Music Education comes in many forms!

15 July 2017

Being an educator had never been a professional goal of mine. I have always wanted to be a performer and composer, and that still is my preferred role. But after arriving on the professional music scene in Los Angeles, several opportunities came my way to take on the position of a music educator. This has been usually in the way of being a guest professional at a college or high school and giving “clinics” along with a performance of some kind.

But an experience came my way during my last year in college that had a big impact on me. It was my last season (1963) of college at the University of Illinois, where, at the time, they did not teach (or allow) any jazz in the Music building. Jazz had been my main interest since high school. I was kicked out of many college practice rooms for playing jazz. I was, however, a member of a “rogue” student jazz big band.

The Student Union (not the Music School) had arranged for the famous Eric Dolphy Quartet to do a concert in the University Auditorium. The student big band of which I was a member was slated to play the first half of the concert and back Dolphy’s group on their part of the program. He brought a rhythm section from New York.

At that time, I was trying to teach myself (by listening to records) jazz piano voicings that were being used. I was making no progress.

At the afternoon rehearsal for the concert, our big band ran through our numbers then took a break, and Dolphy Quartet’s rhythm came onstage to rehearse their portion . During that break I went over and sat down at the piano trying to discover once again piano voicings that I had heard. The pianist from Dolphy’s group came over, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Would you like me to show you some voicings?” He could tell what I was searching for. Enthusiastically I said, “Sure!”

He sat at the piano and showed me how several famous pianists were voicing their chords. I was amazed and mentally it took me to another level of understanding. You could say “a light bulb” went on over my head.

Well, that pianist’s name is Herbie Hancock. In 60 seconds he showed me things for which I had been searching for weeks. By doing so, he led me to a path where I could discover more on my own.

Obviously, this has left a huge impression on me. I feel if I can spend a little time leading aspiring students to a path to learn for themselves with a few specifics, that could be a wonderful thing.

As I am writing this, I am presenting a Jazz Workshop (which I am co-directing) in Santa Barbara (July 11-14). We hope it will be annual. Our students are all ages and from all walks of life, and whether they continue with music as a career or not, we believe that learning jazz and improvisation will enrich their lives.

The Santa Barbara Jazz Workshop is modeled somewhat after the 12-year going Northwoods Jazz Camp that I direct in northern Wisconsin ever year. The Santa Barbara event is co-founded by Kimberly Ford and myself and this year has 28 students. We believe this workshop experience can have a significant impact on each one. The Workshop is sponsored and supported by the Los Angeles Jazz Society, the Santa Barbara Jazz Society and a handful of donors, which we appreciate. There is hope for the future!

– Kim Richmond

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