What an amazing week attending the Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans. It was my first time attending this fantastic conference, and it was a truly memorable experience. It was evident to me that jazz is very much alive in the hearts, minds, and hands, of students, educators, and presenters, both young and old.
I felt like I was in jazz heaven.
Imagine arriving at the Louis Armstrong Airport, named after the father of jazz himself, then driving down the highway and seeing the state welcome sign, "We're jazzed to have you. Welcome to New Orleans." Even my hotel room had a painting of a trumpet (above), which one can only assume would be emitting jazz music.
Check out this inspiring keynote address by Grammy-winning saxophonist, Kirk Whalum.
The conference was amazing. I attended a myriad of inspiring talks by great presenters, and several nightly concerts by incredible musicians, some quite famous, and some less so. I saw several colleagues there, some of whom I hadn't seen in many years, and some who were from my own backyard.
The sessions that I attended covered three main topics, which were overlapping, at times. Music Business, Musical Development (technique, Improvisation, listening, and analysis) and Performance. The presenters did a great job making the sessions engaging, interactive, and fun. Here is a brief overview of some of the sessions I attended.
Day 1 - Workshops
Note: I found all of these sessions very helpful. The consistent message I heard was that a DIY musician is the standard of the times we are living in, requiring a high level of organization, continuous goal setting and development, and putting yourself out there in order to achieve your goals. Of course, having even just one other person to help you can make a huge difference in your ability to achieve them.
Why knowing what your net worth is will help you evolve your career
with Dr. Eugene Marlow
My take away was that everyone should keep a close eye on their personal net worth by doing profit and loss statements on a quarterly basis, or even monthly. Frightening thought. Also, create short and long term goals that you can adjust accordingly. The old adage applies here, that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Marketing and Branding for Jazz Artists
with B.J. Jansen, Bari sax
Basically, know yourself, tell your story, engage your audience, and be consistent in the way you present yourself, both on and off stage, as well as on your website, and in your social media posts.
A Grass Roots Approach Towards Developing A Fan Base
with John Raymond, tpt., Real Feels
Make quality music that connects with people. Know who you are trying to reach. Keep fresh content on your social media sites and website that keep your audience engaged. Think long haul. "Momentum can only happen through persistence. Be organized!"
So, You’ve Finished Recording Your Jazz Album. Now what? How to Take Your Project from the Recording Studio to the Jazz Charts
with Nick Phillips/Jenny Maybee
Crowdfunding. Been there. Done that. However, getting a finished recording into the hands of radio programmers and press is the next big hurdle. These musicians were incredibly organized with their business plan and very open about sharing their process. I was impressed with their approach to the business. Jenny is a lawyer, and Nick was a record label executive, so they definitely brought a lot to the table. I still need to check out their music.
Band as Business, Musician as Entrepreneur
with John Snyder, Randy Brecker, Kate Duncan, Billy O’Connell
This was a great session, with lots of inspiring wisdom. The artist holds all the cards. Without the artist, there is no music business. We need to keep sharing our story and regard what we do, because no one will care as much about our music as we do. Have an action plan. Be your own manager, and always follow through. It may be a lot of work, but it is our life-work, which is something to consciously rejoice in.
Meaningful Partnerships with Performing Arts Organizations, Festivals and Jazz Clubs
with Marty Ashby, John Clayton, Jay Wiegel
I love this! Make sure that ALL of your relationships feel good and you feel a sympatico with them. It makes good business sense to be aligned on a gut level and feel a sense of trust. Things don't ever work out without it.
-John Clayton, jazz bassist
Day 1 - Concert
Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra
This was a great concert. I hadn't heard Delfeayo before. He and his band played with great joy and energy, which embodied the spirit of New Orleans.
Day 2 - Workshops
Singing an Instrumental Language: Dave Lambert and the Bebop Vocal Group
with Lee Ellen Martin
A look at the evolution of jazz vocal group singing
The Evolution of Ella Fitzgerald’s Syllabic Choice in Scat Singing: A Critical Analysis of Her Decca Recordings
with Justin Binek
An in depth analysis of the syllable choices that Ella used in singing. Pretty cool!
Training Four Skills for Improvisation: Ear, Muscle Memory, Brain, and Heart
with Jeremy Siskind
This session offered a wholistic approach to practicing.
Reading, Writing, and Rhythmetic: The A, B, C’s of Music Transcription
with Roberta Radley
Another nod to the importance of transcribing music in order to gain a better understanding of the intricate language of jazz. Seeing Roberta Radley was a lot of fun, also. Congrats to her on her new book!
Playing Free - A Guide to Free Improvisation for Vocalists
with Sherrie Mostin
This was a fun and interactive session, espousing the benefits of playing and singing free, without any pre-planned music, as a way to open up the creative channels. I am now incorporating this into my own teaching.
Day 2 - Concerts
Kim Nazarian Concert
w/Sean Jones, Greg Jasperese, Jay Ashby, Mark Shilansky, Chris Buzzelli
I'm an even bigger fan of this incredible singer after attending this concert. Kim is a beautiful person and a founding member of the outstanding jazz vocal group, New York Voices, which I auditioned for, once upon a time.
Ellis Marsalis Quintet with Johnny Summers
A wonderful concert by the father of the first family of jazz. Hearing Johnny Summers sing and play trumpet was a treat, too. Think Louis Armstrong meets Frank Sinatra.
The Royal Bopsters with NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan
Sheila is an 85 year old marvel and champion of bebop. She travels extensively, performing wherever she goes. She is adored by all who know her.
Day 3 - Workshops
Beyond Samba: Melodic Rhythm and Groove in Northeastern Brazilian Genres for Jazz Composers and Arrangers
with Gord Sheard
This session was an in-depth analysis of the various grooves and melodic rhythms of afoxé and baião. It furthered my longstanding desire to visit Brazil for an extended period of time to immerse myself in the music and language.
The Mechanics of Swing: Evolution of the Style and Teaching Students How it Works
with Gunnar Mossblad
A practical approach for teaching beginners how to swing.
Creating Magical Musical Moments
with Grace Kelly
I hadn't paid much attention to Grace Kelly before, but her session convinced me that this is one very serious lady when it comes to jazz. She has a bright light shining in her that makes her very down to earth and joyful. Her presentation was engaging and inspiring, emphasizing the importance of listening to great jazz, transcribing the great icons of jazz, and playing those transcriptions on your instruments by ear.
The Realities of Planning, Executing, and Distributing Your Music in the 21st Century
with Dr. Eugene Marlow
Eugene is a wealth of wisdom, as well as assets, and worth paying attention to. His message is that the future belongs to artists who embrace an entrepeneurial mindset. He is also a musician and educator.
Day 3 - Concerts
The Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra with guest artists Sean Jones, George Garzone, and John Fedchock
I didn't know Ayn prior to this conference, but she is an amazing and noteworthy composer/arranger and professor at Berklee College of Music, whose music is reminiscent of another favorite composer/arranger of mine, Maria Schneider. Be sure to check her out. Of course, listening to saxophone giant, George Garzone, was a highlight. I also got to hear Sean Jones on trumpet, who will be appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival this summer.
1st Annual JEN Scholarship Concert, The Crescent Super Band,
featuring Branford Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Kirk Whalum, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, Caleb Chapman, etc.
This was definitely one of the highlight performances of the conference. I've been a fan of many of these musicians, and now I am a fan of a couple more that I hadn't heard before.
The Army Blues “Pershing’s Own” with Carmen Bradford
Carmen was the last vocalist with Count Basie Band and is the genuine article when it comes to classic big band and jazz singers. Her heart is as big as her voice, too.
Day 4 - Workshops
Functional Voice Training Through Jazz Literature and Style
with Elizabeth Johnson Schafer
This was a great session on the many elements involved in singing jazz repertoire, which also supported the training I've received through studying Somatic Voicework.
Day 4 - Concerts
James Morrison Academy Jazz Orchestra (Australian) Concert
This band blew my mind with how young and insanely good they were, and James Morrison is a multi-instrumentalist to checkout, too.
POEM: Pascua, Oles, Erskine, Mintzer concert
This ensemble is comprised of well known and established musicians from L.A. They presented a concert of original music in laid back L.A. style. I especially liked the pieces written by pianist, Alan Pasqua.
Preservation Hall Legacy Band Concert
A New Orleans classic.
The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music
I was really happy to take a break from the conference to visit this amazing center and attend an informal concert with Ellis Marsalis and Johnny Summers.
Located in the 9th ward, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music broadens opportunities for underserved children, youth and musicians. It provides a safe, positive environment where underserved children and youth develop musically, academically, and socially. The Center also delivers strategic assistance and tools to Village musicians that can enhance their professional growth and offers opportunities for musicians throughout the city of New Orleans to perform and record. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music deeply values its connection to the surrounding community and endeavors to be an ongoing source of information and cultural inspiration to residents of the Ninth Ward in particular, and to the broader New Orleans community as a whole. Founded by Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. after Hurricane Katrina devastated the community.
So, what's next?
I am already scheming about attending next year's conference, which will be in Dallas, TX. If you have any interest in being in an atmosphere filled with great jazz music and musicians, I encourage you to consider going. I found it to be a great opportunity to learn, listen, and connect. Check out the JEN website for details.