Tag Archives: Jazz

Round Midnight

I was tracking some piano last night for a beautiful song that Chad put together, it was late and the lights were down and everyone was asleep, so I took a few minutes afterward to play through one of the greatest jazz ballads every written.

This is what the Steinway sounds like with a pair of Neumann TLM 170s on it.

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

APU School of Music, 1999 vs 2009

Today was a mid-year faculty retreat for the APU School of Music. A major part of the retreat was developing concrete goals for the next 5 years, how we wanted to see our program grow and change as we move forward. To prepare us for that, we looked at a similar list of goals that was set by the faculty in Spring of 2000, and how those goals had been met. The goals for 2000 were based on data from the 1999 school year, which gave us a great perspective on how the School of Music has changed in these last 10 years.

Here are some of the highlights:

  1. In 1999, we had 142 undergraduates, and 7 graduate students. In 2009, we have 250 undergraduates, 70 graduates, and 15 artist certificate students.
  2. In 1999, we had 43 total faculty, 16 full-time, 19 adjunct, and 8 private professionals (those are professional musicians who run on-campus teaching studios). In 2009, we have 96 total faculty, 27 full-time, 39 adjunct, and 20 private professionals.
  3. In 1999, four full-time faculty had terminal degrees (PhD or similar). In 2009, 14 full-time faculty have terminal degrees, and 5 are in process.
  4. In 1999, the MIDI lab was crammed into an unused storeroom under the back staircase. In 2009, we have a 12-seat teaching lab, with fully integrated media (projection, speakers, screen sharing, Logic, Sibelius, Finale, Pro Tools, etc.)
  5. In 1999, we had 4 choirs: UCO, Bel Canto, Male Choral, and Oratorio. In 2009, we’ve added to that a Gospel Choir, Chamber Singers, and Vocal Jazz ensembles.
  6. In 1999, we did not have a Symphony Orchestra (we had a chamber orchestra that hired outside professionals to cover vacant instruments). In 2009, we have a thriving Symphony Orchestra that recently gave the North American debut of a symphony by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Yup, we did it before the LA Phil did it.
  7. In 1999, we had one jazz band that was not fully instrumented. In 2009, we have 2 jazz bands with full instrumentation, and multiple jazz lab ensembles teaching improvisation.
  8. In 1999, we had no ongoing service activity for our local community. In 2009, the Azusa Conservatory offers free and subsidized lessons to 60 local children, taught by APU students. I think this is one of the most outstanding things we do. A few years ago, I heard a 9-year-old boy whose single-mother speaks only Spanish, who goes to an elementary school that is failing on every level, and he played excerpts from a Bach violin concerto. This boy’s life had been fundamentally altered by the conservatory program. It brought tears to my eyes.
  9. In 1999, we only offered a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 2009, we offer a Bachelor of Music degree in Performance, and in the next year we’ll be adding them in Church Music and Commercial Music (the BA is a liberal arts degree, the BMus is a professional degree with a higher concentration of courses in music, and more credibility in the professional world).
  10. In 1999, we offered nothing for commercial music. In 2009, we have 75 students studying in the Commercial Music degree program, making it the fastest growing degree in our school.
  11. In 1999, we were not sending ensembles internationally to perform and record. The last time a large ensemble had toured outside of North America was 1992. In 2009, we’ve sent every ensemble on an international tour in the past 7 years, including tours to Armenia, Romania, Germany, Thailand, Australia, Korea, and Italy.
  12. In 1999, we offered no senior thesis course. In 2009, we have a dedicated Senior Seminar in Music Ethics.
  13. In 1999, we offered no artist certificate program. In 2009, we have 15 students in that program, where they study technique and literature in their instrument intensively and exclusively for a year. Students studying piano and strings in this program place and win at international competitions regularly.
  14. In 1999, we offered no graduate scholarships. In 2009, we award almost a quarter of a million dollars a year in graduate scholarships.
  15. In 1999, we didn’t offered a graduate degree in composition. In 2009, we have our first class of students working toward a Master of Music in Composition.
  16. In 1999, our program was accredited only as part of our university, not independently. In 2009, we have full accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Music. In a very rare move for the NASM, they bypassed the normal provisional membership stage, and inducted us as full members at our first application.
  17. In 1999, we offered no international study for music students. In 2009, we just welcomed back our first group of students from Heidelberg, Germany, where they studied for a semester. We are one of the only Schools of Music in North America to offer this kind of opportunity, where students go internationally for a semester in a program designed specifically for music, study with local instructors, perform in local ensembles, and learn about the history and culture of the place from resident scholars. We heard the report back from those students this morning, and they uniformly agreed that it was a life-changing experience.

I hope that I never take for granted the blessing I’ve been given, to teach at a place like this. It’s wonderful to look at this list, and to think, “I was part of this, I got to help build this into what it has become.” I can look at this list and see specific things that I had a hand in. It’s humbling to think that I have a part in this, and more than a little overwhelming to realize the awesome responsibility that comes from shaping the future of the program.

God is at work in our little corner of the world. Today was a great reminder of that.

Michael Brecker Died Today

m-breckerMichael Brecker passed away today in New York, of Leukemia. He was a monster player, and will be greatly missed.

I heard him play live twice, once at the Pasadena Jazz Festival, and once at the Hollywood Bowl, as part of their summer Jazz at the Bowl series. The evening at the Hollywood bowl was billed as a “Three Tenors” program, three tenor saxophonists shared the bill. It opened with the Bowl’s jazz series house band, the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and featured the solo chops of their tenor sax player, Rickey Woodard on several songs. Now, Rickey is a great player, and having had a chance to play with him a few times, it was a blast to see him really shine in his element. That aside, the big band was clearly just setting the table for the feast that was to come.

Joshua Redman and Michael Brecker did the next two sets. Josh came out first, with his combo, and he lit the place up. He’s an amazing player, and his approach to the instrument is both intense and deeply musical. When he first came onto the scene in the mid 1990′s, he was heralded as the best player of the new generation, and his artistry has only matured since then. He has buckets of technical virtuosity. He led his combo through their paces for about 45 minutes, and then they left the stage while he closed out the set with one of the most soulful renditions of “Come Rain of Come Shine” I’ve ever heard. When the last note drifted off the stage and lingered in the seats of the bowl, and as the applause started to rise up from those of us listening, you got the sense that you had just heard one of the great Tenor Sax players of all time.

Then, Michael Brecker took the stage.

From the very first phrase, he had irrevocable command of every person with range of the sound of his horn. It was like the earth had dropped two feet, and 20,000 people were suspended in mid-air, refusing to yield to the force of gravity because the artist had insisted that they stop. and listen.

He played with such eloquence. His lines had that sense of inevitability that makes you believe that they could never have been played any other way, like themes that had been plucked from the song of the earth and transposed into Bb. When he drew from his technical virtuosity, which is unspeakably vast, he did so with the kind of ease that makes you wonder what he could do if he really pushed himself some time.

I have a library in my mind, a collection of film reels featuring the transcendent scenes where life seems larger than then moments that constrain it. Michael Brecker at the Hollywood Bowl is one of those. He will be greatly missed.