Nicole Yarling, Stephen Scott, Jim Gaisor Wendy Pedersen, and Rita Quintero founded the Jazz Educators Community Coalition in August 2013. All mentors and educators felt a need to fill a void.
One evening after a WDNA Jazz Encounters appearance by Ira Sullivan, the student jam session began. Several young hopefuls pulled out their instruments, warmed up and approached the stage to play. Unfamiliar with jazz performance protocol, they spent the next ten minutes deciding on a song. Their performances were genuine, but awkward. Due to a lack of experience there were elements of music making that were obviously missing. No fault of anyone in particular. Band directors and music teachers are held accountable for an ensemble performance so nuance is generally not taught in many school programs due to time restraints and class size. In addition, not all music teachers and band directors are familiar with jazz pedagogy.
That evening, Nicole Yarling asked a few of the students if they would be willing to attend a workshop on Saturdays that would teach the nuance of jazz performance and they agreed. Support from station manager Maggie Pelleya of WDNA came in the form of in-kind access to the space for the workshop and radio and print promotion. Nicole then approached Wendy Pedersen, Jim Gasior and Rita Quintero, proposed the idea, and they formed the Jazz Educators Community Coalition.
The JECC Jazz Boot Camp is designed to build repertoire, develop performance and audition skills, and help musicians get an understanding, love and ear for this music we call jazz. Though the workshop’s focus is young musicians, anyone who is interested in learning more about playing this music is welcome. Teaching young musicians these skills early will not only help them grow as performers, it will build confidence as young men and women and hopefully, mentors.
This workshop is unique in many ways. There is a strong emphasis on practical application. Everything the musicians learn in the weekly workshop is applied via performance. The members of the ensemble have the opportunity to apply their newfound knowledge in performances at least once a month. They apply their theory and learn and grow from these performances. Every workshop and every performance is recorded and available for the students to review. It is a great way for the students to measure their own growth.
The performance opportunities are made possible by other community organizations that understand and share the vision such as Ron Weber’s South Florida Jazz series, the Sunshine Jazz Organization and the Old Dillard Museum in Broward, to name a few.
The JECC Jazz Boot Camp allows young musicians from various Dade and Broward County schools to interact with each other while honing their skills. The students range in age from 8 to 19. They come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, but the common denominator is the music. No student is ever turned away. The novice and the advanced student approach learning in the same fashion. There is a limited use of sheet music. The student learns to develop their musical intuition, their ears, and their spontaneity. They learn to create arrangements as a group and perform as an ensemble. The concept of mixing levels of musicianship teaches the students who are more advanced mentoring skills. They help the students with less ability grow. They learn that in order to keep their knowledge they must give it away. It also sets a standard for the musicians with less experience to work towards.
The students get perspective from various professional musicians and educators from the community. The importance of offering many different views gives the student a variety of ways to understand the same concepts. It also gives members of the JECC an opportunity to exchange ideas as educators. The eventual goal is to offer professional development certification for educators who attend or teach the workshop.
The JECC has developed a template for outreach and recruitment. The ensemble performs as a unit and invites young talented musicians from area schools to perform as special guests. The ensemble has collaborated with students from Dillard High School in Broward County, and Young Men’s Preparatory Academy and Mays Conservatory in Dade County. Notably in the past year, the ensemble has performed during the Art Deco Festival, South Dade Cultural Arts Center, Olympia Theater, and Dade County Auditorium, where they served as opening act for the great Paquito D’ Rivera.
The JECC will continue to collaborate with other Arts organizations in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.