On Friday, I ran a workshop at Bath Spa University. It was a totally fulfilling experience, hard work and enjoyable—certainly for me, and [from what they said] for the students too. The university framework gives these students the space and time to grow and think about their language, to begin to shape what it means to them to be musical at that moment. It was really good to hear them feel more comfortable about taking risks—even when that risk was to stop playing—and actually focus on listening to the others in the room. They worked really hard and really engaged with making music in an previously unfamiliar way. The whole point of my being there was that Adam Biggs [the leader of jazz studies at Bath Spa] wants people in the field to interact with his students fully, and by bringing people in this is what he's doing, and it's being done brilliantly.
It was also thought-provoking. I first asked what music they were listening to, to get a sense of each person. And in a way, they all struggled with this question. There was a long period of silence, and it felt as if they were afraid to talk about what they enjoyed. I had already been told by one student that they didn't listen to anything unless they were playing it. I mentioned quite a few British jazz groups and musicians, and I was surprised to note they didn't know who almost any of them were [is that important though?].
I have written quite a few [some incomplete] thoughts on
- listening and its impact on my learning about music1, 2; and
- how listening [both analytical and non-analytical] should be an actual module in music education3
and so it will come as no surprise when I say that I believe listening is the first thing that happens in music. As we went through the day, it was affirmed to me again—there were a couple of pieces they did as an ensemble that were truly beautiful, and you could sense the concentration, listening, and eventually enjoyment. It was a real pleasure to work with such a group.