This article is copyright 1995 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in Midwest Motifs, Vol. 6, No. 1, February 1995. 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, as it has been updated to reflect more current data. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.

Midwest Jazz: Growth in Action

by Antonio J. García

I lived my first twenty years or so in the fairly large city of New Orleans, attended graduate school in Rochester, New York, and lived and worked in the Chicago area. These metropolitan locales offer an abundance of musical opportunities and exposure, each with varying intensities of educational, concert, and music retail activity. A person living in these or similar cities could easily pursue avenues for learning and teaching music or obtaining music-related resources.

Yet it is not so easy to gain a perspective about the surrounding musical world: who's doing what, how to achieve a better result, where to find the best equipment...? As challenging as keeping abreast of such developments can be for those of us in education, it can be even more daunting for our students. Where can they see and hear some of the best musical role on virtually any make of instrument...learn from internationally renowned clinicians...experiment with the newest technology in music their peers from every area of the world...and be challenged to perform at their own very best–in front of large and enthusiastic audiences?

The Midwest Clinic provides each of these opportunities for you and your students. When you bring your ensemble members to Midwest, they can learn from a long and varied menu of established educator/clinicians and outstanding ensembles who can inform and inspire them, assisting your own goals. These exemplary musicians offer an exceptional level of creative stimulation for all in attendance; often we later hear comments from directors such as, "My students grew six months that week!"

This growth stems from more than just listening. When your group performs at Midwest, the concert will represent not only the culmination of your hard work and that of your students and school, it will benefit from the added electricity that comes from sharing your performance with the many and informed listeners in the ballroom. You may never again interact with such a knowledgeable, sizable audience as the one you'll find here in December. The success of your school's program will be made known on the widest possible scale.

Performance aside, what an opportunity Midwest is for you and your students! The exhibit hall offers row after row of virtually every applicable instrument and accessory, technique book, concert music, computer resource, uniform, festival-tour route, and fund-raising avenue. More than seventy of the finest schools of music answered students' questions at the last Clinic, both in the exhibit hall and at Midwest's famed "College Night"; and representatives of the armed services bands are also available to field inquiries. There's even a job-placement locale where those looking for employment can find persons seeking their talents.

No other site, metropolitan or rural, can offer such exposure. You cannot walk into a music store and expect to find a Jon Faddis demonstrating trumpets or a Peter Erskine at the drum set–as you might when you enter the Midwest exhibit hall. What an inspirational moment it can be for your students to discuss music with such artists! And when you hear music in the concert ballrooms that you believe would be of value to your own ensembles, you can usually walk downstairs to the publishers' exhibits, find and examine the sheet music, and purchase the piece in the same hour! Where else can you ask any of hundreds of other directors in your field specific questions and receive instant responses? Where else can you suddenly encounter that cross-country colleague you have waited so long to meet–or bump into a musical legend among the 14,000 or so visitors that come to Midwest?

Though I am a member of the Midwest board, I have presented at the MidwestClinic before and can report to you from "both sides of the fence" that the orientation process for appearing at Midwest is most highly organized. You will receive a wealth of helpful materials, be referred to experienced individuals for additional advice, and be treated to careful attention at every step of the way by Midwest's Executive Administrator, Kelly Jocius. The larger instruments which directors loathe transporting (as well as sound-reinforcement equipment) are provided on-site by the Clinic; and our office is ready to assist with referrals for hotels, meals, and the like. With concerts available at Midwest night and day, one can easily pass the entire Clinic without venturing off the Hilton and Congress Hotel sites. But of course, the immediate downtown area offers a wealth of cultural attractions you and your students would also enjoy.

You may have noticed that I have yet to mention the word "jazz," for Midwest is such a terrific experience in all areas that none need be singled out as justification for participating. However, my Midwest board colleague Richard Dunscomb and I are enthusiastically seeking the best ensembles and clinicians for the annual event. Such ensembles can be the larger bands or the smaller combos. (And while this is a band and orchestra gathering, we hear from some outstanding scat-singers within the ensembles as well!) Every academic grade-level ensemble that is exemplary of groups at its students' age should consider applying. Feel free to refer us to these budding artists: let us know not only where the finest college and high school bands or combos are but also the junior high and elementary groups! Perhaps you know of an outstanding clinician that we have not heard from at Midwest as well.

Once a director decides to nominate his or her group for a Midwest performance, it is critical that the application recording be prepared with attention to content and sound quality. Remember that, if accepted, your ensemble will be required to perform some newly published music. (Midwest will assist publishers in getting their new offerings to you in time.) There will be important deadlines to meet, but you will be afforded every avenue for inquiry and advice.

Most of all, you and your students will have taken advantage of the opportunity to perform and learn in a most musically creative and stimulating environment, surrounded by people sharing the same goals. Go for it! Visit the Midwest Clinic's web site for an application form today. You will be delighted that your students "grew six months that week"!


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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, 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/ 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 <>.

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