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Gigging, Busking and Bending the Dots

How People Learn to Be Jazz Musicians. Case Studies from Bristol

John Berry

This book traces the learning experiences of the jazz community in Bristol, UK from 1945 to 2012. Grounded in a methodology of participant observation and case studies, it documents changes in the economic, cultural and educational circumstances faced by the players. In their own words, the musicians recall the influences that initiated and developed their musicianship.
Drawing on first-person accounts, the study traces the historical development of jazz music and musicians in Bristol. In the post-war years, players began to develop significant stylistic aspects in the jazz lexicon. Drawing on media sources and interaction in performance, players garnered a host of performing skills whilst suffering dwindling audiences and declining venues. Reforms in English music education in the 1980s offered formal opportunities to study jazz in the city’s schools, drawing minimal attention from institutions. Practical learning and playing opportunities offered by the Local Authority music service sustained a modest membership over the years. Post millennium, local schools, with one or two exceptions, showed little interest in jazz education. Nevertheless, maintaining its traditional stance, Bristol’s jazz community continues to exhort top quality jazz performances including compositions that match national and international standards.


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Chapter Four Jazz in Bristol’s Schools at the Millennium


Introduction In this chapter the incidence and development of formal jazz education in Bristol is discussed. Firstly an appraisal is made of inf luences experienced by members of the jazz community in local schools and institutions from the forties to the nineties. The appraisal, based on data from the musi- cians, is organised according to four aspects of cultural change in the city as suggested earlier. 1. Aftermath 1945–1960 2. Regeneration 1960–1975 3. Clinging to the margins 1975–1990 4. ‘Relegation’ to art 1990 … Secondly, the formal profiles and circumstances of jazz in local maintained and independent secondary schools in Bristol in 2001, is considered based on evidence from questionnaires and data from teachers and pupils. This is followed by a review of The Bristol Music Service and its role in music education in the city. Finally an evaluation of formal jazz education in the city is made, suggesting that the teaching of jazz in Bristol’s schools is impoverished. 86 Chapter Four Aftermath 1945–1960: ‘there wasn’t any jazz’ Participants in this study attending local schools in the late 1930s and 1940s did not recall any mention of jazz during their formal education. JT [guitar] recalled that he ‘came from the days when the only music you got was singing in class’. He cannot remember any mention of jazz in singing or in the records that were played, and as far as instruments were concerned ‘there was no formal help as far as I was aware’. Singing was...

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