Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Shifts in attitude

When I was in college, from 1988-1993, jazz ensembles had become accepted on college campuses. My jazz director told about trying to get a university jazz ensemble started in the early '70s while he was a student, and the resistance that was put up by the faculty and administration. In my time there was still resistance, but it was of the idea that jazz could engender the same levels of scholarship that classical music inspired. There were professors who scoffed at the idea of extended tertian harmonies from jazz having anything in common with classical harmonies. And I personally heard opinions that performing jazz would be detrimental to one's development as a classical musician, though fortunately not from my own trumpet professors. We can also look at the lack of enthusiasm third-stream music received for a long time, with composers such as Alec Wilder regarded as novelty acts rather than serious artists.

I'm reminded of these old attitudes by an announcement that Chamber Music America is honoring Chick Corea with The Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award and a tribute concert on January 16-17 as part of their national conference. The SMT conference I just attended also shows this change of attitude, with many papers analyzing jazz and rock music within normal sessions, as opposed to the special sessions that these "canon-breaking" genres often had to be scheduled in to get considered. The canon has indeed been broken wide open, at least for the strong majority of academic environments. These shifts in attitude give me hope, both for my profession and for life in general, despite the recent political setback in Maine.

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