More Tips for Jazz Students
Manage your use of time
According to John Murphy at UNT College of Music, “Once you have started a music program, you need to make good choices about how to manage your schedule. You can’t manage time. You can only manage how you use time. Students in their first year discover that they have much more time each week that they are responsible for planning. The difference between success and failure often comes down to making intelligent choices: when to practice, when to study for academic classes, getting to classes, lessons and rehearsals on time, making time for exercise and sleep. A tired mind and body cannot learn effectively.”
Learn to use technology
USC’s Alan Pasqua and Columbia College Chicago’s Dick Dunscomb both stress the importance of learning to use relevant technology. As a musician, you need to understand how to record, develop a website, use appropriate software, utilize social media, and more. As technology changes, you need to stay fresh with what’s new.
Plan to learn marketing skills
You’ll need to learn marketing skills –– whether you work for yourself or someone else. As Alan Pasqua says, “Unless you’re at the top, no one is going to promote your music. You must be your own marketing boss.”
Play as much as possible
Erik Miron encourages “collaborating with arts, theater, and cinema programs.” He also advises letting the music school or department know you’re available to perform wherever possible – at alumni events, fundraisers, festivals, community gigs, and other occasions where student musicians will be requested.
“Join or form a band that’s playing music that you’re excited about,” recommends Noah Fulton-Beale, “especially if it’s a different style than what is emphasized in school. Play a lot as a group. Integrate what you’re learning at school. Study recordings together, write original music, and try to develop a polished group sound. Find and play gigs.”
“If you want to do music, jump in with both feet and commit to it, no matter what genre or style,” says Drew Zaremba. “Get with people who are better than you, and don’t be afraid to ask them what they’ve been working on, or to ask them for a lesson. Of course, don’t do this in an annoying way, but there’s a way to ask people to help you, and the majority of us jazz musicians will –– we’re a family really, and we’re here to support each other as musical brothers and sisters.”
Listen to lots of music
“Maintaining a thirst for listening to music and immersing yourself in recordings and live performances is probably a most important tool for a jazz musician,” says Addision Frei.
“Take every opportunity you get to play all styles of music,” Noah Fulton-Beale urges. “Join classical ensembles at school. If your school has world music classes, try that out. Take an ensemble on a double instrument. Big band, jazz combos, choirs, early music, anything that’s offered is a good opportunity. College is a good place to learn about a lot of different kinds of music.”
Your Jazz Audition: What are schools really looking for?
Dick Dunscomb, Columbia College Chicago’s jazz chair, urges students to do their research in advance. “Find out what the schools really want (before you go off to auditions).” See what you can find out so you can be as prepared as possible. Expect to be asked to improvise and sightread.
John Murphy, an ethnomusicologist and saxophonist and jazz chair at University of North Texas, says “Our professors listen for potential, as well as for a student’s current level of performance. Some things that indicate potential are:
• a sound on the instrument that reflects your experience of listening to the best artists of that instrument;
• a consistent time feel and articulation that goes well with the time feel;
• an understanding of basic jazz harmony and how to build solo lines that express the harmony.”
USC piano professor, Alan Pasqua, adds, “Auditions go by faster than you’d ever imagine. Faculty try to make them warm and friendly, but have to make critical decisions quickly, through prescreens and then interactions. So have your audition tunes prepared. The audition is not a time to show off. And if you’re a composer, bring in a piece of your own.”
For more on jazz auditions, see If You Want to Major in Jazz…