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10/2007 - October Newsletter



(October 2007)

You are welcome to copy and distribute these newsletters to other directors, students, or anyone else who might be interested.


INTRODUCTION – All Region Jazz concerts, introducing Mark Gurgel and the Kealing MS jazz program (Austin, TX)
NEW MUSIC – Nothing new to report this month, but there are plenty of charts in the works to be announced in future issues.
GUEST ARTIST – Mark Gurgel, director at Kealing MS in Austin, TX – “Starting A Jazz Program In Your School”
OPEN CHORUSES – Open for discussion
SHOUT SECTION – Texas State University Jazz Program, concert dates, contact info
CODA – Final Words



Happy Halloween everybody! I hope October’s been good to you, whether you’ve been busy with the various UIL contests inside the band hall or on the football field or both. Recently, I had the privilege and pleasure of adjudicating at the Austin area All Region Jazz contest, and I’m happy to report that this year’s bands will continue the high level of performance and musicianship established in previous years. These kids can play! I’m also happy to report that some BJAM music (“Bucky’s Bounce” and “This Band Needs a Blues, Blues”) will be in the folders for the All Region Jazz Band II under the direction of David Chenu. This year’s concert will be held on November 13th. Contact Tonia Mathews at Austin HS, Austin, TX for more details. I’m sure she’ll be happy to tell you all about the evening’s activities. For the great majority of you not in the Austin area, I encourage you to contact your Region Chairs and find out when your local All Region Jazz Concert is being held. Please, get out and support these students! You, and they, will be glad you did.

In keeping with our Guest Artist Series of articles, BJAM is proud to welcome Mark Gurgel, director at Kealing Middle School in Austin, TX. Mark’s article on the How’s and Why’s of starting a jazz program at your school is extraordinarily timely in that so many schools wait until marching season is over to begin their jazz programs, and, recently at the TBA convention, one of the most common topics we heard was middle school directors wanting to, or just starting to think about, starting a jazz program. Mark’s article is full of great ideas and resources and I encourage you to read it. As a word of introduction about Mark and his program, I’ll borrow the following from his website:

Mark Gurgel teaches at Kealing Middle School (www.kealingband.com) and conducts the Austin ISD All-City Middle School Jazz Ensemble. The Kealing jazz ensemble meets year-around during the school day with 30+ students enrolled in the class. The ensemble performs regularly around Austin and participates in 2-3 jazz festivals every spring. His students have had the opportunity to work with The Sun Ra Arkestra, The Austin Jazz Workshop, Ron Brown, Sebastian Whitaker, and Wynton Marsalis. He can be reached at mgurgel@austinisd.org.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mark and hearing his Kealing MS jazz bands several times, both in rehearsal and at contest, and have always been impressed with the results, and I’m especially glad to have his article to share with you here. Enjoy, and feel free to contact Mark with questions and comments. He told me that writing this article has reignited his passion for jazz education and it is our hope that it will similarly inspire you as well.



Nothing finished yet this month, but plenty in the works to be announced in future issues! As always, check <> for all of our charts for middle school, high school, and college programs. If you’re looking for a particular type of chart, let us know. We might be able to fill your need with something we have already in the works – OR – we are available for commissions and will be happy to work with you and your band to create custom music for your band. Contact paul@bakersjazzandmore.com to discuss further.


GUEST ARTIST – Mark Gurgel, Kealing MS, Austin TX – “Starting A Jazz Program In Your School”

(Each month we’ll try to feature a guest artist/clinician in this space who will contribute an article or mini-clinic on a topic related to jazz education. )

Imagine my surprise while adjudicating at the Hill Country Jazz Festival a few years ago when the first band of the day takes the stage. The first couple of kids stroll out, and then some more, and then more, and then even more! Am I seeing things? Did they put something funny in my coffee? I think there were around 32 in all in the ensemble! I thought, “Wow, this program has got something going on!” After their fine performance, I had the opportunity to meet Mark and his students and was even more impressed. Mark’s jazz ensemble meets as a class during the school day and is full of enthusiasm and energy. His students want to play and they want to learn, and those are two signs of an excellent teacher.

In this month’s article, Mark takes us through a little jazz history to demonstrate the influence of jazz on popular music and our society, and then it’s on to the nuts and bolts of how and why to start a jazz program in your school. I hope you’ll read all of it and give it the consideration it deserves.


by Mark Gurgel

Why build a jazz program?

As an authentic American art form, jazz emerged in this country from a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities, and traditions. The mixing pot of New Orleans was teeming with European musical influences from Spain and France along with inspiration from the African traditions. First called “Playing It Hot,” this style of music later became known as “jazz.” The study of jazz offers a unique perspective on the history of this country. Jazz continues to influence virtually all pop culture and pop music produced today.

The National Standards for Music Education comprise several benchmarks for our music programs. The band curriculum encompasses these criterions. Yet, we could incorporate so much more! Jazz focuses and expands on all of these national standards, and can heighten the musicality of all band students.

In the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, there are many concepts we include in our daily band lessons. We instruct our students using standard terminology; we instruct our students to identify music forms. The jazz idiom contains unique terminology and forms not found in other musical genres. We instruct our students to play independently. In the jazz ensemble, the students are usually one on a part. They are performing within a section of 3 or 4 other students playing their own individual part. What a great way to increase a student’s confidence! What a great way to help students learn to play independently!

We teach our students to interpret music symbols and terms as well as to create complex rhythmic and melodic phrases. When our students leave our programs they should be able to classify aurally-presented music representing diverse styles, periods and cultures. We promote and educate music so that students could pursue music related vocations and avocations. Jazz music has its own language, symbols and terms; jazz music allows students to create musical phrases; jazz music encompasses distinctive styles, periods, and cultures. Augment your current program by adding a jazz ensemble!

Rick Lawn in his The Jazz Ensemble Director’s Manual states:

“Administrators and music teachers who argue against jazz curriculums fear that such a program may grow to become out of hand due to the overwhelming public and student appeal. They fear the end result will be the demise of serious music programs (orchestra, wind ensemble, etc.). This potential does exist if the program is overemphasized; however, many jazz programs throughout the country have proven to be a jewel in the music department’s crown and an asset to the entire music program. A jazz band and other related courses will provide a well rounded and attractive total program. Students who are members of a jazz band usually develop a stronger sense of individuality, independence, and responsibility which is carried through to their membership in other ensembles. Students who participate in a jazz band gain strong reinforcement in areas of sight reading, rhythmic understanding, intonation, leadership through part independence, balance and blend. It seems logical to presume that these attributes would only benefit the other phases of any music program.” (p.1)

Establishing a jazz ensemble should never replace what you are currently doing. Establishing a jazz ensemble will greatly enhance your program!

When beginning a jazz program, spread the word! Display posters around the fine arts area to advertise; read an announcement to the school; send out information via an e-mail listserv and/or post the information on your website; talk to the students. After 2 – 4 weeks, post a sign-up sheet for students. Utilize this information to identify your enrollment, and, more importantly, to help define your instrumentation. If only 1 saxophonist signed up, find some more sax players! In a similar fashion, avoid having 5 drummers!

Students who play bass, guitar or piano may not be in your band classes. Visit the orchestra and choir classes. Many students who play in garage bands these days have good “chops,” but possibly don’t read music well or at all. Keep this in mind as you are putting the rhythm section together. Jazz arrangements will have the bass part written out in bass clef, and guitar parts are written out in treble clef with melodic lines and/or chord symbols. Some arrangers include a “cheat sheet” for the guitarists to use which shows the chordal fingering written out on tablature. If a bass player is not to be found, two piano players can be utilized. One player plays the piano part; the second can cover the bass part on keyboard.

As interest in the jazz ensemble grows, auditions may become necessary. At the early stages of building the program, do NOT hold auditions. Make it a priority to bring in as many musicians as you can and be inclusive. A jazz ensemble with 35 members can function. After a few years, the jazz program will develop and interest will be high. Then consider adding an audition.

Encourage students who play instruments that are both traditional and non-traditional to study the jazz idiom. At Kealing Middle School, our current instrumentation reflects the traditional 5 sax, 5 trombones, 5 trumpets and 5 rhythm section (piano, bass, guitar, 2 drummers). Additional instrumentalists include 2 flutes, 5 clarinets, a bass clarinet, 2 French horns, euphonium, tuba, and vibes! And they are all also in the concert band class. In years past, oboists, bassoonists, violinists and cellists were also members of the ensemble!

Assigning parts these “non-traditional” instruments varies from year to year. Most big band arrangements will include 5 saxes (2 altos, 2 tenors, and 1 bari), 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, and a 4-piece rhythm section. In recent years, companies have come out with some great arrangements that include parts such as flute or F horn in the publications. For example, when I order from Paul Baker at Baker’s Jazz And More (www.bakersjazzandmore.com) he asks me what extra parts I need and includes them at no extra cost!

When the parts are not included, have the flute players double either the alto sax 1 part or the trumpet 1 part. Decisions are based on the strength of the players, as well as the style of the piece. Flute players can read the alto 1 or trumpet 1 part up an octave as this adds some nice colors to the ensemble sound. The clarinet students will double the tenor sax parts or trumpet parts, depending upon the needs of the ensemble. If the clarinet plays the tenor sax part, have the part played down an octave. Some directors have the clarinet students learn saxophone to play in the jazz ensemble. If the student makes a great sound on clarinet, then he/she could be ready to learn saxophone. Too often, however, switching back and forth from clarinet to saxophone can cause a serious detriment to the clarinet embouchure. Discourage doubling until the student gets into high school and insist on private lessons when doubling begins. Maintain the quality of your concert band as the jazz ensemble matures!

The French horn player will cover trombone parts, usually the lead or 2nd part. Purchase a valve trombone for the euphonium player to use during jazz class. Tuba players double the 4th trombone or play the bass part. Many publications include a vibes part; if one is not included, the student can play a guitar and/or piano part.

Teach the students how to transpose parts when needed. If publications do not include a part for their “non-traditional” instrument, the director and the student must create one. Transpose the first song for the student. Show them the original part and then their transposed part so they can see what changed and what needs to be done to transpose the part.

You might find that you have very limited instrumentation. This setting is wonderful and the situation lends itself to the instruction of jazz improvisation. A smaller ensemble might include only 3 saxes, 3 trombones and 3 trumpets. If that is the case, look for minimum instrumentation arrangements. Publishers now include something that says “playable with only .” on the cover. These arrangements are also good for younger bands as the scoring contains plenty of doubling. Use limited instrumentation arrangements if you have a complete yet young ensemble. The doubling of parts within the chart can help build confidence!

Try to schedule the jazz ensemble during the school day. If scheduled within the school day, insist that members are also a part of the “concert” ensemble. This means that the wind players are in two band classes; the bass player should be in orchestra as well as jazz ensemble.

If you cannot schedule the jazz ensemble as a class during the day, schedule rehearsals at a regular meeting time and place. If possible, schedule rehearsals before school. Try after school, after your regular sectionals or later in the evening? Is the lunch break a possibility? Be creative, but be consistent. Shoot for meeting at least twice every week for at least an hour.

Many great resources are available for the director with little to no jazz experience. Two publications are very popular and quite good: Essential Elements for Jazz Ensemble and Standard of Excellence for Jazz Ensemble. Both series teach jazz articulations and style. Both introduce improvisation. Look at both and decide which works best for you and your kids. Another publication is called Chopmonster by Shelly Berg. It is subtitled “Jazz Language Tutor” and focuses on jazz improvisation.

Visit www.jazzbooks.com. Click on the “Free Jazz” link and take advantage of the abundance of material provided.

Some other great websites to visit and bookmark include:



http://www.npr.org/templates/topics/topic.php?topicId=1042 (NPR Jazz)



Richard Lawn has a text called The Jazz Ensemble Director’s Manual, A Handbook of Practical Methods and Materials for the Educator. Topics include Starting a Jazz Ensemble Program, Instrumentation, Ensemble Set-up, Rehearsal Psychology and Techniques plus much more. Other books to assist the jazz educator are A Guide for the Modern Jazz Rhythm Section by Steve Houghton and Jazz Pedagogy by David Baker. Both contribute a wealth of information. A final suggestion is Mark Levine’s The Jazz Theory Book which helps clarify jazz pedagogy.

Develop your students into the best musicians they can be. Complement your band program with the addition of a jazz ensemble!

Mark Gurgel teaches at Kealing Middle School (www.kealingband.com) and conducts the Austin ISD All-City Middle School Jazz Ensemble. The Kealing jazz ensemble meets year-around during the school day with 30+ students enrolled in the class. The ensemble performs regularly around Austin and participates in 2-3 jazz festivals every spring. His students have had the opportunity to work with The Sun Ra Arkestra, The Austin Jazz Workshop, Ron Brown, Sebastian Whitaker, and Wynton Marsalis. He can be reached at mgurgel@austinisd.org.



Have any topics for discussion? Have any questions you’d like to ask? Have any comments you’d like to make?

This is the place. Send your topics, questions, and comments to <> and we’ll put them in the next issue of the BJAM Session. The goal is to share knowledge and experience for the benefit of all, teachers and students alike.



Thanks to Freddie Mendoza, Co-Director of Jazz Studies at Texas State University, San Marcos for inviting me to bring a bunch of BJAM charts for his bands to read and critique. If you don’t yet know about Texas State’s Jazz Program, you owe it yourself and your students to find out more at: http://www.txstate.edu/jazzstudies/. Be sure and check out their upcoming concerts:

11/5 Jazz Ensemble

11/19 Jazz Orchestra

11/28 Jazz Lab Band

12/3 Jazz Ensemble Christmas Concert

For more information, contact:

Freddie Mendoza – co-director


(512) 245-1462

Keith Winking – co-director


(512) 245-3020

You might even hear some BJAM music on the program!



Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. It is our desire to make this newsletter a valuable tool for you by hosting letters, posing questions to the community, offering rehearsal, performance, or arranging tips or whatever you’d like to see discussed. If you have a jazz education topic you want to explore, please contact us at paul@bakersjazzandmore.com and we’ll include it in our next newsletter. Eventually, we’d like to get enough response to set up a discussion forum on our website http://www.bakersjazzandmore.com.

If you find this information valuable, we encourage you to forward it on to anyone else who you feel might benefit from it. One of our main goals is to “spread the word”. The more information educators and students have about jazz, the better the music will be and everyone benefits.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you, and we hope that you’ll be looking forward to hearing from us as well.

Until next month,

Paul Baker

Owner and Composer

Baker’s Jazz And More


If you would prefer to not receive future issues of the BJAM Session newsletter, then please email us at paul@bakersjazzandmore.com and you will be unsubscribed post haste.