Jazz Studies Objectives,
Rationales, Activities, and Evaluation:
The New Trier High School Model
By Dan Phillips
A Conversation with James
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
- 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
- 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 scholarshipsin 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.