Author: Kessel, Rick
Date published: January 1, 2012
It's an amazing world of jazz we live in today - if we want to see Dizz play, we click our keyboard and there he is, performing in our living room. If we want to buy a new horn - click a few keys and it will arrive at our doorstep in a couple of days. If we want to have a band to jam with, well then: grab an accompaniment disk and off you go. Today, many of us - and our students - take all of these wonderful technologies and educational opportunities for granted. However, as we know, it wasn't always like this. Not so long ago, musicians who were interested in jazz had to seek out fellow artists or local bands who would allow them the opportunity to sit in, often late at night, with their groups and learn a few tunes. Imagine Jamey Aebersold's dismay when he was coming up in the ranks and, like many others, found that many top music schools didn't teach saxophone... it's extremely difficult to fathom this today. Jamey's foresight, along with that of a few other key visionaries, managed to ignite a spark that changed the way the jazz world educates its students.
Mr. Aebersold is quite the Renaissance man. Not only is he an accomplished jazz musician, composer, educator, and saxophonist, but he's also managed to build and run a successful business over several decades. This in itself would be a tremendous life accomplishment, especially when considering that Aebersold competes against some many much larger, more highly capitalized companies. However, he picked his niche, and it's one that he knows extremely well. At the University of Louisville, where the jazz department now bears his name, "The Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program was one of only a few prestigious institutions in the United States selected to participate in an international music exchange sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress" according to the school's Website. There are few people, who, after all of their success, can still be seen at numerous conferences and educator events, sitting down oneon-one with a young student who is looking for some guidance, but Jamey's dedication to the art and his willingness to "pay it forward" shows his big heart.
On a similar note, the JEN organization has put together a dazzling program in Jamey's home turf, at the Gait House in downtown Louisville. This nascent organization, only in a few years of existence, has organized a collection of performances and clinicians to make any jazz educator or aficionado feel like they've died and gone to heaven. Some of the highlights include Ken Peplowski and Shelly Berg, Jason Marsalis Group, Alan Baylock Orchestra, Ernie Watts with the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, as well as numerous other prestigious professional, high school and college groups. My hat is again off to my fellow JEN Board members who have poured their love, passion, and tremendous effort into making this conference become a reality!