This article is copyright 2005 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in Midwest Motifs, Vol. 16, No. 3, September 2005. 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.

Owning a Slice of Time

by Antonio J. García


I remember writing my very first composition for jazz band at the ripe old age of 17. It was a grand opus containing one chord, D minor, for all 32 bars of its AABA form; and I can recall its simple, diatonic melody to this day. I had written this quasi-bossa at the encouragement—maybe the dare—of Mr. Bobby Ohler, the jazz band director at the 1977 Loyola University Summer Music Camp in my native New Orleans. To my shock, he then programmed it on the concert. I didn't even have a title for it. I improvised a brief trombone solo over my prized chord, as did a young saxophonist in that summer band: some guy named Branford Marsalis.

The previous summer the final jazz concert had included a popular tune of the day, the oh-so-jazzy disco hit "Do the Hustle." I soloed on it, as did a summer classmate in the back row, a trumpeter named Wynton Marsalis. Others in those chairs in various years included additional unknowns such as saxophonist Donald Harrison and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who later followed the Marsalises to join the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

I recall as a junior at Jesuit High School asking my band director, Mr. Marion Caluda, if I could re-arrange a concert band arrangement of "Sounds of the Carpenters" so that it might become a feature for our trombone section. His consent provided me score-study and some writing practice. A year later his colleague, Mr. Logan Boudreaux, formed the first Jesuit jazz band in many years; and we managed to get our act together enough to perform at the Loyola Jazz Festival, where I soloed on the rock-ballad "Be." Because of that solo, a band director whose work I had annually admired at that festival, Mr. Tommy Goff of Auburn High School (Alabama), took the time to speak to me and offer me encouragement in my pursuit of music.

As I grew in my study and love of music, one common denominator existed and remains to this day from each of these events: the concert recording.

Given the opportunity to audition into the 1977 All-District Concert Band, I enjoyed listening to the resulting recording and hearing—from the audience's side—how my own part fit into the overall compositions as directed by Dr. Joseph Hebert, with whom I would later study in college. I was particularly taken with "Ballade," written by Dr. Patrick McCarty, another future teacher of mine.

When I went on to study at Loyola and then at Eastman, my opportunities as a writer and player multiplied exponentially and began to blend with the professional engagements I was enjoying. The Loyola ensembles (led by Hebert and Prof. John Mahoney) and Eastman ensembles (with Profs. Rayburn Wright and Bill Dobbins) afforded me avenues to grow that I could not have predicted.


"I still hear from students who performed with the Spartanburg High School Orchestra at The Midwest Clinic in 1978. The two-record album is treasured by many members of that South Carolina orchestra and by me. The DVD of the Loyola Chamber Orchestra's performance at the 2004 Clinic is a gift that will last a lifetime."
Dean Angeles, Loyola University (Louisiana)

Time Travel

Fast-forward to 2005: Wright and Caluda have passed on; Goff has retired; Boudreaux, and Ohler have retired from teaching music but still perform. Hebert, Mahoney, and Dobbins continue the great work that has already benefited so many thousands of students. But what remains in all these cases are the recordings. I don't often pull out one of my now-ancient student recordings; but when I do, it's transforming.

Hearing the legendary drummer Mel Lewis guest-driving the 1981 Loyola band brings back my thrill of feeling his groove grip my bass-trombone chair through ballads like Bob Brookmeyer's "First Love Song" and rip-roarers like Thad Jones' "Cherry Juice." Hearing classmate Maria Schneider's inspiring writing for the Eastman ensembles, such as her small-group recital recording of "Last Season," reminds me what it was like to stay up 50 and 70 hours composing new music to be recorded and performed by my peers who had bonded via our shared experiences.

And I think of the recordings I'd wanted but never gotten. I'd gigged with pianist George Shearing for 24 concerts around 1980 yet heard him solo in such a different artistic direction for the twenty-fourth that I was just amazed—but no recording was available. What about the night that Tony Bennett sat in on my run of Ella Fitzgerald gigs? Or even that one faculty recital of mine many years ago that never got recorded?

Recordings usually increase in sentimental and factual value years after the fact. What was the actual tempo for that piece? Who conducted when the director had a baby that night? Can you believe we actually got through the fast movement?


Buy the Numbers

"This will be my twelfth annual performance at The Midwest Clinic with the VanderCook College Band. Each year I place my order for audio and visual recordings earlier. Our students value having this keepsake; and yours will, too.

Consider building the cost of an audio or video recording into each member's trip-price so that everyone can share these memories of the once-in-a-lifetime performance experience known as The Midwest Clinic."
Charles Menghini, VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band (Illinois)

Now think about this December. Some 30 ensembles will perform at The Midwest Clinic, representing some of the finest instrumental groups in the United States and beyond. They have been rehearsing on an intensive, targeted schedule for six months so as to present their very finest musicianship. I would guess they number approximately 2000 student performers and professionals, plus parents, chaperones, administrators, and other supporters—and they have many more family and supporters back home. And then there are about 12,000 other Midwest attendees.

How many recordings do you think they all might want? For students, maybe one for themselves and one for grandma? For visiting directors scouting for great music, maybe two of the best ensembles they heard, with repertoire they'd like their own ensembles to perform soon? For exhibitors, who are so busy that they rarely get to hear performances: perhaps just one recording per year so as to stay in touch with the music of the ensembles they market to? How many recording sales should 14,000 attendees and a few thousand more supporters back home generate? Maybe 10,000? 5,000?

Not even close: last year, the answer was 2255. Just 1397 CDs and 858 DVDs. While that may sound like a lot to some readers, the numbers aren't even enough for the recording company to break even on the project. In fact, that company hasn't broken even on Midwest recordings for years; but now the deficit on Midwest sales has increased to the point that it's time we all became aware of the problem. CD sales in 2001 numbered 1654: that's a 15% drop from just three years ago to now!

The problem is two-fold. The first is perspective: many students, parents, directors, administrators, and supporters aren't aware of how much they're going to want their ensemble's Midwest recording in future years. Every year Midwest hears from at least one performer from ten to thirty years ago who wants to track down a copy of a beloved recording. But if sales don't improve, new recordings simply won't be made.

The other part of the problem is obvious: much of today's society views recordings as property to copy and freely distribute to friends regardless of the source. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that buying one recording and duplicating it for buddies saves some initial cash.

But it kills the industry; and in this case, it kills the recorded legacy of your performance. We—students, directors, and pros—are musicians. We're supposed to recognize that long-term investment leads to a lifetime of results. Our business is in creating the most expressive sounds we can, and recording companies preserve those creative sounds marvelously.

For The Midwest Clinic, the work that Mark Custom Recording does provides far more than "just" a wealth of the finest performances ever captured on disc for sale. It also provides the audio and video feed for the video-streaming archives that are visited more than 50,000 times a year by internet viewers from around the world. And it supplies the CDs and DVDs that become an essential part of The Midwest Clinic Archives at The University of Maryland, where recordings can be found that date back to the Clinic's founding year of 1946. If the company can't afford to create our recordings for sale, they won't be available for internet broadcast or for permanent archiving, either: it costs just as much to run the recording equipment whether the goal is to press one CD or 1,000.


"The CD recordings from our Midwest performance were of exceptional quality. When I purchased extra CDs, I originally thought they would just be for students and family members. However, I have given several to college directors who want to know about our students. I have also given them to parents who are moving to our area and looking for a band program for their child.

These recordings are an excellent way to promote the students and the band program."
Rob Babel, Ft. Zumwalt North
High School Jazz Band (Missouri)

Added Ensemble Member

When I was at Loyola's high school jazz fest and in its college ensembles in the 1970s and '80s, H&G Recording Productions captured all the performances on LPs. And when I returned to Louisiana to direct its All-State Jazz Band in 2003, I took the time on mic to thank publicly Mr. Ben Hardy, who was right there recording the official CD of the event as he has for so many Louisiana ensembles over the decades. When I attended Eastman, I had the privilege of producing recordings of ensembles with its dedicated chief recording engineer, Mr. Ros Ritchie, and learned a tremendous amount just from being in the same room with him. And Eastman's commercially released recordings, including some of my own musical creations, were distributed by—you guessed it—Mark Custom Recording.

We should support the institutions that care enough about our music to document it. Mark Custom Recording, founded in 1962, has championed the performances of The Midwest Clinic for some 20 years. Have you heard and seen how marvelous these recordings are? They are much higher in audio and video fidelity than anything your band or orchestra parents could record themselves on site (which, of course, cannot be allowed): they are truly professional recordings of exciting Midwest Clinic ensembles.

A quality recording company becomes another member of your ensemble—and with a lasting role in the evolution of your program. Have you taken full advantage of what this additional ensemble member can do for you?


Put It to Use

Whether or not you're the one on The Midwest Clinic stage this December, consider the following potential uses for your newly purchased recording:

"Performing at The Midwest Clinic is without a doubt the most exciting performance our band has ever presented. We all eagerly awaited the arrival of our audio and video recordings and have enjoyed them ever since. It is the most meaningful way to capture the event and savor the day forever.

I can't imagine not having these recordings. Parents have told me they have listened to the recordings in their automobiles as they travel and have bought copies for other family members as gifts. We ordered extra recordings, and almost all have been claimed by band members. No participant will regret having these recording."
Don Shupe, Libertyville High School Wind Ensemble (Illinois)

I challenge every reader of this article to share it with your colleagues, students, and ensemble parents. (You can download a copy off Midwest's web site, if you wish.) Explain why it's so damaging to duplicate the recordings our chosen company sells. Distribute the Mark Custom purchase form (given to all participating ensemble directors at the June Midwest meeting) in person and on your web site and insist that a minimum number of people buy your own ensemble's recordings. Why not build the cost of a CD or DVD into each band or orchestra member's Midwest travel funding? Trust me: they'll thank you not only when they hear it but again in the years to come.

I challenge all Midwest attendees to consider seriously what the recordings of their own music has meant to them in their lives—and then to put their money where their hearts are. I see no reason why 2,000 performers and some 12,000 more attendees can't generate at least 5,000 sales this December. Why wait? You can buy last December's recordings right now!

It's not a scam or a sinkhole: it's an investment in the future of recorded music. It's owning a slice of time. And when you hear it years from now, it'll prompt you and your students to thank again the band and orchestra directors, parents, administrators, and community members who made your performance possible.

The student next to you or your student might or might not be the next Wynton Marsalis. But your Midwest Clinic performance recording will capture the moment at which your ensemble made its some of its most memorable music. Why not obtain the ideal reference recording of that slice of time?

Branford Marsalis eventually started his own record company, as have many performing artists. Quality recording is that important an element of musical endeavors today. So when you see the Mark Custom Recording table and booth in December, tell the Morette family how much you appreciate their dedication to the quality recording of educational ensembles, particularly at The Midwest Clinic—and buy a CD or DVD!


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

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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