Young people flock to Berklee College in Boston expecting practical education in the most under-capitalized of arts: jazz and related forms of contemporary popular music. With some 4000 enrollees pursuing BA programs in composition, film scoring, production and engineering, music business/management, songwriting, performance, etc., Berklee is by far the largest of 160 institutions in the U.S. and another dozen internationally offering degrees and/or certificates in jazz studies, as detailed in the current (October) issue of Down Beat.
- One class, learning to review cds and post to blogs, confronted journalistic basics such as the necessity of writing briefly and descriptively, and learning to identify “throwaway” phrases — those asides that don’t convey info or forward the plot — followed by actually throwing them away.
- Another group, having read Keroauc’s On The Road, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie and Mark Twain’s essays on Bermuda, considered “voyages” that scramble narrative conventions by shuffling chronologies and heightening consciousness — with reference to Catch-22, Slaughterhouse Five, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, the film Memento, Henry James and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
- In the “Effective Communications” class taught by Rebecca Perricone questions involved how to ask questions (be an interviewer) and how to answer them (be interviewed). As Berklee has an Oral History project in expansive redevelopment, several teachers and administrators were interested in related fundamentals: how to pace sessions, how to direct discussions, how to probe, when to lay back, problems arising from interviewing several people simultaneously.
I gave my spiels and expanded as requested — the very model of a cooperative interviewee. Was I giving away professional secrets? No more than sharing what I’ve learned while practicing as a professional, which is what I believe teaching’s all about.
JazzBoston is a partner with Berklee in the three-day Beantown Jazz Festival, which also started last Thursday night, and was feared to be rained out. Indeed, the impressive roster of stars (Randy Weston, James Carter, Kurt Elling) set to play out-of-doors for free on Saturday was cancelled. But I caught a glimpse of keyboardists Patrice Rushen and Geri Allen in serious rehearsal with drummers Terri Lynn Carrington and Cindy Blackman, who performed on Friday with guitarist and Berklee prof David Gilmore and Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma, an up ‘n’ comer who in this youtube clip seems to be creating spontaneously, free of restraints but thinking as she goes.
Tineke Postma graduated with honours from the Amsterdam Conservatory with a masters degree , where she also now teaches. She was awarded two scholarships to study at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where she studied with Dick Oatts, David Liebman and Chris Potter.
So there is a future for (some) jazz ed. students: Easier entry to jazz’s current big leagues. Perhaps it’s a personal issue for each student — partly answered by what else they know, what else they’ve learned — where to take it from there.