Jazz Day 1 – workshop begins


This is the inaugural year of the Summer Jazz Workshop at the VSO School of Music.

The morning began with getting to know each other (there were approx. 50 students there), with 60% high school/young adults and 40% older (ie. over 30). I had no idea who the instructors were, or what they had accomplished in their lives so far, but a quick google search showed they had years of professional experience, with many accomplishments including albums and Junos.

Then it was off to Jazz Theory with Bill Coon, a guitarist, composer and arranger. I put myself into the “intermediate” class because I’ve completed all the RCM theory classes, but have never had a jazz theory class in my life.  Boy, I felt out of my element!  There were terms and chords I had never seen before…I knew I had my work cut out for me. Although Bill explained that he had no formal theory lessons, it was clear he possessed a deep knowledge of the jazz theory and idiom.

After the confusing jazz theory class, it was off to the masterclasses for our instrument of choice. My teacher was Miles Black, an amazing pianist.  He possessed a gentle and patient spirit. Although I was clearly the most inexperienced jazz pianist there, I felt like he did not judge me. However, it was still terrifying to have to improvise in front of the small class of pianists, especially since everyone else seemed to have done this before!

After lunch, we were put into combos. In my group were a drummer, alto sax and tenor sax players, and a bass guitarist. Our coach knew that our group had been put together based on our skill level (which I admit was not very high!), and explained everything slowly and showed us ideas for improv. He cheered us when we played together and started to improvise, (and then forced us to improvise MORE).  I felt like I learned so much through DOING, and it felt great.

Finally, the day ended with listening to a recording in Pyatt Hall. Although I didn’t understand the chord progressions or recognize the form or pick up on the “tag”, I could still enjoy it for what it was.

More Jazz tomorrow!

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