Thursday, February 24, 2011

MENC Reading Session for "Jazz Charts That Work" High School Level

Jake Bergevin – Presenter - Director of Bands, Edmonds-Woodway High School –
Featuring Washington State University Jazz Ensemble – Dr. Greg Yasinitsky, director

MENC Conference, February 18, 2011
Bellevue, Washington
High School Jazz Ensemble
Reading Session
“outlining 20-25 charts that work at the high school level
based on recommendations by some of the best”

“Charts that Work” may include:
  •  Charts that make students want to practice! 
  • Charts that you can find excellent recordings of
  • Charts that highlight the strengths (and possibly hide weaknesses) of your current group
  • Charts that focus on weaknesses and ignore strengths of your current group 
  • Charts that REINFORCE CONCEPTS – time, tone, tonguing, technique, improvisation etc
  • Charts that emphasize the tradition of the American Popular Song as a vehicle for creativity
  •  Charts that emphasize risk and adventuresome arranging or composition which may broaden students’ minds

Some abbreviated lists to make your search easier …..

Companies to find these charts and many many more …
Marina Music Service – includes sounds files – musician operated
get them to you fast as they’re based in West Seattle800-331-4528
Sierra Music Publishing – a wonderful resources for all things jazz – musician operated
Alfred Publishing – especially nice for big band vocals
Jazz Lines Publishing – adventuresome (Gil Evans, Thelonius Monk etc)
Walrus – (Bob Florence, Kubis, etc)
JW Pepper – great for fast delivery
Kennelly Keys Music – local and reputable

Additional resources:
Teaching Music Through Performance in Jazz – Ron Carter et al, GIA Publishing
Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition – 6 free big band charts with recordings
Swing Central Competition – 3 free big band charts

Not played today but worth checking out …..
Straight Ahead Swing    
Paseo Promenade – Benny Carter (or anything from Kansas City Suite)
Moten Swing – Benny Moten/Count Basie arr. Ernie Wilkins
I Thought About You – Jimmy Van Huesen arr Vern Sielert – available directly from the arranger
Driftin’ – Herbie Hancock arr Vern Sielert - available directly from the arranger
Red Tape Blues – Geoff Keezer
Two Birds, One Stone – George Stone features trio of bass, alto and guitar
Guy Noir’s Brother – Les Hooper – heavy minor swing tune with monologue upfront features alto
Miss Fine – Oliver Nelson published
Bag’s Groove – Milt Jackson arr. Mark Taylor
Who Can I Turn To?  - Tom Kubis,

Fast Swing
After You’ve Gone – Creamer/Layton Bill Holman
Pressure Cooker – Sammy Nestico
The Magic Flea – Sammy Nestico
Love For Sale – Pete Meyers ala Buddy Rich

Groove Merchant – Jerome Richardson arranged by Thad Jones,
Groovin’ Hard – Don Menza
Filthy McNasty – John LaBarbara

September Song – Kurt Wiell arr Stan Kenton
When I Fall In Love – Alan Baylock
To You – Thad Jones

City – Jeff Lorber arr. Mike Tomorrow
Foul Play – Chris Berg
Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock arr  Mike Kamuf

Latin/Straight 8th style
Nardis – Miles Davis arr. Paul Murtha
Among the Pyramids – Fred Stride
A Night in Tunisia – Michael Philip Mossman
Recordame – Eric Richards
Song For Bilboa – Pat Metheney arr Alan Baylock

Adventuresome Arrangers
Charles Mingus
Maria Schneider
Fred Sturm
Tom Garling

Thanks for attending this session and for your enthusiasm for music and teaching. 
Have a great conference!!

A proud CWU graduate, Jake Bergevin has been teaching public school for 19 years. The Edmonds-Woodway High School Instrumental Music Department under the direction of Jake Bergevin has generated a number of outstanding college performers and students placed in many of the best college music programs and conservatories. EW Music Department has been recognized as a Grammy Signature School. The EWHS Jazz Ensemble I has been a finalist in the prestigious Essentially Ellington Contest.  Mr. Bergevin was recently honored by being selected by SBO (School Band Orchestra) magazine as one of their "50 Directors that Make a Difference". 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Implementing Systems - WMEA Article

An overview of systems...fostering improvisers

Welcome back to another year of teaching music! I am humbled to be serving as your newly elected WMEA Jazz Curriculum Officer for 2010-2012. As you know, the Northwest has a long and strong tradition of producing high quality student ensembles and boasts some of the finest jazz teachers in the world. I hope to do my part to keep that fire burning brightly by offering additional ideas, resources and enthusiasm to the state of jazz in Washington.
This year, I have been asked to write some instructional articles. I trust these ideas may be helpful when implementing new systems into your jazz rehearsals. The primary focus of my efforts will be on helping to create more confident jazz improvisers.
Here is what I plan to cover in the articles for the year ahead:
October (this article)–An overview of systems designed to start the year off right by fostering improvisation into ensemble rehearsals
January–Solo Transcription: How to get the project off of the ground
March–Improvisation Approaches: How to be successful with the tools you have for now and with the students you have now
May–Useful resources gathered from some of Northwest’s best jazz teachers and jazz players. This list will be useful for summer growth as a player and teacher. Topics will include books, software, websites, podcasts, magazines, etc.
Systems for building and maintaining jazz improvisers
I’m a big fan of systems. I’ve noticed that even the furniture in my rehearsals can have a bearing on the ease with which jazz can be taught (or learned). Ask yourself, for example, is there a working PA always ready? Are your students encouraged to have their own iPods (or CD players or laptops) and earphones always on hand? Can recordings be played back in the different rehearsal rooms easily? Do you ever have jam session days where the group sits in a circle (new seating is a great way to spur creativity and heighten brain function) and sings along with a play-along (including rhythm section players)? I try to encourage my students to think about their thinking–what’s making them want to practice –do more of that!
Following are some areas that should be addressed by jazz musicians wanting to grow, develop, learn and have fun–the list is one of my favorite systems:
Form combos
Smaller groups allow for more solo time for each of the individual players/singers. Sometimes the format of a larger group can be too intimidating for kids to be able to relax and explore–I find this especially challenging with all of our deadlines of impending performances. If you can find a way to have a double rhythm section, it will help everyone. Audition for two basses, two drummers, two harmony players or more. Let go and give the students some rehearsal time to get these small ensembles rolling. Sometimes all of the scheduled large group performances and contests can really diminish the learning for the individual players.
Play gigs
On the other hand, as you know in the world of homework (and/or taxes), there is no better motivator than a DEADLINE. Whether it’s a loose jam session, preparing to sit in at a local club on one tune or putting together an entire gig–having a deadline may light the fire. At Edmonds-Woodway, the students have established several working groups that have consistent instrumentation and repertoire. When offers for performances come in, I pass the lead along to the leader of a combo and see if they’re interested in playing. If they can’t do it, I’ll pass it along to another student who has shown some interest…and voila, a new combo may be born.
Learn tunes
Memorize lyrics and melody, then move onto chords, etc. Think about keeping a tangible list of songs you know and love (more about this in the January article).
Listen to recorded performances repetitively and imitate them. Intentional listening and the benefits of transcription will be discussed in depth in the January article.
Improvise daily
Improvise alone and/or in groups. Sing or play with the radio, iPod or YouTube as often as you can without driving those you love crazy! I recently read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. He proposes that success is basically attributed to 10,000 hours put into an activity.
Go to the show
Attend live performances as often as possible with and without your students. An ounce of inspiration may be worth a pound of perspiration when it comes to getting students to want to improvise.
Learn piano
Work on your music theory knowledge base and ear training; sit at the piano and drill intervals, melodic and harmonic chords, learn one good voicing for a ii-V-I on the piano or guitar. Ear training is sadly missing from many general music experiences in America; plan this into your practice or rehearsal routine.
Master the basics
Work on your technique with a private teacher. Musicians can take lessons from musicians who don’t play their instrument, too (tone, range, air support, chords, arpeggios, scales, rhythm reading and rhythmic dictation, diction, etc.).
Keep a listening journal
Learn a little about jazz history and the great American tradition of improvising. Have students keep a journal of definitive recordings that you play for them in class. This is a great way to build and hook new audiences for the future consumers of our art form.
For each of the items in this list, a special college course (or several) could be taken. As that is not realistic, consider referring to the list when planning.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the journey and celebrate your successes. Please let me know if you have questions or comments or need support from WMEA regarding jazz instruction. Please send feedback or questions to me via email at

Implementing more Improvisation into rehearsals WMEA article

Implementing more improvisation
Winter is hopefully wrapping up, and we’ve just completed another fun and educational MENC Northwest Conference in Bellevue. With “jazz for everyone” in mind, I have renewed enthusiasm for implementing more improvisation into all of my ensemble rehearsals.
March is a good time to refocus on improvisation because by now your students have solidified some solid skills with scales and fundamental technique. The benefit of this is to help students be more creative and musical, not necessarily to produce more “jazz musicians.”
I was intrigued to read the last Voice article from our keynote speaker, John Feierabend, regarding nurturing musical intelligence. Of special interest to me was the idea that “once the pathways for understanding any phenomenon are established, it is difficult to reshape the mind to perceive that same phenomenon from a different perspective.” 1 This is definitely an important issue when learning to improvise. One application of that article would be for the reader to put this article away and go play or sing. In other words, reading about it probably won’t help nearly as much as DOING IT. But if you like to read on your practice breaks, consider this …
One of the frustrations of teaching improvisation in a large group is that the skill level can be quite diverse. There will be some students with a working knowledge of chords, able to refer to pitches as scale degrees and so on, whereas there are still students who aren’t able to keep a steady pulse without help. For this situation I like to hit on a couple of basics ideas that can be applied to various skill levels with equal enthusiasm and success. These ideas go right to the heart of “improvising now” and not just learning about “how to improvise.”
I have found that for every musician there is a personal approach to learning and making music. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. In my last article I discussed the transcription process. That whole assignment could be simplified into two words that are helpful for all musicians: Listen and imitate. I believe that reaches a certain type of musical intelligence that “scale-to-chord” theory does not reach.
Another maxim to consider when building improvisers is to ask them to imitate then innovate. This type of phrase can be liberating to a student who has been overwhelmed by the “scale-to-chord” theory of improvising. “Scale-to-chord” theory is a very necessary part of learning about how to find “right notes” and appeals to a certain learning style. However, it can also be a bit like painting by numbers and stifles the creative side of the brain. If I find that getting kids to think about scales or chords is getting them “turned off,” I will head toward these different activities to get them thinking about patterns and developing their melodic memory.
1) Sing!
Sing to your students often and have them sing, too. This is a basic idea, but it is often overlooked. The more your students sing, the easier it will be for them to create ideas without the hurdle of applying it to the mechanics of a musical instrument.
Exercise/Application: Get the group into a circular seating arrangement. The teacher sings a two-bar pattern that is repetitive, then has the group sing it back in a call-and-response fashion. Keeping a pulse while patting your lap or snapping fingers is also helpful. Stop and do it again with another pattern that will compliment the first. Stop, divide the group in two and have them take turns or go at the same time. Encourage them to listen carefully while they’re singing. Then create a third riff and add to the first two. You can use your fingers or voice to indicate group 1, group 2, etc., directing the groups; give them each a number, and have them start and stop at different logical spots. Soloists can then sing over the top of the groove. Using a mic is a handy way to get them heard. If you can create a “break” in the pattern, all the better. I like to have students sing 14 bars, and then they get a two-bar break to wrap it up. Pass the mic around the circle to be sure each musician gets a chance. This whole lesson can then be redone with instruments, but it will take some patience and doesn’t replace the singing activity.
Once singing becomes natural, the instrument should become a natural extension of the student’s musical ideas. The instrument is only an amplifier of the musician’s musical ideas, or as world-renowned bassist Rodney Whitaker said to my students recently in a workshop, “The instrument is a mirror of the mind.”
2) Develop your melodic memory through repetition
This activity liberates players from focusing on which scale to use and refocuses the ears to repeat what they’ve already played. This is not a new idea, but the process is explained in detail and very well in Randy Halberstadt’s book Metaphors for the Musician.
In essence, nearly all music is a series of repeated patterns. Nursery rhymes, country tunes, symphonies, rap and more are all very repetitive in nature. Often when musicians begin to improvise, they forget this and rather think it is about something else–range, speed, flash or volume. If you can get the player to keep it simple enough to repeat, it will yield an immediate resonance with the listeners (and other players) and become a type of puzzle for the ears.
Try this with your students:
1) Play a ii-V pattern over 4 bars in just one key. This could be played alone at the piano or guitar or with a live rhythm section, a play-a-long like Jamie Aebersold, Band-in-a-Box program, iRealbook application, SmartMusic or some other tool.
2) Play (or sing) a simple 2- or 3-note pattern. Leave some space. Then repeat the pattern again. In an ensemble rehearsal many students can do this at once or you can take volunteers or have them go in a prescribed order so no one gets left out, or you can choose two or three players at once. At first students will have a hard time keeping it simple. Make an effort to use jazz articulation and play with conviction and authority. Be critical and make the pattern sound exactly the same and as musical as possible.
3) Once the pattern is firmly memorized, experiment by “pitch shifting” to borrow the phrase from Mr. Halberstadt. This means to modulate the same shape of pattern to a new area of the scale. If your first pattern was 1-2-1-2-3 then the shift might be 5-6-5-6-7. Once again, it’s important to play with conviction and picture the notes on a staff while playing the pattern. If working on this in a group, it’s also key to listen to the other players while you’re playing and resting.
There’s more that can be done with this concept; for a thorough explanation and musical examples, check out Randy’s book.
In my next article, I hope to discuss some of my favorite tools for practicing jazz. Best wishes for a great spring. Enjoy the journey.
1 John Feierabend, Nurturing Music Intelligence, Voice of Washington Music Educators, January 2011, vol. LVI, No. 2, P. 27

Transcription Article for WMEA

A transcription assignment: learning and improvising
Welcome to winter in the Northwest all you music teachers! By now you’ve probably finished some great fall concerts and have wrapped up the football band obligations. In my last article I presented a list of issues and systems that jazz teachers could consider when trying to get their students to improvise more and at a higher level. This article is a bit of a continuation of that theme.
In an effort to keep jazz band about learning and improvising and not just performing the jazz ensemble arrangements, I like to have my students get into a transcription project that helps them understand one of the main tools for developing authentic “jazz vocabulary.” I realize that playing another artist’s work isn’t always considered creative. However, if jazz is a language, imitation is a great way to focus on the nuance of great artists as well as a method to strengthen the ears of the players. Transcription may be considered equally important to learning the “scale to chord” theory that has become so popular in jazz education. Another added benefit is that this assignment is one of the best ways to get students to do some intentional and repetitive listening. Another benefit of the assignment is that the rhythm section of the band will learn many tunes and be able to play and recognize at least 20-25 different selections.
For your consideration I’m copying the assignment below–please feel free to use it or refine it for your level. Parents and students have told me that this is the most important and enjoyable assignment of the year. It’s a great way to showcase each student and have all of the members of the group hear and appreciate many of the masters. Plus, it’s just fun to hear. We hold the final performance at a local venue, Roy’s Place at Kennelly Keys Music in Lynnwood. The Home-Ec class makes cookies and coffee, and the presentation feels a bit like a jazz club with bistro-style seating. There is a grand piano, drum kit and a nice PA system plus lights, so it all feels pretty professional. We also accept donations and use it as a fund-raiser.
I’m adding some commentary in italics. The main focus of this assignment is language development, not necessarily proper notation of the solo in question. Some students may decide to share tunes, which helps cut down the length of the evening. Also hiring a professional rhythm section is another option if you find yourself struggling to get this much music out of your own players.
Of course transcription is a great tool for all types of musical study; I recommend a series of articles in In-Tune magazine by Jon Chappell for a thorough review of basic music theory that can be helpful.
“Solo Night ” Assignment 2010 Edmonds-Woodway HS Jazz
Assignment Date: September 29, 2010
Due Date: November 17, 2010
To refine independence, develop solo vocabulary, increase knowledge of jazz repertoire and gain additional opportunity performing. This project should help you to produce an asset for use when auditioning for camps, colleges, other groups, etc.
October 5–Have tunes chosen and submit for approval, including lead sheet and recording; begin listening constantly and memorizing. I have found that given free rein, the students might choose a piece that is too ambitious or not quite in the style that I’m hoping to cultivate. By having them produce lead sheets early on, it saves a bunch of time later as their rhythm section accompanists won’t have time to study each recording as deeply as the main soloist has.
October 7–Approval of selection by Mr. Bergevin
October 12–Lead sheets and recordings to rhythm section–these should be         submitted on CD so that they can be used on campus for listening in addtion to being emailed to the rhythm section members. Some class time will be used for rehearsing; having the lead sheets and CDs on file saves time.
October 12–First 8 bars of transcription due by singing and playing live
October 23–Second 8 bars of transcription due; head memorized
October 30–Last 16 bars of transcription due; chord changes memorized           
November 6 & 7–Play for class–turn in the written transcription for final evaluation, turn in a PowerPoint file with four photos and biography of artist
November 17–Thursday, perform it for an audience of parents/guests and present the PowerPoint as part of the introduction to the performance.
Guidelines for Picking Tunes:
    Choose a standard, AABA form, no blues tunes. Select a recording of a consummate jazz artist–The Greats from the 1950s and 1960s–a list may be in order here–I recommend Hank Mobley, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Kelly, Ray Brown, etc.
    Solo should be not too fast, not too busy, not extreme in register
    Solo must have evidence of jazz vocabulary–specific stylistic elements that are now well known to be standard jazz phrases
    Solo should be somewhat repetitive in nature–evidence of melodic memory
Steps for Success:
Pick a tune that you like–it should be considered a standard, ideas to figure out if it’s a standard include:
1.  Can you find several recordings of it easily–library, friends, record store, etc.
2.  Can you find a lead sheet of it easily–Real book, Aebersolds, etc.
         Practice it in many different situations:
          o  With the original recording
          o  With Jamie Aebersold in the right key
          o  Solo with a metronome
          o  With a live rhythm section
         Play for many people and get advice (teachers, friends, cats)
         Record yourself (and listen to it) many times
         Want a challenge? Consider composing a solo that is similar over the changes
Each deadline is worth five points. This final performance will be worth 20 points; total for the project is 50 points–a very heavily-weighted project. You should give a good deal of your practice time to being successful.
I hope you might consider this lesson in an effort to heighten the appreciation and understanding of jazz and improvisation in your ensemble classes. I hope to see you in Bellevue at the conference in February–drop into my session on quality charts featuring WSU Jazz Ensemble with Greg Yazinitsky. As always, feel free to drop me a line ( and let me know how it turned out. Best of luck!

New Blog

Thanks for reading.  I am a totally new blogger but I think I like the idea of having the ideas be shared and commented on by you.  Please feel free to respond if you have comments that will benefit other jazz or music teachers, students or fans.

I'm grateful to be selected as the WMEA (Washington Music Educators Association) Jazz Education Chair for this biennium.  I've been writing articles for the Voice Magazine and thought I might help people have easier access to them by posting them to this blog.  Best to you.
Thanks, Jake Bergevin