Jazz groups intensify their collaboration

On Friday, student musicians dressed in everyday school clothes performed songs like “Dat Dere” and “Afro Blue,” while other student jazz musicians sat down and enjoyed the groove. The music swelled and backed up, stopped and started and swirled around the clumps of students and teachers / clinicians in the audience in the brand new Moose Lake Schools Auditorium.

Essentially, schools in Moose Lake have a jazz festival on Fridays, but only for musicians.

Mission accomplished, said Ryan Hanson, director of the Moose Lake group, which hosted jazz groups Esko and Barnum with his own students at the first “Jazz Day” collaboration for the three schools.

After each school performance, the students divided by instrument or section – trombone, trumpet, saxophone, rhythm section – and traveled to different locations where they worked with professional musicians – or clinicians – to perfect their craft.

Tim Stratioti of Duluth worked with a dozen trombonists three times on Friday. With his goatee and newsboy cap, Stratioti was the epitome of the “cool jazz musician“.

He started his first session talking about trombone maintenance, but quickly moved on to the daily practice rituals. chord changes. “Scales are the superfood of technique. I do both every day.”

He compares being a musician to being a long-distance runner. Runners don’t stop running at the end of the season, he notes, they keep racking up the miles, although it may be at a slower pace. The miles are the super food of the race, he explains before returning to music.

“Playing is exactly what it means: having fun,” Stratioti said. “You should be playing every day. Training works on how weak your game is. It’s like Swedish gymnastics.”

Jazz Day was designed by Esko Group Director Rich Mowers, who brought clinicians together and planned the three-hour event with help from Hanson (who worked with Mowers at Esko for nine years) and the Group Director. Barnum Jeff Gilbertson.

The day started at noon with three arias from Esko’s Jazz Band 1, followed by a workshop. Then it was Barnum’s turn to play, followed by another workshop. At 2 p.m. the Moose Lake Jazz Band took to the stage and the day ended after a third workshop and the end of the school day.

Mowers said he always wanted to take his jazz bands on the road to other schools. That way his kids can feel like “stewards” of jazz, he said. In addition, he really enjoys the opportunity for the children to hear other jazz groups.

Mowers has been teaching for 28 years, including 21 at Esko. He says he’s lucky to have landed there, where the district is geographically small, so it’s not too difficult for students to get to school three days a week early to get there. lead.

When he arrived at Esko, Mowers said they had a jazz band, but it didn’t take long for him to start a second jazz band. Just as a youth football program will develop players for high school or beyond, Jazz Band 2 essentially acts as a feeding program for Jazz Band 1.

“It also gives a lot more children the opportunity to experience jazz, even if they don’t succeed,” he said with a smile.

Mowers is also a jazz musician, so he teaches what he loves. This is seen when he stands next to the rhythm section as Esko’s jazz students play, moving to the music, grooving to the sounds his students create.

Mowers admits he was advised by the referees early on not to “go beyond your role”.

“The more you do, the less they do,” he said.

So when it’s time to play, he comes out.

“I have already done all my work,” he said. “You have to get out of the way and let them fly. And if they crash, that’s also learning.”

While the performance was excellent, Hanson said the day was more about learning than performance: exploring these vital questions of ‘How can we improve ourselves? “And” How do we take the next step? “

This is where clinicians came in.

Saxophone clinician David Strong came from Schmitt Music’s Brooklyn Center store, as did Ben Alle. Strong worked with saxophonists while Alle worked with trumpets.

After listening to a group of five Esko students go through part of a song, Strong advised the principal alto saxophonist to “sing”.

“The leader should also almost always sing,” he said. “And, you have to try to support him rather than bury him alive.”

They run through part of the song again, as Strong leans in, even joins at one point.

The students are comfortable with Strong, and baritone saxophonist Jon Stracek asks Strong for a difficult part of the song. Strong advises that “this is weird, not what you might think” and shows how to play it.

At the same time, group directors from the University of Minnesota Duluth (Ryan Frame) and
The College of St. Scholastica (Michael Buck) advised on the rhythm sections, as well as one of Rich Mowers’ best friends, drummer Kurt Salvela, from Byron, Minn., For the event. UMD professor Josh Skinner has also coached the young musicians.

On Friday, the four men worked almost one-on-one with student musicians on drums, piano and bass guitar.

There was also a bit of scouting, both ways, as the college faculty got to see local talent and the students were able to connect with musicians who might be their future group leader one day.

On Monday, Hanson asked his Moose Lake jazz students what they thought of the day. They loved listening to the other groups on Friday and really enjoyed the three master classes between performances where they could hear their classmates and the professional musicians who conducted the lessons.

It’s important to collaborate, said Hanson. Mower noted that Carlton County schools are also focusing on greater collaboration and mutual learning as a policy. It certainly helped the group’s three directors secure funding and support for their special jazz day on Friday.

“This kind of collaboration allows principals (of the group) to learn from each other and students to learn from each other,” said Hanson. “When I give guitar lessons, I often suggest that they go and work with another teacher. It’s so important to broaden your horizons, to go and learn from others.”

Ada J. Kenney