The JWA approach

We approach jazz education a little differently from many places. The JWA approach to teaching and learning jazz is based on the idea that that jazz can be taught, and that anybody can learn jazz. We are about giving a fair opportunity to everyone who wants to learn.

Where a lot of jazz education seems to be dedicated to keeping people out, we work hard to be inclusive.

Of course, Jazz Workshop Australia is a business without public funding, so we do rely on students fees to operate. Apart from that, though, we’ll give a ‘fair go’ to anyone who comes to us wanting to learn jazz. It is never too late and it’s probably never too early. There aren’t really right or wrong instruments. Things like ‘talent”, ‘musical families’, ‘natural gifts’, ‘tone deaf’ are irrelevant distractions.

This is not an empty guarantee that everyone will definitely become a great jazz player. We are not about glib and empty catchphrases like that. But a student who does the work, follows teaching, and can accept constructive criticism can learn to play jazz. It isn’t always easy, but it is absolutely doable. Our approach at JWA is about inclusion and teaching.

Foundations of the JWA approach.

  1. Every student has potential to learn to play jazz. This potential may realise itself in unique ways and at different times. It is not for us as teachers to dismiss a student because they can’t already play well. It is our job to teach, encourage, help, and mentor them regardless of their age or stage as a player.
  2. We do the ‘heavy lifting’ of teaching people how to play jazz. We do not use auditions or other gatekeeping to ‘cherry-pick’ the best and take credit for the prior learning or teaching by others.
  3. Education is important and is our focus. Good-quality, effective teachers and mentors play a crucial role in the development of jazz musicians. This has been the case historically among successful jazz players and remains true today.
  4. Experience and skill as a professional performer are important for our teachers, but we are more interested in skill, experience, training, and commitment to teaching than star-power or ‘coolness’ as a performer. This is not to say that our teachers are not cool musicians: they are all highly-accomplished professional performers. Students come to JWA for teaching and learning and that is our priority.
  5. Jazz can be taught and learnt. Becoming a jazz musician requires students to learn sets of skills, techniques, procedures, and concepts as well as developing personal attributes, becoming inculcated in historical traditions, ways of doing things and ways of acting. Achievement in jazz is based both on what you can do and what kind of person you can be. To neglect either aspect in jazz education can deny students access to success.
  6. We are committed to musical and educational excellence, but we value everybody. Not every student needs to become a jazz great. We acknowledge that people of all ages and levels of experience learn and play music for a multitude of personal reasons, all with unique goals. At JWA, there is room for everybody. We take everybody who wants to learn, and we teach them so that they can better learn to play jazz and move closer to their goals. We strive to build outstanding musicians rather than cherry-pick the ‘best’. It is more important for students to be ‘good’ when they leave us than when they arrive.
  7. Our commitment to equal access to achievement and success includes all people.
  8. We respect the needs and goals of our students.
  9. We are committed to the wellbeing, professional development, and success of our teachers. We have high expectations of them, but we also support them and stand behind them.

This is the JWA approach to jazz education. If you’re already a student, teacher, or graduate, we’re glad to have you with us as part of our creative community. If you are considering music lessons or learning to play jazz – for yourself, your child, or someone else – we hope you can try. Everyone’s welcome.

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