“Give them what they want” is one philosophy of education gaining ground these past few decades. It assumes that kids are only interested in what they know, so when it comes to music, for example, make an arrangement of the current pop hit. “Give them what they need” is my perspective—ie, offer them something they would never know they wanted because no one exposed them to it. Something that you know is worthy of their best selves, far beyond mere entertainment and momentary pleasure. And when it comes to jazz, for example, a style at the bottom of the list of music people listen to in the United States (2.3% according to a poll, even lower than European classical music), it becomes our responsibility as music teachers to expose them to this great American art form, not only as listeners, but as players. When you read the notes my 8thgraders wrote in 2001 after I made their attendance at a Dave Brubeck concert mandatory (with a generous parent donating the tickets), please note two things:
1) The transformation from complaining about having to watch “four old guys kick it for three hours” to being taken to a “distant, peaceful land.,” from "what I think I want" to "what I realized I need."
2) How prepared they were to appreciate one of the pieces played at the concert (Take Five) because they themselves were learning to play it. Real education is not just learning about, but doing.
Fellow music teachers, take note. How many jazz concerts have you taken your kids to? How many jazz pieces have you had them play? Why or why not? Hopefully, these kids’ appreciations will help motivate you! And this goes for parents as well!
Katie Rao:When Dave Brubeck first walked onto the stage, I have to admit that I was thinking "Oh great. I get to spend my Friday night watching four old guys kick it for three hours." Then Brubeck and his band began to play. I could not compare the beautiful sound to any other piece that I had ever heard before. It was so smooth and relaxing, unlike the wild, untamed ruckus I am accustomed to. "Enchanting" is the word that comes to mind when describing the flowing notes and the silky rhythm wafting from the piano, saxophone, bass and drums. Intermission seemed to come too quickly.
When we took our seats after 20 minutes of pushing crowds and never-ending bathroom line, Brubeck and company again took me away to a distant, peaceful land. Suddenly, a familiar melody began to play. Take Five filled my mind and I leaped to my feet along with the rest of the clapping crowd. But, all good things must come to an end and Take Five ended with a cheering crowd and a proud smile on Dave Brubeck's face.
Dear Mr. Brubeck,
First of all I would like to thank you for doing a concert in San Francisco. Your concert was the first jazz concert that I have ever been to and I really like it.
When my class began to learn Take Five in music class, I never imagined that I would see you live in concert. Not only did my class get to see you, we got to meet you in person!
The concert itself was incredible. The Disney piece you played was awesome. I also loved the way you went into Take Five. After seeing your concert, I have a whole new respect for jazz. Thank you for talking to us and I hope you keep playing the piano and writing music.
Ariana Roman: I really loved the Dave Brubeck concert. Mr. Brubeck and his quartet were wonderful. Every single one of the quartet members had a solo, each of which was phenomenal.
After the performance, it was a wonderful treat to have Mr. Brubeck come out to meet a bunch of kids who were waiting to see him because they were playing some of his pieces. This shows that he has a lot of heart—many musicians would have never come out. For Mr. Brubeck's acts I am very grateful. Right before we took the picture, Mr. Brubeck turned to me and said, "How ya doin', baby?" I can't even remember what I said because I was so filled with ecstasy!
Ted Conrad: I really liked the Dave Brubeck concert. There were a few things that stood out to me. One was how much the musicians loved playing. I could tell that they were having a great time. They were so full of energy. When the played, it made me want to go up there and play with them! I hope that when I grow up I will be as passionate as them—maybe not with music, but with some activity.
Another thing that I really liked was how we had played the same pieces as these stupendous musicians. It was amazing to hear the song being played and to know what notes I was hearing.
Finally, I was very honored to even be in the same room as DAVE BRUBECK, never mind get to meet him afterwards. He is a living legend. To watch him play is like seeing Babe Ruth call a home run and then do it. The way he skillfully navigates the keys of a piano makes me want to learn piano. THANKS, Mr. Brubeck and band.
Nisha Anand: I feel honored to be able to come to the concert and meet Dave Brubeck and his quartet in person. The concert was fascinating and quite inspiring. I learned a bit about drumming technique and I enjoyed the fabulous improvisation. I have a passion for music, especially jazz, and I always love to learn more about how others feel about music and the joy it brings for them. The members of the quartet showed their passion for music as they played at the concert.
My class is currently working on Take Five and I was so pleased to hear their quartet play this piece. There is nothing better than listening to a piece being played by the composer himself. (Music teacher's note: After reading this, I clarified that Paul Desmond wrote it.) As I play Take Five, I will think of the quartet and how they played this piece.
It was so wonderful to take a picture with the quartet and I hope to meet them again. I will never forget this experience of meeting such a talented group of musicians.
Nick Makanna: It's hard to describe the feeling I felt when I walked downstairs in the morning and learned that we had 25 tickets to the Dave Brubeck concert. I could immediately picture Mr. Brubeck and his quartet playing Take Five and everyone cheering.
At the concert, Jessie, Nelson and I hung out anticipating the memorable concert. When the crowd started moving in, I thought about how lucky I was to experience this.
When Dave started to play his first tune, accompanied by the amazing bass player and drummer, and then the saxophone and flute, I was impressed by how beautifully the instruments complimented each other. The concert was great—I was in awe when Dave Brubeck played Take Five; it was absolutely fabulous.
The concert was superb, but we got even more than we asked for. Doug was inspired to have us meet Dave Brubeck and his quartet backstage. After minutes of negotiating, the organizer told us that she would see what she could do. When Dave Brubeck and his three musicians walked over to us, we were all in shock. The biggest chock came when we took a picture with them.
When I am old and will have lived for many, many years, I will remember the night when Dave Brubeck's quartet and my 8th grade class met. In thirteen years of living, I have never been so lucky as to meet one so famous as Mr. Brubeck. The night of November 2nd will be in my mind till my soul calls it quits.