TEACHING TOWARD LEARNER AGENCY IN INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE SETTINGS
Matthew D. Dufresne
Adviser: Deborah VanderLinde, Ph.D.
After beginning graduate school I started gaining a sense of the power of agency, a term that was foreign to me up to that point. I set out designing a curriculum that would foster agency while simultaneously seeking to implement a more comprehensive curriculum that balanced common notational practices with the study of composition, improvisation, conducting, and transcription. In this way I hoped to encourage students to build a personal musical vocabulary based on music that was important to them while acquiring a deeper knowledge of how music is constructed. This work explores my attempts to put into practice a philosophy of music that encourages ownership of the learning process while gaining a deeper understanding of musical processes that might afford the music student the greatest possibility for self- expression.
I highly recommend Jim Snidero's video series from The Jazz Conception Company. Jim has put a lot of energy in creating some of the best resources for jazz education. I have been using The Jazz Improvisation Course for the last couple of years at my school. The videos are of the highest quality and cover a variety of topics for improvisers of all abilities. Topics include, "Blues, bass lines, blues and minor pentatonic sounds, using the flat 5th, shifting third, creating lines, blues ideas and choruses, extracting/collating ideas and Improvisation utilizing one chord, basic form, 2-measure phrasing, 4-measure phrasing, riffs, memorization techniques, timing, and entrance variations." All that is just in the first video. Further videos include "essential scales and chords, melodies and modal improvisation, ear training, and style and practice." There are comprehensive scale books in treble and bass clef and an excellent section with YouTube links, as well.
Jim also has created a comprehensive video series for the jazz saxophonist, covering "tone quality, mouthpiece exercises, weak/off beat articulation, examples of articulation from the masters Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker, examples of the proper way to bend notes, use of grace notes, as well as lessons from Walt Weiskopf on embouchure, light articulation, over articulating, tone production, subtone, ghost notes, developing a good swing feel, equipment considerations, and practice habits." Jim has included a thorough video on equipment that covers mouthpieces, ligatures, saxophones, and reeds (testing, adjusting, balancing, sealing, and storing)." In the 4th and 5th videos, Walt Weiskopf teaches how to play a ballad and dissects the playing of tenor masters from the 50's, Coltrane, Hank Mobley, and Sonny Stitt. In the 6th video, Jim covers the alto masters from the 50's Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker; included are discussions of equipment, articulation, use of the blues, subtone, sound nad phrasing, as well as etudes based on each master.
Both video series are year-long courses that are constantly being improved and updated. The video series can be downloaded via an app for the iPad or accessed online with a computer. For the money, there is no better deal to help you learn about jazz improvisation and saxophone. For educators, there are tests on all the material. Check out The Jazz Conception Company at www.jazzimprovisation.com.