This article is copyright 1997 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in the Illinois Music Association Illinois Music Educator, Vol. 58, No. 1, Fall 1997. It is used by permission of the author and, as needed, the publication. Some text variations may occur between the print version and that below. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.

CEOs Advocate for Music Education in Illinois

Won't You?

by Antonio J. García
Coordinating Committee Member, Illinois Coalition for Music Education

 

Last year I encouraged you to contact your area business and community leaders, asking them to provide you with written statements of support for music education–not on the grounds that musical art is important, but because music education provided for them the developmental tools essential to their current careers as non-musicians. By collecting such statements, you as an educator can assemble the defenses you may need to protect or enlarge your music program. And by forwarding a copy of those statements to the IMEA office, you can add to a collection of advocacy letters which the Illinois Coalition for Music Education can continually enlarge and distribute to music programs across the state that are threatened with cutbacks.

How hard can it be? I put myself to the test, with the most difficult solicitation of all: the "cold call." I selected a number of chief executive officers from the annual list of Chicago's "Top 100 Companies" (as published in the Chicago Tribune)–persons I had never met, who had absolutely no reason to answer my letter, which included some background along with only one question:

"Would you be willing to send me a few sentences about how you view the importance of music education in developing who you are today–and if you view it as an important part of your children's growth?"

Here is a sample of the responses I received:

"Education is a paramount part of our society. The arts, and music in particular, help build character and confidence. Music is one avenue that we can offer for a full and rounded education for our children, the future leaders of our country. We need to be focused on what is best for our children."

—Howard B. Witt
Chairman, President and CEO, Littelfuse, Inc.

 

"Music education creates in young people an appreciation for ideas far beyond those taught in more 'academic' subjects — namely, ideas about beauty and the human spirit. No life is complete without these ideas."

—H. Laurance Fuller
Chairman and CEO, Amoco Corporation

 

"Music education provides a balance in children's lives. As they become adult members of our community this foundation becomes invaluable. It not only allows them to better contribute to their vocation but may provide them with an avocation."

—William J. White
Chairman and CEO, Bell & Howell Company

 

"The process of art, of making it ourselves, from simple crayons to finger-painting to woodcarving and other activities also led to a greater appreciation for what was around us in our daily world. All in all, I would say that the appreciation and practice of music and art are what makes a broader person. The old adage is true: We work to make a living and art makes living worthwhile."

—Warren L. Batts
Chairman of the Board, Premark International, Inc.

 

This is strong support coming from business leaders I have never met. Imagine what responses you could receive from contacting local business and community leaders you know! Think of the individuals who populate your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club...who play non-professionally in community bands, orchestras, and choirs...think of your alumni rolls! Think how many of them must have played the clarinet or sung in choir and later found that the leadership, teamwork, and creative risks they discovered in music made them who they are today. This is why Michael Winston, Motorola's Vice President and Director of Global Leadership and Organization Development (based right here in Illinois) enthusiastically stated:

"I attribute my ability to survive and even thrive during difficult times as being, in part, a direct result of lessons learned during musical education studied while growing up. It can be said that the quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. The factors that spell out the essence of leadership and excellence, whether in the arts, in athletic competition, or in a highly competitive business battlefield, are similar and deeply imbued in one through early musical education."

If even fifty teachers across the state gathered ten letters a year to forward to the Coalition, by the time your freshmen graduated we'd have 2,000 letters from Illinoisians on file for anyone's use in defending their programs. Imagine the impact of that stack at your school board meeting when someone tries to tell you that music education is not essential!

If we don't do it, we have only ourselves to blame. Don't sit back. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Don't wait for a raging fire to threaten your music program before you notice the flames that threaten others'. Do your part to document the Illinois constituency that believes that music education is essential. And don't forget to send a copy of the letters you receive to IMEA at 19747 Wolf Road, Suite 203, Mokena, IL 60448-4000.

For a sample form letter and additional information, see Prof. García's article "The Illinois Music Advocacy Book: A Coalition Project for Us All" in the Spring 1996 edition of the IME.

 

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Antonio J. García is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra I; instructs Applied Jazz Trombone, Small Jazz Ensemble, Music Industry, and various jazz courses; founded a B.A. Music Business Emphasis (for which he initially served as Coordinator); and directs the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band. An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music and of Loyola University of the South, he has received commissions for jazz, symphonic, chamber, film, and solo works—instrumental and vocal—including grants from Meet The Composer, The Commission Project, The Thelonious Monk Institute, and regional arts councils. His music has aired internationally and has been performed by such artists as Sheila Jordan, Arturo Sandoval, Jim Pugh, Denis DiBlasio, James Moody, and Nick Brignola. Composition/arrangement honors include IAJE (jazz band), ASCAP (orchestral), and Billboard Magazine (pop songwriting). His works have been published by Kjos Music, Hal Leonard, Kendor Music, Doug Beach Music, ejazzlines, Walrus, UNC Jazz Press, Three-Two Music Publications, and his own garciamusic.com, with five recorded on CDs by Rob Parton’s JazzTech Big Band (Sea Breeze and ROPA JAZZ). His scores for independent films have screened across the U.S. and in Italy, Macedonia, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, India, Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

A Bach/Selmer trombone clinician, Mr. García serves as the jazz clinician for The Conn-Selmer Institute. He has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 nationally renowned artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Collins—and has performed at the Montreux, Nice, North Sea, Pori (Finland), New Orleans, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. He has produced recordings or broadcasts of such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Jim Pugh, Dave Taylor, Susannah McCorkle, Sir Roland Hanna, and the JazzTech Big Band and is the bass trombonist on Phil Collins’ CD “A Hot Night in Paris” (Atlantic) and DVD “Phil Collins: Finally...The First Farewell Tour” (Warner Music). An avid scat-singer, he has performed vocally with jazz bands, jazz choirs, and computer-generated sounds. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). A New Orleans native, he also performed there with such local artists as Pete Fountain, Ronnie Kole, Irma Thomas, and Al Hirt.

Mr. García is a Research Faculty member at The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa) and the Associate Jazz Editor of the International Trombone Association Journal. He serves as a Network Expert (for Improvisation Materials) for the Jazz Education Network and has served as President’s Advisory Council member and Editorial Advisory Board member. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores avenues for creating structures that correspond to course objectives. His book Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music) offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He is Co-Editor and Contributing Author of Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (published by NAfME) and authored a chapter within The Jazzer’s Cookbook (published by Meredith Music). Within the International Association for Jazz Education he served as Editor of the Jazz Education Journal, President of IAJE-IL, International Co-Chair for Curriculum and for Vocal/Instrumental Integration, and Chicago Host Coordinator for the 1997 Conference. He served on the Illinois Coalition for Music Education coordinating committee, worked with the Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to develop standards for multi-cultural music education, and received a curricular grant from the Council for Basic Education. He has also served as Director of IMEA’s All-State Jazz Choir and Combo and of similar ensembles outside of Illinois. He is the recipient of the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2001 Distinguished Service Award.

Regarding Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading, Darius Brubeck says, "How one grades turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately practical resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references." Jamey Aebersold offers, "This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students." Janis Stockhouse states, "Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!" And Dr. Ron McCurdy suggests, "This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."

About Cutting the Changes, saxophonist David Liebman states, “This book is perfect for the beginning to intermediate improviser who may be daunted by the multitude of chord changes found in most standard material. Here is a path through the technical chord-change jungle.” Says vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, “The concept is simple, the explanation detailed, the rewards immediate. It’s very singer-friendly.” Adds jazz-education legend Jamey Aebersold, “Tony’s wealth of jazz knowledge allows you to understand and apply his concepts without having to know a lot of theory and harmony. Cutting the Changes allows music educators to present jazz improvisation to many students who would normally be scared of trying.”

Of his jazz curricular work, Standard of Excellence states: “Antonio García has developed a series of Scope and Sequence of Instruction charts to provide a structure that will ensure academic integrity in jazz education.” Wynton Marsalis emphasizes: “Eight key categories meet the challenge of teaching what is historically an oral and aural tradition. All are important ingredients in the recipe.” The Chicago Tribune has highlighted García’s “splendid solos...virtuosity and musicianship...ingenious scoring...shrewd arrangements...exotic orchestral colors, witty riffs, and gloriously uninhibited splashes of dissonance...translucent textures and elegant voicing” and cited him as “a nationally noted jazz artist/educator...one of the most prominent young music educators in the country.” Down Beat has recognized his “knowing solo work on trombone” and “first-class writing of special interest.” The Jazz Report has written about the “talented trombonist,” and Cadence noted his “hauntingly lovely” composing as well as CD production “recommended without any qualifications whatsoever.” Phil Collins has said simply, “He can be in my band whenever he wants.” García is also the subject of an extensive interview within Bonanza: Insights and Wisdom from Professional Jazz Trombonists (Advance Music), profiled along with such artists as Bill Watrous, Mike Davis, Bill Reichenbach, Wayne Andre, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Jim Pugh, and Ed Neumeister.

The Secretary of the Board of The Midwest Clinic, Mr. García has adjudicated festivals and presented clinics in Canada, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, and South Africa, including creativity workshops for Motorola, Inc.’s international management executives. The partnership he created between VCU Jazz and the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal merited the 2013 VCU Community Engagement Award for Research. He has served as adjudicator for the International Trombone Association’s Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Rath Jazz Trombone Scholarship competitions and the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble competition and has been asked to serve on Arts Midwest’s “Midwest Jazz Masters” panel and the Virginia Commission for the Arts “Artist Fellowship in Music Composition” panel. He has been repeatedly published in Down Beat; JAZZed; Jazz Improv; Music, Inc.; The International Musician; The Instrumentalist; and the journals of NAfME, IAJE, ITA, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Percussive Arts Society, Arts Midwest, Illinois Music Educators Association, and Illinois Association of School Boards. Previous to VCU, he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Combos at Northwestern University, where he taught jazz and integrated arts, was Jazz Coordinator for the National High School Music Institute, and for four years directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Formerly the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, he was selected by students and faculty there as the recipient of a 1992 “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” award and nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE “U.S. Professor of the Year” (one of 434 nationwide). He was recipient of the VCU School of the Arts’ 2015 Faculty Award of Excellence for his teaching, research, and service. Visit his web site at <www.garciamusic.com>.

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