For the past three years, the jazz pedagogy class at the University of Manitoba has been offering a jazz academy through the CanU Canada learning program, and each year it just gets better and better.
One reason is that everyone has some idea of what to expect. Both the university students and the middle school kids come better prepared every year.
The goal of the CanU Jazz Academy is to empower kids to do things that they thought were not possible. Along the way, they get inside access to things that previously had a lot of mystery attached to them—like understanding how popular music is put together.
They also learn to work together to create a diversified unit that can perform in concert with a common goal of excellence.
This class is taught by jazz pedagogy students—I’m basically in the background as a supporter, coach, and occasional diversion expert. These university students spend a few short weeks anticipating the scenarios that will play out when the middle school kids arrive in October, and designing strategies to move them from a mob of kids to a group of focused performers.
On the ground, the challenges vary as much as the ethnicities and personalities of the individual students. There is a fair amount of pure crowd control that happens each week, but the reward is when all those little budding jazz students one by one surprise themselves with bright moments of discovery. (The other reward for me is watching the jazz buddy mentors find skills and care they didn’t know they even possessed!)
Our December class ended with an in-house concert of popular music, accompanied by food and holiday season candy. We are all anticipating the new year because we will be focused on preparing for a big closing concert in March, where we’ll perform for the parents and families of kids in all the CanU learning streams. At that point, a select handful of the finest junior CanU Jazz musicians will be invited to participate in the Jazz on Wheels Academy, a more intensive training setting, then perform over the summer with the Jazz on Wheels band.
So when the snow is gone, watch for the next incarnation of the Jazz on Wheels band, featuring bright future stars from the CanU Jazz program. We’ll be performing in a neighborhood near you!