Exactly like any other field of knowledge, the quality of the music learning process depends largely on the role of the teacher. Elements such as stimuli, information, tips, the technique of the instrument, general musical knowledge, the cultivation of aesthetic criterion, the opening-up of the thirsty spirit and its redirection towards wealthier sources, the love and devotion to music, the call to the inner quest for self-knowledge and liberation along with the inspiration that the student seeks, are highly necessary for music guidance, which needs to be provided selflessly by the music teacher.
In jazz music, all the above become even more necessary and urgent since the personality, aesthetic and spiritual growth of each musician are catalytic elements for the value of his/her musical entity and artistic creation. Having thus identified the main features that the path to music knowledge should contain and assessed the enormous contribution and importance of the teacher-mentor, let’s look at how can one find the "appropriate teacher".
As we’ve said before… «In the beginning, there was sound» (go to the related article on sound), therefore the first thing we perceive when we hear a musical instrument, is always its sound. The dominant element that should lead the student towards the appropriate teacher is obviously the sound of the instrument of the particular teacher and in the case of jazz singing, it is the sound of his/her singing voice.
The first and quite infallible criterion is the identification of the student with the sound of his/her teacher. Out of pure instinct and without any musical knowledge or developed evaluative criteria, the learner is largely able to perceive the effortless sound in a voice. Learning to sing properly is a complex process that relies enormously on imitation. So it is very easy to realize how «vulnerable» the student can be regarding the information that his/her ear perceives. Therefore it is crucial that the teacher has an open, clear, flexible, and dynamic sound because it’s the only way to ensure that the auditory stimulus, which the student will be called to imitate, will technically be the most beneficial for his/her own vocal development and growth.
A second criterion, that the student should keep in mind in his/her search for a music tutor, is the training method and experience of the teacher, that he/she will eventually choose. It is particularly useful for the young singer's evolution, to gain knowledge (technical, musical, etc) from a methodical teacher who has the indispensable inventiveness to transmit it in the most effective way. And of course, it is essential for the student to be inspired by the teacher-mentor. Therefore it is highly necessary that the teacher can actually do (in practice) everything that he/she teaches in theory. In plain words… it should not be acceptable to teach jazz vocal improvisation, scat singing, etc, without demonstrating all this information by improvising after all.
And the third and last criterion, which is directly connected to the previous one, is the presence of the teacher on stage - in this case, the jazz scene. Especially in jazz music, which is constantly evolving, the teacher should be active, playing this music, practicing, continuously evolving, in order to meet the constant demands and challenges, as a teacher and as a performer, too.
The role of the teacher is to guide the student towards the knowledge and skills that will help him/her develop into a complete musical personality with confidence, maturity, and openness. To instill values, aesthetics, and sincerity to the student, in order for him/her to become an authentic musician with self-awareness, who appreciates the virtues of other musicians (and his/her own, of course) and enjoys playing music with his/her colleagues. Above all, what the teacher must transmit to the student, is the selfless love for music.
Article by Irini Konstantinidi originally published on July 20, 2013