Everybody’s bitching these days about how the new students and young players all sound the same. What else can be expected of a jazz education system that is becoming increasingly codified and standardized? This tendency to over-organize jazz pedagogy has not been in the best interests of those who strive to develop thier own voice. When you have a large classroom of students being told you play this scale over that chord, they’re all going to play that chord that way.

Used to be, back when there was less music theory available, the players developed more individual playing styles because of the lack of information, through the painful process of trial and error. I’m not promoting musical ignorance as a viable process for developing individuality but the delicate balance of how much to and not to teach a student should be a constant challenge for a teacher. An effective teacher should know how get out of the way of a students development. This is impossible in a classroom. One way to alleviate this problem might be for the theory teacher to also coach his or her class in a combo situation so and eye can be kept on their students helping each to develop their own stylistic tendencies. Setting up smaller classes that include the personnel of one or two combos would also allow some continuity between theory and practice.