The Need For Jazz Instruction
RECENT Learning From Performers sessions, sponsored by Harvard's Office of the Arts, gave many Harvard musicians a chance to play before an audience with other students and professionals. Unfortunately, many of the workshops, conducted by such performers as Les McCann, Freddie Hubbard and Nat Adderly were little more than showcases for these artists' talents. The enthusiasm and talent of the participants often more than compensated for their teachers' flaws. But more emphasis should be placed on real learning rather than on gaining a piece of the spotlight with a famous name.
Problems encountered by the Learning From Performers program point to Harvard's conspicuous lack of a jazz program. There are no courses given here in which students can study America's only native art form. While Harvard has never been known for its open-armed acceptance of performing and studio arts in its curriculum, there are nonetheless, faculty here competent to instruct modern painters, sculptors and photographers.
Little such instruction exists for those interested in jazz--musicians, historians, critics, or just plain enthusiasts. Harvard's Music department fails to offer a single course in jazz theory, improvisation, or composition. Those interested are urged to cross register at other schools in Boston for such instruction. Similarly, the department offers no classes in history or criticism of jazz music.
With the departure of A.B. Spellman, lecturer in Afro-American Studies, the Afro department has no one on its faculty knowledgeable in Afro-American musical biography or the development of the black musical avant garde. Many schools throughout the nation see these musical and historical aspects of jazz as subjects for academic scrutiny.
There are some signs of increasing awareness of modern, improvisatory music here. Aside from cross-registration at other schools, the Music department grants competent instrumentalists independent study credit for music lessons. However, this credit for independent work does little to answer the need for jazz history courses.
Extra-curricular solutions are not real answers. Harvard needs its own program in jazz, and that will not happen until teachers with suitable credentials are appointed to the proper departments.