This article is copyright 1997 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in Midwest Motifs, Vol. 8, No. 1, February 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, as it has been updated to reflect more current data. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.


Jazz: A Multicultural, Interdisciplinary Music

by Antonio J. García

Multiculturalism is one of the most sought-after components of modern-day education: can we make our students more aware of the traditions, values, history, and aesthetics of the many peoples of the world? Many public educational institutions (and some private) now require its faculty to declare annually how its courses have contributed to students' awareness of other cultures. By doing so, schools hope to increase not just their communities' tolerance of multiculturalism but also their interest in it.

Few art forms inherently demonstrate multiculturalism more thoroughly than jazz. Without the African tradition brought over to the United States, jazz would not exist–nor would the blues. Without the Cuban and Brazilian traditions, the samba, bossa nova, songo, bombo, cascara, partido alto, and clave rhythms and more would not be a part of jazz. Without the European tradition, jazz would lack its formal structures, harmonic progressions, even most of its instrumentation. And from Lil' Hardin Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Mary Lou Williams on through Ella Fitzgerald, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Marian McPartland, women have contributed invaluably to the evolution of jazz.

While one may not instantly associate jazz with East Indian music or that of other countries, Indian ragas and the musicians of so many countries have indeed influenced the sound of jazz. By listening to the music of jazz musicians not from the U.S., one can detect how the multiplicity of cultures is evident in today's jazz. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to partner with your colleagues teaching other disciplines within your institution?

Jazz history is cultural history: the lives of the people shaped their music. While this is true in all music, jazz makes it instantly clear. What better way is there to bring African-American history to life than to trace the origins of blues and jazz? How better to explore the traditions of Latino cultures than through their music, evident in jazz? The history of race relations in America is voiced clearly through the music, lyrics, and background of the almost century-old music of jazz, both vocal and instrumental.

While citing the contributions to jazz by people of color, one cannot slight the legacy offered by the composers of Tin Pan Alley: Broadway and film scores not only left their mark on bebop and ensuing jazz repertoire but also themselves often tell in lyrics the culture of what seemed–at least on the surface–a simpler, perhaps more naive America at the time.

Where there's music, there's also dance, visual art, theatre, and other allied arts–as well as math, science, acoustics, philosophy, and more. The parallels of jazz improvisation with any language arts are inarguable. The interdisciplinary opportunities jazz presents are endless.

The Midwest Clinic affords educators and students a unique opportunity to learn just how diverse jazz is–and some of the myriad ways to teach it. It would be impossible to encapsulate all of jazz education into just one Midwest; but over a cycle of several years, attendees should be able to observe and incorporate a great deal about the music, the resources available in the exhibit area, and the inspiration and information offered by the concerts and clinics.

The 50th Anniversary edition of the Midwest offered a glance at the diversity of jazz: African-American artists such as Billy Taylor, the Wynton Marsalis Quartet, and the Uptown String Quartet–the latter also impressive as role models for women in jazz...Latino artists Richie García and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet...the cross-section of America represented by the sum of the MacArthur High School Jazz Ensembles from Texas and Illinois, the JazzTech Big Band, the Army Jazz Ambassadors, and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble. Whether Uptown was performing spirituals or standards, D'Rivera playing Bach or Parker, Marsalis or Taylor doing Gershwin or Porter, the Jazz Ambassadors offering Jobim or Monk, MacArthur/Illinois delivering Edison or Nestico, MacArthur/Texas playing Ellington or Puente, NIU sending Tizol or Shorter, or JazzTech forwarding Berlin or Hancock, each artist or ensemble demonstrated training and expressiveness in Latino, blues-based, and standard swing repertoire. Perhaps the most cross-cultural moment of the 50th Midwest was enjoying the Marsalis Quartet performing Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" with the Northshore Concert Band–in an arrangement by Toshio Mashima.

Paquito D'Rivera, whose concert and clinic were dedicated to showing attendees how Latino music is in fact many, diverse musics, stated flatly: "You don't have to be Austrian to play Mozart, but you have to have a love and respect for the music." The Midwest is an excellent place for you and your students to meet with others whose learning and love for jazz is growing–and return to your own school with incredible inspiration.

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. 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. Your recording is the most critical part of your application materials–so take care to send a recording of the highest audio fidelity possible! If your ensemble is accepted, Midwest will assist with the creation of your program and offer you guidance in meeting the various deadlines.

You and your students can have the opportunity to perform and learn in a most musically creative and stimulating environment, surrounded by people sharing the same interest in multicultural and interdisciplinary education. Visit the Midwest's web site for an application form today.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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 <>.

| Top |

If you entered this page via a search engine and would like to visit more of this site, please click | Home |.