always a better jazz mousetrap
Kansas City Area Youth Jazz (YouthJazz.us) recently finished our 2020 season. This was our second season, and like the 2019 debut season, it was again very successful – despite 2020 being contracted from our normal 4-months to 2-months, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic safety restrictions and protocols that continue at this writing.
Kansas City Area Youth Jazz (KCAYJ) is a private jazz education program that was conceived in 2010 to fill a void that existed in this arena back then, but for various reasons it was not formally launched until 2019. It’s a unique program in that KCAYJ is designed to be a “youth jazz artist experience” rather than a variation on the summer jazz camp model. See our story at this link, it’s pretty interesting how things came together.
lifelong jazz artist + jazz educator
Upon returning home to the Kansas City area to live, I connected with people on the scene here who became friends and mentors. Particularly, Ahmad Alaadeen as my last great applied jazz saxophone teacher and the legendary Leon A. Brady who invited me into his youth jazz program as the woodwind faculty in 2007. Mr. Brady founded Kansas City Youth Jazz in 2000 and it grew into five big bands comprised of over 100 students in grades 6th through 12th. His was a unique model in that we faculty would conduct sectional clinics before the bands rehearsed the music together as a full ensemble. Needless to say, doing this made for really tight ensemble work and the band directors could work at a more refined level than simply “fixing notes.”
I immediately noticed that the students could not improvise very well. It was likely so glaring because the ensemble work was so tight and sounded so good. I asked Mr. Brady for permission to start a combo lab after the Saturday morning rehearsals were finished at 11:30 and he approved. I started with one combo and that quickly grew into two combo labs – the 11:30 and 12:30 combos. A fellow faculty member, Jason Goudeau joined me and we taught the students basic song forms and how to deal theoretically with common chord progressions found in jazz music.
The students began playing coherent improvised solos and the program thrived. So much so that I was invited to present the Kansas City Youth Jazz 12:30 Combo and give a clinic at the Kansas Bandmasters Association Convention (Wichita) with Mr. Brady in 2009.
This was a promising generation ago now. These young musicians are now adults. Several have gone on to graduate from top music schools and conservatories, become music educators, professional military musicians as well as scientists and business people. I have been successfully and effectively teaching music since the 1980s. In addition to my private studio practice, I have actually taught jazz at the college-level. I enjoy working with middle-level and secondary school music educators, but have never been a public school band director myself. They are indeed my musical heroes.
art is about doing good business
In addition to all of the things the combo program taught youth jazz artists, Kansas City Area Youth Jazz teaches that art is about doing good business. Most of the act of doing good business happens away from your musical instrument and the stage. It is arts administration. It’s planning and developing programming. It’s customer service. It’s keeping promises to your art, your fans, your band members, and the people who believe in your ideas and dreams. Promises. Keep them.
promises, promises …
We kept a big promise today to those wonderful people who supported the Kansas City Area Youth Jazz program during its very first season. Yes, even before we were an established entity with the successful track record we have established in two great seasons. Your vinyl LP albums are in the mail to you. They sound superb and Bill Crain took the time needed to ensure that the music on this album will genuinely merit repeated listens. You’ve got a “collectors’ item.” Thanks again! All the best, Mr. B