Jazz teaching is cool for cats

January 15, 1999

Could we please stop perpetrating this originally racist myth that jazz is so different from all other creative endeavours? By convention, the jazz aesthetic emphasises individual sound and spontaneity over perfection, but creativity and originality are not unique to jazz.

Teaching jazz is no different from teaching art, philosophy, biology or any type of music; we can provide information (some of it useful), hone a few skills and hopefully nurture the individual. We do not expect education alone to create Beethovens, Picassos, Descartes and Darwins, so why should we expect jazz courses to produce multiple Charlie Parkers?

The American system has produced many students who sound the same but that is what makes them "students". While we might be satisfied with merely competent bricklayers, salesmen and surgeons in most areas of human endeavour (and not just jazz), we celebrate only those whose originality (and hard work) allows them to rise beyond student competence.

Jose Bowen Lecturer in music. University of Southampton.

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