Music education curriculum needs jazz courses

Music education programs need to add a jazz methods course to their curriculums.

The majority of college music ed programs are focused on classical training, and either don’t offer any jazz course at all or they offer a few but it’s up to the student’s derogative if they want to participate.

Take SVSU’s music program. While we don’t have a jazz degree, there are still quite a few courses offered like jazz ensemble, jazz combo, and so on.

The problem here, however, is that these courses are not mandatory for students, and there is not a jazz methods course that is required for music ed students.

This is not just the case at SVSU, it’s a problem in music ed programs all around.

By not requiring music ed students to partake in any jazz courses, even if it’s just being in a jazz ensemble, we are doing a
disservice to the future students that they’re going to teach.

These educators are being sent out not knowing how to teach one of the most important types of music. My own experience
in high school was an example of that. I was in our ‘jazz’ band where we played pop tunes, and not true jazz repertoire.

So, when I got to college and joined jazz ensemble, I was, 1) way behind, and 2) had misconceptions about what jazz even was. I didn’t know any of the major composers or major artists from jazz. Instead, I was used to playing “Call Me Maybe” or “Dynamite.”

I didn’t know anything about reading chord changes or improvising in general. I didn’t even know what a jazz standard was.

I didn’t know what made up the core concepts of jazz, and that was because my director didn’t know how to teach it.

How many other high school programs with a jazz band are like this? And why is that something we’re so willing to allow?

There’s always big talk about sending music educators out as well-rounded musicians, who are knowledgeable in everything. Different instruments, different styles, etc.

For example, instrumentalists have to take choral methods, and vocalists have to take the different instrumental method courses.

So, why doesn’t jazz apply to being a well rounded musician?

How can we say that we are sending out well-rounded educators, when I’ve heard other students say that they have no interest in learning jazz, or that they don’t think it’s up to the same standards as classical music.

So many of the students who are trained classically look down on jazz and lack respect
for it.

How are students like those, who’ve never taken a jazz course in their life, supposed to go out and teach impressionable students, to give them the jazz education they deserve.

Maybe some of the other methods courses briefly touch on jazz, or maybe in music history you had a few lectures that touched on jazz history. Still, that’s not enough.

How are you supposed to go out and teach something when you haven’t even had enough time to understand it yourself?

Why should we even worry about teaching jazz in high schools in the first place?

There’s so much that students can take away from a proper jazz education.

First off, jazz is America’s music. It’s rooted here. Jazz history mirrors American history. By having students learn jazz, they’re
learning important aspects of American history too.

Along with this, students are learning important musical concepts. There’s so much to jazz that requires active listening and
critical thinking.

You’re helping to develop a student’s ear and their ability to listen to music and understand what they’re hearing.

By teaching students to improvise, you’re helping them gain self-confidence, self expression, and to be brave. To try out new
things even if they aren’t comfortable with it at first.

You’re teaching students how to work together, and to form connections with other musicians, even connections with the

So much of jazz is about how everyone interacts, it’s about the conversation that’s being held through music.

Students should leave high school prepared to go and play at college. Just like we want well-rounded music educators, we want well-rounded high school musicians.

Jazz education is important, and undergraduate music education programs are doing a disservice to both students and their future students by not requiring some form of a jazz methods course.

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