The 2010 JEN Conference Virtual Outreach

September 24, 2010

Dr. Larry Ridley, AAJC
Executive Director Bassist Extraordinaire:

“The AAJC and the NAJJP (National Association of Juneteenth Jazz Presenters, directed by Dr. Ronald Myers) are pleased to announce a new collaboration with “The ALIVE Project”. Two outstanding educators and artists, Mr. Allan Molnar and Mr. Stewart Smith, direct the ALIVE Project. The collaboration will focus on creating access to Jazz programs designed for underserved national and international communities. The following is Mr. Molnar’s description of the “The ALIVE Project.”

The ALIVE Project: My colleague, Stewart Smith and I initiated The ALIVE Project (Accessible Live Internet Video Education) in early 2004. It has been a highly successful mechanism for connecting many well-known performers and teaching artists with schools across the globe via live videoconference links. The intent of this article is to provide a pedagogical context for the use of this and other technologies in the traditional music classroom.

Making Connections: Stewart and I were honored to be invited to give an ALIVE Project presentation at the 2010 First Annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference held in St. Louis, Missouri in May. JEN had established an outreach opportunity as a means of supporting music programs in the St. Louis public school system so I proposed the idea of conducting a “virtual outreach” in advance of our JEN presentation. I was put in touch with Mr. Chris Becker, Director of Bands at Parkway South High School in Manchester, Missouri. Together we worked with the cooperation of the Parkway South Information Technology Department to establish the “digital handshake” needed for the videoconference link.

I videoconferenced into the band room at Parkway South HS from my home studio in New York on Friday, May 7, 2010 and gave two presentations: “Technology and the Home Studio” and “Technology and Creativity.” I also performed for the students on my digital vibraphone and they reciprocated by performing a few jazz standards for me. Chris Becker was fully engaged as a team teacher during these presentations and both sessions were very successful.

Technology and Creativity: I have designed a curriculum for teaching Electronic Music that is based on the musical foundation of jazz. I guide my students through the process of jazz discovery by way of an exploration of the various technological tools that are now readily at our disposal. My students learn about digital audio, MIDI recording, animation and movie editing through a project-based process that exposes them to the musical innovations of Miles Davis, the multi-faceted artistry of Quincy Jones and many other important historical and theoretical considerations associated with this art form. I taught this curriculum at Lehman College (Bronx, N.Y.) this past year and shared an introduction to this course with the Parkway South music students when I videoconferenced in for my online presentation prior to the JEN conference.

Kind of Blue: Stewart Smith traveled from Winnipeg, Canada to New York in February to present a lecture on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album for my students at Lehman College. Stewart used Apple’s “Keynote” software as the delivery vehicle for this multi-media presentation that integrated text, audio, music, pictures and video. As a follow-up, the students were asked to select a historically important jazz album to be the subject of their own “Keynote” presentation. They deployed their newly acquired technological skills in the development of these multimedia projects and then shared their research with the class during finals week. Three students made presentations online to the Parkway South students prior to the JEN Conference. To date my Lehman College music students have presented their work at music institutions in five countries via videoconference.

Student Teachers: I was very pleased with the three Lehman College students who “went the extra mile” and shared their work as part of the JEN outreach. Brad Jensen spoke about the Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd album Jazz Samba, Robert Ciccone introduced Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin’ and Hugh Glover discussed Monk and Trane at Carnegie Hall. Brad explored the origins of Bossa Nova in relation to jazz while Robert’s telephone interview with Bumpin’s arranger Don Sebesky became the centerpiece of his presentation, and Hugh shared his personal account of having heard Coltrane live in New York. Extraordinary!

A First-Hand Account: The best way to culminate an educational experience such as this is to take the students on a field trip that brings them directly to the source. Renowned jazz drummer Ndugu Chancler of Los Angeles joined us in this exploration when he videoconferenced in for my final class lecture at Lehman. Ndugu brought my series of classroom projects and lectures full-circle when he gave my students a first-hand account of his experiences on the road with Miles Davis and in the studio with Quincy Jones. Ndugu, Stewart and I also spoke via videoconference and in person to the students in St. Louis to conclude the JEN outreach project.

Making Reconnections: I had the privilege of first meeting Dr. Larry Ridley 32 years ago. I was a music student at Mary College in Bismarck, North Dakota. Dr. Ridley was visiting Bismarck Junior College as part of an annual All Star Jazz Artists Residency organized by Dr. Lloyd Anderson. Larry was a featured performer on bass along with trumpeter Clark Terry, pianist Jaki Byard, guitarist Herb Ellis, saxophonist/composer/arranger Ernie Wilkins and drummer Alan Dawson. The experience of attending that music residency was an inspiration that I continue to savor to this day.

When Dr. Ridley and I reconnected at JEN following the ALIVE Project presentation, we had the opportunity to reminisce about that workshop in Bismarck. Without hesitation we began to explore ways of creating similar experiences for students through the use of distance learning technology and to plan our first collaboration.

Our first opportunity to work together occurred in July 2010 at the KoSA International Percussion Workshop in Vermont (www.kosamusic.com). I invited Dr. Ridley to videoconference in to address the jazz vibraphone class that I was teaching onsite at the camp. The class opened with YouTube videos featuring Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson. Dr. Ridley was live onscreen while the videos played and subsequently spoke of his personal friendship, experiences on and off the bandstand with these two great musical artists. The students were enthusiastic and inspired by the ability to ask questions and interact with such a renowned artist of his caliber, expertise and reputation.

It was a privilege to invite such a distinguished musician into my classroom. The inspiration Dr. Ridley brought to the KoSA students was reminiscent of my experience in Bismarck, ND 32 years ago. Videoconferencing is an ideal way to connect over distance and we continue to look forward to exploring the possibilities through the ALIVE Project.

The AAJC and NAJJP Partnership’s Current and Developing Plans: The African American Jazz Caucus, Inc. (AAJC), along with our partnership with the National Association of Juneteenth Jazz Presenters, Inc. (NAJJP) is proactively working to further the broadening and defining of our working collaboration with the ALIVE Project. Our goals are to bring Jazz to underserved national and international communities.

For further information please contact us at: AfAmJzCaucus@aol.com or by telephone (212) 979-0304.

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