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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 Five Jazz Learning in Bristol within the context of English Music Education


Introduction It was suggested earlier that jazz in Bristol’s schools in 2001, achieved a low profile. A small number of schools organised extra-curricular jazz ensembles including big bands, although the instrumentation was generally incom- plete. The organisation of a student jazz orchestra on a par with the LEA wind band and symphony orchestra seemed unlikely. Other aspects of jazz pedagogy were absent from the curriculum of local schools, apart from a modest input of listening and appraising within the requirements of public examinations. A model of jazz and cultural change in Bristol introduced earlier indicated a growing formal interest in practical jazz education in the city by the LEA from the seventies and on, while student opportunities to pursue jazz in local schools were generally slight. Concomitantly, signifi- cant changes were taking place in British music education. This chapter appraises the changes in music education and considers jazz learning in Bristol in context. Firstly, an historical appraisal of music education in Britain in the twentieth century considers the development of British Music Education. A singing based curriculum and a passive theoretical and musical appreciation approach pertained until the Butler Act [1944]. Changes in the comprehen- sive schools of the post-war years included large [orchestral] instrumental groups organised as extra-curricular activities, although class based initia- tives seemed to be less successful. Developments in the second half of the century looked towards a ‘creative’ approach in the classroom based upon ‘composition, performance, listening and appraisal’. This was grounded 110 Chapter Five in...

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