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A conversation with 
James Warrick

(Band Director  Guide Magazine)


Jazz Studies Objectives, Rationales, Activities, and Evaluation: 
The New Trier High School Model

By Dan Phillips

A Conversation with James Warrick

PHILLIPS: Are all these ensembles and classes for credit?

WARRICK: All four jazz ensembles, four wind ensembles, and four orchestra classes are for full credit. The after-school jazz improvisation classes are for partial credit.

PHILLIPS: Was there any problem getting the curriculum approved? Did you learn any useful negotiating or planning tips that might assist others lobbying for more jazz courses at their schools?

WARRICK: The NTHS jazz ensemble curriculum was established in the early 1960s and has granted credit since that time. I would encourage directors who have aspirations of getting jazz ensemble during the school day to do the following:

  • Present the school with a complete curriculum, including specific titles of music to be studied. JEJ readers should feel free to adapt our curriculum to meet their particular schools' educational jargon and curriculum format.
  • Show a willingness to give written tests and other objective forms of student evaluation. Telling students—"If you can play your part, you will get an A"—is probably too subjective for most administrators.
  • Staff the jazz ensemble with at least two of each rhythm-section instrument. This better guarantees that at least one will be present for rehearsals and makes the class size the same as any English or Math class that the school might offer.
  • Contact the IAJE, its Curriculum Interest Chairs (currently Bart Marantz and Marcia Dunscomb), and its Curriculum Committee (currently chaired by Gordon Vernick) for lists of schools that offer credit-granting jazz ensembles. Jazz ensembles are typically curricular in many areas of the country, and administrators will often respond favorably to such lists.

PHILLIPS: Do the students have access to private instrumental instruction through the school? If so, is it for credit?

WARRICK: A staff of more than 20 private teachers is available on the school property to teach our 1200 music students. Approximately 97% of the instrumental music students take lessons, either during the school day or outside of school. Lessons are not for credit.

PHILLIPS: Who pays for the many facets of this program: the private instrumental lessons, the Improv lessons with Chicago pros, the equipment, play-along recordings, software programs, recording studio, jazz festival, school CDs...? Are these elements all tax-supported, none at all, or is the answer in between?

WARRICK: The student is responsible for instrumental-lesson payment. Parents may apply for half-price private-lesson scholarships—in which case the teacher discounts his or her fee, and the balance is paid out of a scholarship fund generated from ticket sales to NTHS concerts. Our school pays for the two Music Improvisation teachers and provides the most basic equipment with which to offer a jazz studies program (drums, amps, keyboards, stands, etc.). We use profits from our CDs and annual Jazz Festival to pay for upgrading our sound system, recording equipment, or to provide for special purchases such the complete set of Aebersold play-along CDs in our school library.

PHILLIPS: Given New Trier's accomplishments in jazz education to date, what would you most like to see as the next innovation or growth in your curricular or co-curricular jazz activities at school?

WARRICK: I would enjoy seeing a specific class held during the school day that would teach Music Improvisation. After-school classes tend to be more combo-oriented; and because of sports or work conflicts, not everyone who needs or wants to be there can attend. Big band rehearsals are not the best environment for teaching sophisticated soloing techniques or advanced theory.

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