Online jazz ensembles build valuable performance skills

As sheltering-in-place continues through the summer, the ensemble experience of playing music in real-time with others musicians remains a restricted activity. CMC faculty who teach ensembles have been innovating their classes to adapt to these restrictions. In Charlie Gurke’s jazz ensembles, they have gone from in-person weekly classes to Zoom sessions. According to Gurke, the main change in the ensemble has been a shift from focusing on rehearsing and performing to musicianship skills.

“A lot of what we’re doing is working on theory, ear-training, and analysis,” says Gurke.

He’s identified these components as important skills to bring into the performance environment. The weekly Zoom sessions are rich. Each week, the ensemble works through repertoire, with a guided practice of Gurke playing and the ensemble playing along on mute. He individually works with students, listening to their progress. The group works on transcribing, both recorded jazz solos and solos that ensemble members are composing. Melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically analyzing repertoire is also built into the weekly sessions. Gurke has received positive feedback that the students are enjoying addressing aspects of their musicality and honing these skills. In the future, when ensembles can meet in-person again, Gurke plans to carry over some of the valuable musicianship exercises that his remote ensembles have been exploring.

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