-

tion in which we are being manipulated is usually away from anything
creative or spiritual, including an interest in jazz or other forms of
creative music. The institutionsof higher education represent the only
remaining force with both the power and the inclination to provide
alternatives to TV culture. Their success or failure in this endeavor is
the sole consideration from which their true social and cultural value
must be assessed.

In addition to teaching a firmcommand of verbal communication

skills, academia has traditionally encouraged a healthy respect for
tradition and the cultural contributions of previous generations. If
musical academia often carries this respect fortraditionto absurd ex-
tremes, the jazz world has just as often been guilty of an obsession
with novelty for its own sake. In order to go either furtheror deeper
within the vocabulary of a particular tradition, a thorough working
knowledge of that vocabulary is essential. This is all the more true if
abstraction, allusion or parody are involved.

The jazz world could only become increasingly enriched if the

music of Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ell-
ington, and other giants were appreciated and understood to the
degree that the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, and Bar-
tok is appreciated and understood in our conservatories and music
schools. In fact, to award our students degrees in jazz studies without
fostering pride and enthusiasm for the music of our great soloists,
composers, and arrangers is to make them victims of an inexcusable
educational swindle. At the same time, an important lesson must be
learned fromthe current state of musical academia: our reverence for
the past must not be allowed to become so rigidlycanonized that it
stifles the creation and performance of new music, however ex-
perimental it may be. Once again, Indian music offers a more balanc-
ed mixture of respect for tradition, the contribution of the individual
and the study and assimilation of the musics of other cultures.

The most valuable aspect of musical academia is the provision of a

laboratory environment in which young creative musicians can
develop their craft and imagination, free from the constraints of the
commercial marketplace. The original function of the universitywas
primarilythat of a center for learning and research, not a stepping
stone to a commercially lucrative career. To the degree that we
respect that function our societies will thrivecreatively and spiritually.
To the degree that this function is eroded by purely material con-
siderations, the human spirit will be eroded as well.

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Bill Dobbins 39

Throughout our century composers of "serious music" have been

able to survive only through the patronage of our universities and col-
leges. It is high time that these institutionsbegan to consider at least
part time positions for importantjazz musicians who have made con-
siderable contributions to both the community and the nation. Many of
these artists go all but unnoticed due to lack of media attention and
our obsession with cultural fads. The involvement of local creative
musicians in our musical institutions and educational organizations
would lend real credibility to the whole concept of jazz education,
while conferring on these musicians the respect and encouragement
which they well deserve. The advantages to all parties involved would
be incalculable. The obscurity and relative poverty in which such im-
portant figures as Ben Webster and Don Byas ended their lives is a na-
tional disgrace. We apparently have learned nothing from such
historic precedents as Mozart and Bartok.

A truly healthy cultural environment should also be one in which

great cultural diversity is not simply tolerated, but encouraged. In this
respect most contemporary societies certainly have much room for
improvement. The implication of this idea for jazz and symphonic
musicians alike should be to encourage an awareness and understan-
ding of other forms of creative music, including those which happen to
be commercially popular. The challenge for us all is, simply, to
develop our musical creativityto its fullest potential. To the extent that
either our musical institutionsor the music business encourages such
development, they should be respected and applauded. To the extent
that they become obstacles or instruments of oppression, they should
be criticized and resisted.

In conclusion, the subject of the media and its effect on all of us

must be considered, since it will undoubtedly play a major role in
determining the survival potential of both jazz and academia in any
true sense of those words. Whether we realize it or not, television has
suddenly wiped out the middle ground between fame and anonymity.
One has only to appear on national television to realize instant star-
dom, yet until such appearance one is a completely unknown com-
modity. The power of the national commercial networks has already
begun to appeciably effect the programming of public television,
which more and more resembles the usual commercial prime time of-
ferings (with fewer commercials, of course). Even the jazz programs
on public television and radio are focussed primarily on nationally
known artists in order to "ensure credibility" with their sponsors.
Thus, there is often little or no information about local artists and
cultural activities.

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
40 Jazz and Academia

The diverse street cultures of our smaller cities and neighborhoods

are being increasingly transformed to duplicate the street culture of
the prominent capitals of big business and corporate entertainment
(New York and Los Angeles in the United States). The social, political,
and cultural issues dominating academic lifeare increasingly identical
with those represented by television news specials and documen-
taries which are sponsored by multinational corporations and other
big business special interest groups. Many of these presentations are
unquestionably well intentioned,but they can do littleto stimulate an in-
terest in local social, political, and cultural affairs, which are often
paid for by local tax dollars. It is bizarre, and more than a littleunset-
tling,that most Americans today know far more about what is happen-
ing hundreds and thousands of miles away than about the activities of
the communities in which they actually live.

A brief outline of possible strategies for consolidating the strengths

of our musical institutions in an effortto exert a greater influence on
media, particularly at a local level, may be of practical use.

1. Focus our energies on musical quality ratherthan stylisticidioms.

Above all, we must stop producing still more generations of North
American musicians who are most ignorantof the musical heritage of

2. Involve local professional jazz musicians in our institutionsand

educational organizations. This should include ongoing applications for
matchingfundgrantsfromlocal and nationalarts organizationstowardex-
tended artist-in-residence

3. Coordinateuniversity public relationspersonnelwithlocal media, in-

cluding both publiclyfunded and commercial networks.Strive for maxi-
mum media exposure, particularlyin relationto projects or concerts in-
volvingguest artists(local or visiting)and the premierperformancesof
new works.

4. Arrangespecial concerts or even mini-festivals

to focus attentionon
either importanttraditionaljazz repertoire (Ellington,Parker, Monk,
Mulligan,etc.) or new jazz directions(George Russel, AnthonyBraxton,
Dave Holland,the ArtEnsemble ofChicago, etc.). This is extremelyimpor-
tantinprojectingthe idea ofjazz as an ongoingcreativetraditionwithboth
a richpast and a promisingfuture.

5. Try to coordinate projects with groups representingother local

cultural activities such as theatre companies, dance companies,
museums, planetariums,etc.

6. Enlistthe aid of all willingand interestedorganizationsoutside the

music departmentor conservatory.This mightincludelocal jazz societies,

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
BillDobbins 41

black studentor communityorganizations,the studentactivitiescouncil,

etc. These groups need to be convinced thatlocal artistscan providea far
greater cultural returnto the community,dollar fordollar,than national
media heros.

7. Supportlocal and nationalpoliticansand politicalorganizationswhich

favorincreased aid to both education and jazz.

It goes withoutsaying thatthe dubious luxuryof partisanbickering

among the camps of our great culturaltraditionsis clearlyone which
we can no longerafford,especially ifwe measure the qualityof our
lives by any standard other than mere material possessions. In the
greatest human culturesof the past, one of the most importantfunc-
tionsofartwas thatof inspiringmen and women to engage theirwhole
being in the livingof theirdailylives and the creationof theircommon
destiny.Ifwe reallywish to regainthe level of humandignitywhichall
great art eitherreflectsor aspires to, we must begin by recognizing
the common bonds which unite great art of all cultures and historic
periods. Withoutthis recognition,the commercial interests of the
media will continue to succeed in the homogenization of human
culturewhilewe continueour trivialspeculations and argumentsabout
whichstylesof music are trulyworthyof academic respectability.

I have sometimes been asked byjazz studentswhetherthe serious

studyof musical analysis, theory,and academic technics would have
a detrimentaleffecton theirjazz playing. I am sure that classical
studioteachers oftenexperience a similarfearofthe influenceofjazz
on theirprivate students. My response is simplythat the thorough
studyof any aspect or styleof music can onlyhelp one to become a
more complete musician. I sincerely hope that this conclusion will
become incresinglyobvious to all music educators in the nottoo dis-
tant future.In the past, if a self-taughtjazz musician was asked
whetheror not he could read music, he mightanswer "not enough to
hurtmyplaying." It is a primaryresponsibility of music educators to
convince our students that the development of any musical skill,
whetherapplied primarily to music readingor improvisation, can only
be a valuable tool forcreative musical expression.

The education of our children,music education included, must

become increasinglyobvious to all music educators inthe nottoo dis-
tant future.In the past, if a self-taughtjazz musician was asked
hope thattrulyeducated men and women of the futuremay use the
awesome instrumentsof our technologymore wisely than we have.
The challenge is ours, and the fateofbothjazz and academia depends
entirelyon the qualityof our response.

This content downloaded from on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:33:51 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions