restricted access 4. Defining Jazz Education

From: David Baker

Indiana University Press colophon
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65 I have known David Baker fortwenty-fiveyears ,actually longer if you count the decade or so I knew him through his jazz improvisation books before ever meeting him in person. Back then, in the 1970s, his and a few others’ were the only books available demystifying the secrets of how to play this music. Before that, it was basically “you either had it or you didn’t,” meaning you either had the talent to learn strictly by ear from the records of the jazz masters , or you were out of luck. Virtually no comprehensive systematic method existed. Until David Baker. David is an eminent performer , composer, arranger, band­leader, and conductor – but I believe he has made his greatest contributions as a pedagogue. In the same way saxophone great Charlie Parker revolutionized the music of jazz, setting its lingua JB Dya s 4 Defining Jazz Education 66 JB Dyas franca for all generations to come, David has set the standard for its teaching and learning. His methods have been, and will continue to be, the point of departure for today’s jazz educators who follow the path he hasefficaciouslyforged,continuingandbuildinguponhisjazzpedagogical legacy. I know from whence I speak. Over the past twenty-plus years I have studied with David privately, performed and recorded with his big band and sextet, and completed my phd in music education with a double minor in jazz studies under his guidance at Indiana University, where he has served as chairman of the jazz department since 1966. In addition to having taken virtually every jazz course David teaches at Indiana University, I also have attended his AdvancedJazzImprovisation classes numerous times at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop, where I have been a faculty member since 1986. And I have logged countless wonderful hours traveling and hanging out with him, talking about the teaching of jazz and everything else under the sun. Over the past couple of decades I have witnessed David work in every imaginable didactic situation from explaining jazz to beginners in language they understand, to serving as a jazz master-in-residence at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (where I currently serve as vice presidentofeducationandcurriculumdevelopment)teachingourMonk Fellowship recipients – some of the most advanced graduate students in theworld.AndIhaveseenhimcommunicateandrelatetoawidevariety of peers in language they understand – from the street, where jazz slang abounds, to higher academia, where you’d best walk in with a dictionary to understand the sophisticated discourse. It’s uncanny how he belongs and is at ease in both situations, handling them and everything in between with aplomb, warmth, genuine interest, and a marvelous sense of humor. Additionally, I have worked out of most of David’s jazz pedagogical books and read dozens of his magazine articles. Now totaling over sixty texts and four hundred articles on jazz improvisation, composition and arranging, ear training, and related topics, David’s published methods remainamongthebestofthecountlessjazzeducationmaterialsflooding the market today. Indeed, many jazz education authors have acknowledged and paid respect to David for getting the whole modern approach of studying jazz started – either directly in their forewords or, frankly, Defining Jazz Education 67 indirectly in their obviously transparent reworkings of his concepts and methods (it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). I also recently had the opportunity to walk a block in David’s pedagogicalshoesatIndianaUniversity ,whereItaughthisfullloadofclasses and directed his band while he was away for two weeks. Not only did I have a ball working with everyone from the hundred-plus non-music majors in his Jazz History class to the talented graduate students in his top big band and combo, I had the rare opportunity to experience Indiana University life from his perspective, which gave me further insight into what it means to be David Baker, jazz pedagogue. And, thanks to David’s gifted wife, Lida – who has been his primary advisor, editor, and everything else over the past three decades – I have also been privy to all of David’s course syllabi, handouts, tests, and the like. Based on these personal experiences, including using David’s methods with my own students over the years, as well as conducting formal interviews and having informal conversations with numerous David Baker students, alumni, and colleagues (many of whom are well known in the jazz world today in no small way due to his tutelage), I offer the following account of David’s teaching. The sections treat his Indiana University jazz courses, clinics, private teaching and more, reflecting his pedagogical philosophy, approaches, methodologies, and...


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Subject Headings

  • Baker, David, 1931-.
  • Composers -- United States -- Biography. -- Composers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Jazz musicians -- United States -- Biography. -- Jazz musicians -- United States -- Biography.
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