Monday, December 15, 2014

Join Vista's Jazz Ensemble

Dust off the old horn and join our lunchtime big band! Tues & Thurs, 12:30. Community members and non-majors welcomed...

Jazz Ensemble - 13570 - MUEN 1122 - 002 

CONTACT: Katchie Cartwright 
at Northwest Vista College 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thomas Mullins Accepted into A-JAM Program for 2014/2015!

A-JAM auditions were held last week. And--drumroll please--trombonist Thomas Mullins was accepted into the program for 2014/2015. He was accepted as a trombonist, but is also a competent classical guitarist. His home campus is Northwest Vista College, but he also studies trombone performance with Dr. Armin Marmolejo at Palo Alto College.

Thomas Mullins' debut performance as an A-JAM member will be next Monday 12/1 at 11 AM in Recital Hall 107 of the Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College. The performance is part of an end-of-year student recital. Dr. Aaron Prado, a new full-time teaching fellow in music at Vista, will accompany Thomas on piano. They will perform two jazz selections ("Blue Bossa" by Kenny Dorham [1963] and "If I Should Lose You" by Ralph Rainer and Leo Robin [1936]). 

Join us as we congratulate Thomas, welcome him into the A-JAM family, and wish him a fruitful and exciting year! 

Since its inception, A-JAM has worked to enable an outstanding Alamo College student and a member of our distinguished applied faculty in jazz to participate in a prestigious annual international jazz meeting, to be held this year in Lisbon, Portugal.

The intercollegiate intercultural A-JAM program is open--by audition--to students from any of San Antonio's five Alamo Colleges and Trinity University. Auditions are held each November. During the spring semester, the A-JAM combo performs locally and is coached by regional professionals and visiting artists. One grand prize recipient is invited to the annual meeting of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) in late June or early July, where s/he performs with fellow students from all over the world for one intensive week. The meetings are hosted by a different school each year. Singer Jeané Gaines, Northwest Vista College, participated in the IASJ meeting in São Paulo, Brazil in 2011 as the first A-JAM grand prize winner.

Thanks to all who participated in this year's auditions. If you didn't make it this time around, listen, practice, stay tuned, and audition again in November 2015. It could be YOU next year...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

AUDITIONS - Audition Assessment Criteria 2014/2015

Wondering how judges assess your audition performance? For academic year 2014/15, A-JAM is using rubrics designed by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association. They are very clear and specific. You may view and download the adjudication forms here. There are separate forms for jazz saxes and brass, drum kit, and rhythm section instruments.

Glancing at these simple one-page forms may help you prepare for your audition. But, as you know, the main thing is to come in prepared and try to let your enjoyment of the music shine through.

If you're grappling with audition anxiety, and even if you're not, I'd highly recommend looking at Gerald Klickstein's wonderful book, "The Musician's Way." It's beautifully written and full of wisdom. And he has a free resource site:

Don't forget to breathe! Ahhhhh.....


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cape Town 2014 - The Final Session

Liebman's parting words...
Always an inspiration.
Take the time to watch!

David Liebman, Artistic Director of the
IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz), speaks at the final session of the international jazz meeting in Cape Town, South Africa 2014. He speaks to every year's crop of talented and eager students from all over the world who have participated in the meeting, held at a different school each year. This is the first time in the history of these meetings (since 1989) that his talk has been filmed. You are very lucky to hear it right now. Watch all of it, at your leisure, and be inspired. Even those of us who have heard him speak for years come away inspired anew. He has something right-on and new to add each time. This is what the A-JAM program is about, and what the jazz life is about, from the perspective of a bona fide Jazz Master who has made a brilliant career as a performer, band leader, and international jazz educator.

It could be YOU next year, representing A-JAM at the jazz meeting in Lisbon, Portugal in June 2015...

Improv - A Mini-Lesson

Improvisational fluency flows from a  theoretical and technical background that can be summoned subconsciously. But to get there requires careful fully-conscious practice and patience. Art is built on craft. You have to love the process itself, which most of us do! Luxury, for many musicians, is time to practice and develop our ideas...  

Read the article linked below from JAZZed Magazine by alto saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio...

"THEORY: You need to have a strong sense of outlining chords (functional, nonfunctional, modal, et cetera) using chord tones, the understanding of jazz language and how it works, and the history and tradition of jazz – learning repertoire; unconsciously knowing what all the jazz chord symbols mean and what tonalities go with them. To get started, you need a basic knowledge of jazz theory, such as modes of the major scale, the diatonic ii V I progression, and chord tones. These ideas are the building blocks to jazz improvisation. You will eventually need to be unconscious with all of these elements."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

IASJ International Jazz Meeting - A School Representative's Perspective

Martin Mueller, who administers the jazz program at the New School for Social Research in New York City, has participated in the international jazz meetings our program feeds into since their inception in 1989. His is currently a board member of the IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz), the sponsoring organization. Check out this video interview to gain his perspectives on the meetings and the organization.

Could be YOU at this year's meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, June 2015!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's Up the Jazz Road? Watch and Learn

Could be YOU at next year's meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, end of June 2015. First step is to get into the program. Auditions are Tuesday through Thursday, November 18-20, 5-7 PM. Email (210-486-4828) to schedule your appointment today...

And take the time to watch this video. It'll inspire you to get there... Dave Liebman, NEA Jazz Master and Artistic Director of the IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz), speaks to students at the closing session of 2014 international jazz meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. He does this every year, and each year it's a bit different, and equally inspiring. Liebman has traveled a long and fruitful path through the world of jazz, and is extraordinarily generous in sharing his wisdom with the new generations of eager jazz musicians. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Memories of Cape Town - IASJ International Jazz Meeting 2014

WATCH THIS YOU-TUBEGerry Hemingway, hugely talented drummer and inquiring musical mind, created a short video with highlights of some of the South African music we heard and learned about in Cape Town, as part of the 2014 IASJ international jazz meeting. Amazing stuff! Could be you next year, in Lisbon... :-)

And here's a snap shot of the IASJ singer women from the meeting. Surrounded by our talented students, the three teachers-performers are in the top row, middle: Jenny Robson (Sibelius Academy, Helsinki) top, second from left, Katchie Cartwright (Northwest Vista College A-JAM, San Antonio) center, and Joana Bettencourt (Hot Club of Portugal, Lisbon), second from right.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Improv Prerequisite for A-JAM 2015!

Yearning to be the A-JAM rep to the IASJ international jazz meeting in Portugal in June of 2015? "Now's the Time" to start preparing...

We'll hold auditions right before Thanksgiving, as usual, but this year there is a new wrinkle. There is a new preqrequisite, which is designed to prepare you better for the spring combo rehearsals, and reduce the improv fear factor...

In order to join the A-JAM combo in spring of 2015, you must have successfully completed a basic course in improvisation, which will be offered in the fall.

The course you need to register for is MUAP 1185 - PRIVATE IMPROVISATION. It will be held at Vista on Wednesdays at 12:30 PM. Students may take it at the campus of their choice, however, as available. Alamo Colleges students can enroll now!

The fall 2014 improvisation class will be introductory, including chord-scale theory and its applications. Instructor permission is required. For more information, contact Katchie Cartwright, 210-486-4828 or Dan Smith 210-486-4818.

A required text for the course will be David Berkman's "Jazz Musician's Guide to Creative Practicing." Why not buy a copy now and get a good head start?

PS: If your basic piano skills are lacking, why not take piano lessons during the summer to get a head start on that? Or sharpen your skills by taking lessons on your main instrument. Summer is a great time for catching up on things you're too busy to do during the academic year. Join a jazz jam session or create a session at your home or a friend's. Learn tunes, have fun... :-)

Jazz Contrafacts - More Than Just Rhythm!

What's a contrafact? "In jazz, a melody built upon the chord progression of another piece (after contrafactum, in medieval and Renaissance music." - Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online)

Many bebop and other types of contrafacts are based on very popular tunes from earlier eras. If you're developing jazz repertoire, it's a good idea to learn the original melodies as well as the contrafact compositions.

The most famous example is the entire genre we call "rhythm changes". These are all contrafacts on Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." There are hundreds of examples.

To get started, check out this useful little list of jazz contrafacts from Wikipedia.

For example, Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High" is based on Vincent Rose's "Whispering. There are scores of others. Check them out!

Some YouTube clips...
Here's a classic performance of "Groovin' High" by Charlie Parker and Gillespie in 1945.  Here's "Whispering" from Red Nichols and His Five Pennies in 1928. A beautiful vocal version of "Whispering" from Harry Belafonte. And a twangy and fun instrumental of "Whispering" from Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1951. Top it off with a quodlibet of "Groovin' High" and "Whispering" together with Phil Woods, Frank Wess, and Jon Faddis with the Barcelona Big Band. (And what's a quodlibet? You can look that one up yourself! :-)

Saturday, April 19, 2014


It's time for the Vista Spring Music Fest!

Two evenings of student ensembles, soloists, and student-led combos has now grown to two glorious weeks of events. At the heart of the festival are concerts on Wednesday, April 23 and Thursday, April 24, which feature classical music and jazz. We hope you'll join us in celebration our talented students and supporting the A-JAM program!

Wednesday, April 23 - RENAISSANCE TO THE 21ST CENTURY!
Thursday, April 24 - THE MANY COLORS OF JAZZ
Palmetto Recital Hall 107, 7:30 pm
Tickets : $4 General Admission

PROGRAM 1 - WEDNESDAY presents the Concert Choir, Instrumental Chamber Ensemble, and outstanding student soloists in a program spanning centuries and idioms, from the 13th to the 21st centuries, from Europe to the Americas.

PROGRAM 2 - THURSDAY presents the Vista Jazz Ensemble, A-JAM honors combo, and student-led jazz combos in a program of jazz standards and original compositions by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, Ellen Rowe, Miles Davis, and Fats Waller, among others. 

All proceeds benefit the A-JAM Alamo Jazz Allstars Mentorship honors program, which sponsors an international learning experience for one lucky and talented student each year. Enjoy the concerts while you help support this worthy program by sending a student to Portugal next year for the IASJ International Jazz Meeting

Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College
3535 North Ellison (Wiseman @ Hwy 151)
210-486-4527 box office

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vista Faculty Jazz Ensemble - A-JAM Benefit!

The Vista Faculty Jazz Ensemble performs its semi-annual concert to benefit A-JAM on Monday, April 14 at 7 PM in the Recital Hall (107) of the Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College.

The stellar line-up features Al Gomez, trumpet; Morgan King, saxophone; Robynn Amy, trombone; Aaron Prado, piano; Jim Kalson, electric bass; Zlatan Redzic, double bass; Joe Caploe, drums, and Katchie Cartwright, voice.

Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College now has a distinguished jazz faculty who teach all of the major jazz instruments. This is a huge boon to students in the A-JAM program. You have opportunities to listen to and learn from all of these first-rate musician-teachers. The program aims to bring one of our adjunct faculty to the International Association of Jazz Education's IASJ international jazz meeting in Portugal in 2015.  

Where funds allow, the organization encourages member schools to bring three people to each meeting: a student, a member of the applied faculty, and a school representative. 

This unique mix of generations, nationalities, and musical backgrounds promotes a round trip culture of cooperation that extends beyond the annual jazz intensive, sometimes engendering milestone professional collaborations.

These meetings--and their preparation--can affect the San Antonio jazz community significantly, not only through local education at the community college level, but also through exposure to--and the opportunity to create friendships with--peers from all over the world. This is our only fundraiser for this specific purpose. Come and bring friends and family! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This blog's a resource!

Dearest A-JAMmies and interested parties!

Please use this blog as a resource. I've been posting items of  interest here for years. And the blog enables searching through of my posts. Use it! It contains lots of pertinent information.

For example, if you want to understand what "rhythm changes" are, just search the word "rhythm" within the blog. There are LOTS of links you can follow. Use it or lose it...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bass Student to Attend "World Cup of Jazz" in Cape Town, SA!

South African College of Music, host of the 2014 IASJ Jazz Meeting

Drum roll please! We've just heard from the IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz) host school that they have picked Lorenzo Perez, bass student from Northwest Vista College, to participate in the 2014 International Jazz Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. Congratulations, Lorenzo! Read all about it...


A professor of jazz studies at the University of Cape Town’s South African College of Music, Prof. Mike Rossi, has presented a successful bid to host the International Association of Schools of Jazz in Cape Town in 2014. Rossi and his students, Zeke Le Grange and Darren English, attended and performed at the 21st annual meeting of the International Association of Schools of Jazz – IASJ in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July. Delegates from 40 institutions from 19 countries attended the event. At the meeting, Rossi performed, lectured and presented a successful bid to host the IASJ meeting in Cape Town in 2014.

In his words, he explains what it means to UCT and jazz lovers to host the event: Why is it such a big deal for UCT – and Cape Town – to host the IASJ conference? This is the first time in the IASJ’s history, which presents a meeting and a conference each year, that the meeting will be held on the African continent. Read more >>