In the last couple of years, jazz has seen a bit of a resurgence. An increasing interest in the genre has been circulating amongst young people in particular, with contemporary artists like Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus incorporating the style into their own music. Jazz is a loosely defined term, but one which lends itself more to an idea than a particular sound – jazz is one of the most free forms of musical expression, due largely to its sheer malleability. The technical proficiency required by jazz musicians is staggering, and thus many music lovers decide to study jazz in particular when assuming music as an academic pursuit. We spoke to a couple of students who have graduated from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University, who told us a bit about their experiences.
One graduate named Mike Follent, who has performed in many bands around Melbourne, said that the faculty at Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music “strive to provide a quality, current and applicable understanding and approach to the skills and mindset that are needed to be a successful musician today.” The students we spoke with informed us that one of the most valuable parts of their experience was the teachers they got to learn from. Mike told us that the teachers “developed my sense of music in a myriad if areas, including improvisation, arranging, recording, composing and performing.” Another Graduate we spoke with, Giorgio, who now produces electronic music under the moniker Nefarious, told us that “I felt supported throughout my whole degree.”
Far from just being a way to expand one’s practical and theoretical knowledge of music, studying jazz performance allowed both Mike and Giorgio to develop important musical relationships with their peers. Giorgio told us that he “made a lot of close friendships, and I was able to start multiple musical endeavours with friends, knowing that the community would always come out to support my music.” Mike told us a bit about the incredible experiences he was offered the opportunity to take part in while studying at Monash – “I got to perform alongside American saxophonist Joe Lovano (as part of the 2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival), and American guitarist Ben Monder (who most recently featured on David Bowie‘s last album Blackstar) during his 2016 residency at Monash University. These are experiences which I could only have been involved with through my studies which goes to show the how sophisticated the course is.”
Giorgio ran us through the in’s and out’s of his every day life while he was studying. “As a jazz performance student, the time between classes was often spent finding food or trying to find a place to practice and prepare for either technical exams, recitals, or just general practice. Emphasis is placed on individual virtuosity on your chosen instrument, but at Monash you can also take classes in popular music composition, music business, and even film composition. Outside of uni hours, I would be checking out gigs around Melbourne almost every night! What I enjoyed most, though, was the sense of community.”
There are endless avenues that can be pursued by a jazz graduate, and each of the graduates from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash offer nothing but praise – if you want to become a technically proficient and versatile contemporary musician, studying jazz may be one of the best options for you.