“One of my favorite questions is ‘What if?” Juilliard’s Artistic Director of Jazz Studies Carl Allen shared with NOCCA’s Jazz students during a recent master class.
“What if I did this instead of that? Where is the balance between volume and intensity?” he probed as he tried to help students who had just performed for him understand a challenge young musicians invariably face. He asked them if they had ever noticed that a player can tend to play louder the longer into a solo he gets as a way to increase intensity. “But volume is not intensity. Can you find another way?”
“I have another question for you. What is your role and function in the band?” “To listen”, answered a student. “To prioritize your listening,” Mr. Allen refined. “Know who to listen to first and listen to yourself last. If we listen more, what happens, we speak less. If we listen more, we play less. If you are getting louder and louder, are you sure you were listening?”
“We are here to communicate and to give the soloist what he needs to be comfortable. Each soloist is their own painter, give them their own canvas, don’t make them paint with someone else’s palette.”
“If we take care of the person next to us, we will all be taken care of; that is true on and off the bandstand,” said Mr. Allen as he, like so many master artists, left students with lessons on art and life.