The benefits of jazz education as mandatory teacher training education may be in providing a strong foundation in America’s music from which teachers can apply a multicultural perspective in the classroom. Unlike the European traditional foundation, a foundation in jazz studies provides a multitude of practices that are representative of what Jones listed as the “Composite list of ideas generated in late twentieth century music education movements.” Among these concepts are improvisation, composition, creativity, authenticity, indigenous repertoire, contemporary relevance, American history, theory, and philosophy, and the ability to develop skills in a music that students can use for the rest of their lives. The traditionalist or formalist may argue that the Western European model based on large ensembles can offer all these opportunities, but Jones argued,
There is little room for student creativity. This model is in direct opposition to the traits of knowledge workers, the intellectual heritage of the music education profession as manifested in various movements of the twentieth century, and may actually work against most students achieving the voluntary national and mandatory state standards for music education.
Performance opportunities in small jazz combos create platforms for musicians to communicate and create creative dialog in ways that are consistent with many of the world’s indigenous musical practices. Musicians who are trained in this genre strive to contribute meaningful dialog through these intimate musical conversations that reveal a musician’s background, training, and life experiences. Ingrid Monson describes this interaction as “A moment of community, whether temporary or enduring, (that is) established in such moments through the simultaneous interaction of musical sounds, people and their musical and cultural histories.”
This is not to imply that certain Western practices are not essential to the development of musicianship in the jazz genre, in fact, jazz musical proficiency demands the same rigorous theoretical and technical basis as its classical counterpart. However, as a music more reflective of popular genres in American society like rock, pop, country, bluegrass, gospel, and blues, jazz proficiency provides a springboard from which these other genres, as well as countless other world musics can be approached. For these reasons, jazz is America’s multicultural music, and should be the center of American musical education instead of the marginalized genre of a minority culture. The philosophy for its implementation is summed up by music educator David Elliott who wrote in “Music Matters”,
As a result of the multicultural nature of music, school music programs are also a primary way by which students can achieve self-identity, self-respect, and a sense of tolerance for themselves and others. Since schools today are concerned with preparing students for work and life in pluralistic societies and since schools themselves are more culturally diverse than ever, it stands to reason that schools should support the rich, cumulative, and enjoyable multicultural learning experiences that inhere in school music programs that induct children into a variety of music cultures.
The logical place to begin this musical revolution is in the teacher training programs of American universities, where future educators can become a bridge for the transformation of the culture of jazz from its historical practitioners to the American music educational system. In conjunction with the multicultural movement in American music education and the philosophies some of today’s leading musicologists it may be time to redesign the foundation of our musical practices in a way that is more representative of social pluralism. Jazz music, with its rich history of improvisation and spiritual representation of the struggle for human rights is too important in America’s history to be marginalized in the curriculum. Jazz music is America. Through inclusion in all college music preparatory teaching programs we will not only be working towards including America’s music in our classrooms, but providing educators with a substantial role in making sure that we are preserving the history of this music and the people who make it, a practice that may lead us to a better understanding of diversity and the quest for cultural plurality in our society.
Jones,Patrick, “Music Education and the Knowledge Economy: Developing Creativity, Strengthening Communities,” 8.
Monson, Ingrid T.(Ingrid Tolia), Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Elliott, David, Music Matters a New Philosophy of Music Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 309.