Many students who learn jazz go on to be high-achievers in things other than playing jazz. Most of them, probably. We jazz educators understandably seem to focus on the jazz achievements of our charges. We like to highlight musical successes, because of course that is what we teach for, but that is not the whole story. Here at Jazz Workshop Australia (JWA), at least, in our experience plenty of students do well in all sorts of other areas. This is true while they are still at school or university, and later in life too. Maybe our greatest success-stories are the multitude of students who develop a lifelong enjoyment of jazz and are able to keep playing simply for the enjoyment of it.
Being able to play jazz, knowing what that means, developing a lifelong appreciation and enjoyment of jazz music as listeners and/or players remains the single most important outcome of jazz education. This is not going to be one of those gushing articles that claims learning music is also good for academic achievement: some studies have found evidence that points to this (Babo, 2004; Jaschke, Honing, & Scherder, 2018; Thompson, 2020) while others have not (Gonzalez, 2020; Rickard, Bambrick, & Gill, 2012). The most important thing we know for certain is a benefit of jazz education is that it teaches about jazz. Music education is good for musical achievement. However, this is not to say that students who learn jazz are limited to achievement in just one area.
At JWA we regularly see students who score in the very top bands of their Higher School Certificate (the end-of-schooling and university entrance test in New South Wales). Plenty are involved in sport, enjoy, or excel at general academic subjects at school. Motivated, determined, hardworking, or clever people often seem to do lots of different things and do them very well.
Many of our students go on to other non-musical fields of study and work but continue to play and enjoy jazz at a high level for enjoyment. Other students come to us as adults who learn to play jazz as a rewarding hobby. Students like these are success stories for us as jazz educators and we should celebrate them. Becoming a professional jazz musician or the next jazz great is not the be-all and end-all of jazz education, even though that seems to be a common focus.
If a student becomes a famous player, that is a wonderful testament to their training and access to the right opportunities. If jazz education equips a student to continue to play the music for their own pleasure, to appreciate, value, and listen to it, then that is a great success for us as teachers and a lifelong gift for them
Babo, G. D. (2004). The relationship between instrumental music participation and standardized assessment achievement of middle school students. Research Studies in Music Education, 22(1), 14-27. doi:10.1177/1321103X040220010301
Gonzalez, A.A., 2020. Music Participation and Achievement Scores among Middle School Students with Disabilities: A Causal-Comparative Study. Doctoral diessertation. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/doctoral/2760.
Jaschke, A.C, Honing, H. & Scherder, E.J., 2018. Longitudinal Analysis of Music Education on Executive Functions in Primary School Children. Frontiers in Neuroscience 12 (2018): 103.
Rickard, N. S., Bambrick, C. J., & Gill, A. (2012). Absence of widespread psychosocial and cognitive effects of school-based music instruction in 10–13-year-old students. International Journal of Music Education, 30(1), 57–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/0255761411431399
Thompson, T.M. (2020). Examining sequential instrumental music instruction differences in academic achievement: a case study in one rural public high school. Available from Proquest One Academic theses database (2468132051).