Todd Coolman

I generally voice optimism when it comes to trends in jazz education. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to mention one crucial variable: today's jazz student. Obviously the success of any educational system depends, at least in part, on the quality of students involved.

I have observed distinct strata among the wide variety of jazz students I encounter these days. I have grouped them as either "good," "bad," or "ugly." What follows are my observations on these various groups.

The "good" jazz student is one who exhibits the following qualities: 1) initiative. 2) drive and desire. 3) self-motivation. 4) listens to tons of recorded jazz music from all eras. 5) looks to the teacher for assistance and guidance rather than a "magic wand." 6) respects the history and tradition of the music.

The "bad" jazz student is one who: 1) suffers from "drive up window syndrome (wants everything right now). 2) is drawn to the performing arts professions as a means of self-validation. 3) is basically lazy and does not know the meaning of hard work or dedication. 4) looks to others to solve his problems. 5) feels that if he doesn't know or understand something, it's simply because it is not important.

The "ugly" jazz student is: 1) someone who does not belong in college in the first place. Many students should consider alternatives to college. College is not for everyone.

I realize that these "definitions" are rather simplistic, but my point is that the success of jazz education rests on the strengths of the students as well as the teachers. Teachers, therefore, should do everything possible to avoid the temptation of admitting students to jazz programs simply to satisfy enrollment quotas and should instead do a more deliberate job of recruiting the "good" students.