Should today's young music students be educated differently than they were 20 years ago? It seems like the general music curriculum really hasn't changed that much since I was in music school almost twenty years ago. The music industry has gone though massive upheaval yet colleges are still preparing students for music careers the same way they did in previous decades. A few months ago My buddy Tomas asked me , "Do you feel guilty preparing your students for a life of poverty?". I laughed nervously in response to his question, there was some amount of truth to what he was saying. Tomas has long since taken a white collar job out of the music industry, something I haven't yet done. Maybe I should be teaching my students how to marry a professional wife, how to talk your wife out of kids or how to flip houses; something that would actually allow them to play music. Three or four decades ago there were still a ton of good road gigs and Jazz clubs lined the streets of most major cities. Las Vegas used full live bands and people were excited about going out to hear live music instead of DJs. You could pay your rent in NYC with a single day's work, work four days and you could spent the rest of the month playing loft sessions. Everything is different now. There are fewer venues and consequently fewer gigs, no one is making much money from CD sales anymore, Europeans and Asian seem to appreciate Jazz more than most Americans and live music has lost it's place to DVD movies and microwaved popcorn.
How should we be preparing the next generation of musicians in this new environment? Will they be financially crushed under the weight of student loans with have no gigs to support themselves? Aren't music schools hurting students and working professionals alike by not being sensitive to the job market in the music industry?
I tend to want to recommend to my students that if they want to play Jazz they should stay in school and get a doctorate. That way they will actually be able to get a good teaching gig and still have time to play music. A bachelor's degree in music isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
When I went off to Berklee my idea of the pinnacle success was being picked up by someone like Art Blakey or Cedar Walton before graduation. For me that was making it.
Is it even ethical that music schools continue to spew out more and more Jazz performance graduates even though every year there are fewer and fewer gigs?
It may just be a local trend but when I moved to Portland, Oregon before the crash of 2000 it seemed like it was a 'little New York'. There were eight or nine full time Jazz clubs within walking distance of each other in the downtown area. I had found the hidden Jazz Mecca of the West Coast. When I moved to town Rob Scheps made me promise not to tell all the guys in NYC how good things were out here, he was dead serious. Within seven years that little NYC is now like a little Fresno. Every year we lose more and more established clubs, last month alone we lost two important Jazz venues. It's really made me rethink my future in this town and in this country.
I know I won't be happy if all I do is teach. I need to play good music with good musicians for good audiences or I start to lose my will to live. I start getting cranky like a dry drunk.
Europe is looking more and more appealing to me. This June I'll be back in Spain, Italy and Turkey to play music. Young people actually pack Jazz clubs there, AND THEY EVEN LISTEN?!?! Incredible!!!!
Eastern Europeans are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and avid Jazz listeners- Berlin, Russian, Poland, the Czech Republic, even Estonia is better than most cities here in the U.S., the birthplace of Jazz. I just received an invitation to come play at a new Jazz venue in Moscow. They have a beautiful large new club and are willing to cover airfare, and all expenses on top of payment for the gig. They have a strong PR department and an excellent house grand piano. I can't imagine a club on the West Coast offering so much to the artist. Even the Village Vanguard pays pretty lousy!
I was also contacted by a booker of a major Jazz festival in Portugal last week who is interested in book my group, and we don't even have a major record contract! That just wouldn't happen here.
If things keep up like this I may soon be posting from the Estonia. I'll be teaching my private students internet marketing as well as Jazz saxophone.
I don't usually use this forum to unleash my personal diatribes. I try to keep my content educational or at least entertaining. I just couldn't help myself and I think it needed to be said. My apologies.....