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?

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

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”, so said H. G. Wells.
Is Education no longer a human right, or a visible symptom of a mature society?

Do we want to see this?

In the face of impending and stringent cuts in education (as well as all public services), it is worth remembering that many people continue to believe that education is a human right, not a privilege:

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty... click here for more from the UNESCO website.

The UK Human Rights Act (1998) states:
Article 2
Right to education
“No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
For more from the Office of Public Sector Information, click here

For the galling face of corporate of education, see the Guardian on May 18th…click here

See the Guardian, May 18th 2010

If you are interested in the value that great minds have placed on education, see some of these excerpts on this very accessible site, click here

First, God created idiots. That was just for practice. Then He created school boards. Mark Twain

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. John Dewey

I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. John Dewey

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. Marion Wright Edelman

There is no greater crime than to stand between a man and his development; to take any law or institution and put it around him like a collar, and fasten it there, so that as he grows and enlarges, he presses against it till he suffocates and dies. Henry Ward Beecher

Remember that our nation’s first great leaders were also our first great scholars. John F Kennedy

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Thomas Jefferson

Education: a debt due from present to future generations. George Peabody

What are your favourite quotations about education?

Why research? In brief…

The Jazz Education community possesses abundant subject matter, play-alongs and an unstoppable harvest of reissues and new music available through the internet. However, while educators are better resourced, informed discourse about teaching and learning is comparatively undeveloped.

Click here for more… Jazz Education Research.