American jazz educator Charlie Banacos – quotes and more

I was surfing the website of David Valdez and came across the tributes to and Ph.D about the American jazz educator Charlie Banacos. This man was a very significant figure and worth investigating if like me, you are unaware of his work (see CasaValdez for more information)… Just for starters some of the saying attributed to him:
“If you play with your fingers, you’re dead”
“The fingers are passive”
“The body doesn’t want to stop”
“The body doesn’t like angles”
“Row the boat”
“You feel like a diver by the side of a pool, ready to jump”
“Play with your arms, not your fingers”
“Of course it’s difficult; that’s why they call it an etude”
“Ear training—it’s Zen, not Aristotelian”
“Gain purchase”
“Don’t measure” (as you practice ear training—hear it all at once)
“Piano technique—it’s Aristotelian, not Zen”
“Each note has its own shape as it goes by, like you’re driving by the planets”
“Keep your fingers near the keys, and don’t be afraid to raise your wrist”
“Don’t change the exercises”
“It’s a coordination problem”
“Just because you don’t speak like MLK doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk”
“Think of the numbers, not hand positions”
“Circles, Squares, Triangles -separate them” i.e. one idea after the next, not on top”
“Plan your practicing, or you will be overwhelmed”
“Use all the tensions on the lines; use all the figurations for each voicing”
“It doesn’t matter what finger you use”
“Think like a drummer, using space and range”
“Close your eyes and sit in the audience watching and listening”
“Re: sight reading—it’s a craft, not an art”
“Oh, and do it in all twelve keys.” Kill!
“Divisive rhythm/additive rhythm”
“Elephant with a stick in his trunk” (using it as a guide as you walk/play).
“He’s [insert name here e.g. Mingus, Jerry B. etc.] whacked, but he can play”
“Deep into the keys” (toward the center of the earth and toward the fallboard)

Apparently, he also would stress the following…
“It’s not technique, its timing” —Oscar Peterson
“Practice without accents” —Oscar Peterson
“The body is a rock; the arms are snakes” —Claudio Arrau
“All notes are ‘up’ notes” —Martha Argerich
“Feel the Ground” —Anton Rubinstein
“It’s all about circles” —Chick Corea
“Think of elephants, giraffes and hippos as you play” —Bill Evans
“C fingerings in all keys” —Franz Liszt
“Giant Steps solo in all keys” —George Coleman
“Music is Technique”—Nadia Boulanger
“Practice for the performance” —Chick Corea
“You must be a good draftsman before you can be a great painter” —Bill Evans
“Practicing is pushing a wall—you wake up the next day the wall has moved” —Bill Evans
“Don’t force the keys” —Art Tatum (to Red Garland)
“Each time is different”—Artur Schnabel, upon practicing the same phrase 200 times
“Three hours before breakfast” —Mike Stern
“Enslavement to the notation” —Craig Taubman
“Nothing difficult about it—just hit the right keys at the right time” —J.S. Bach
“You can’t be unhappy and be learning something new at the same time” —Merlin

The Improvisational Brain – new article

Musicians and students are prone to a bit ranting as to how improvisation occurs and whether or not the analogy with language acquisition is appropriate. In supervising students’ (and their own) personal practice, teachers of improvisation can encounter blocks to progression and development, spending a lot of time untangling a student’s perception of their learning experience.

Those moments hit us all!

Those moments hit us all!

While Improvising is fun, once studied or practiced, it is my experience that inexperienced students and some seasoned musicians can mistake the sensations associated with play or the “flow state” with the slower and “creaky” mind that learns the initial stages of concrete skills. You  might say confusing the self-expressive state is confused with the learning state.

“Watching a musician in the throes of an improvisational solo can be like witnessing an act of divine intervention, but embedded memories and conspiring brain regions, scientists now believe, are the source of ad-hoc creativity” So suggests Amanda Rose Martinez see her article in SEED MAGAZINEclick here.

I suggest that our experiences as students of improvisation will be easier if we undertstand the learning process, so thank you Ms Rose… but now the community of jazz educators will be well advised to consider precisely how the research can be applied to enhance schemes of work, learning strategies and practice in general – and to be fair, the findings of this research have been alluded to for at least 30 years through applied (as distinct to cognitive) psychology. This is where the work of figures such as Guy Claxton et al, George Odam and the tried and tested Inner Game authors is useful.

What’s stopping us?

The Curriculum – all that is taught and learnt…

The Curriculum – all that is taught and learnt…
Core and hidden…
Planned and received…
Formal and informal…

 

Can we have an informed debate please?

We find ourselves in an historic time when education is about to the redefined by the course of political determination, we would be well advised to be mindful of the purpose of education and how teaching and learning occurs. While the nature and content of learning experiences have already changed due to the technological revolution, for whatever reason and whatever political persuasion suits you or I, the presence and provision for a range of subjects and learning processes are possibly about to change through a course of action that will be described as progressive, radical, essential, urgent… or reactive, dangerous and without educational rationale – depending upon your perspective.

Would it not be prudent to be informed? Even if a radical reassessment is necessary, all parties would be better served through deep consideration and evidence-based understanding of the core issues. Vic Kelly understood the curriculum and engages us in a thorough consideration of the psychological, philosophical, political and operational drivers that form the learning culture of schools and colleges. Derived form a latin word referring to a race track, perhaps we should prefer curriculum is less of a race to acquire information, and more a consideration of “all that is taught and learnt”, built upon values as much as operational mechanics and transient values.

A.V.Kelly’s “The Curriculum: Theory and Practice” – click here.

Serious about practice? Do we really want to improve?

It seems that my work is mainly about helping students practice effectively. There’s not much to say except that if we are really serious, why not find out more about it!

Check out these indispensible web links for effective practice.
1) intentionalpractice.wordpress.com: Jonathan Harnum is a practicing musician (30+ years on trumpet, and others), and has published 3 previous music-related books. This site shares research from his current Ph.D research into practice.
2) www.howtopractice.com – website related to the above.
3) www.musiciansway.com/practice.shtml – excellent site about practice, related to the recent publication “The Musician’s Way”. See also this article about memorisation. musiciansway.com/blog/?p=2138