A few months ago I was introduced to the director of jazz studies at one of the local Atlanta universities. For the sake of anonymity, let's call him Joshua. The person making the introduction told Joshua that I have a website featuring Atlanta jazz musicians, Atlanta jazz clubs, and Atlanta jazz concerts. Joshua asked me for the name of my site, but when I told him the name he didn't recognize it. I then told him that I had written about several jazz events at his school and that he's probably seen my site when he does online searches for "Atlanta Jazz" topics. Once again, he said he wasn't familiar with my site. I certainly wasn't offended that Joshua didn't know about my site, after all there are lots of jazz-related sites out there and I don't expect everyone to know about mine. In fact, I probably wouldn't have given any more thought to our conversation until Joshua said, "You know, I never do any searches for jazz on the Web."
The more I think about Joshua's comment, the more it concerns me. As the director of a university jazz studies program, it's Joshua's duty to prepare his students for a career as jazz musicians. That responsibility shouldn't be limited to teaching them how to play music. For his students to succeed as professional musicians, they need to learn as much as possible about their local jazz scene, including the local musicians, clubs, and events. And most importantly, they need to learn how to promote themselves and their music. In today's world, the Web is unquestionably the most effective medium for accomplishing these goals. And certainly, it's becoming more important every day. I can't help but think that if Joshua isn't actively using the Web to find and disseminate information about jazz, there's a good chance his students aren't either.
I can't speak for other cities, but in Atlanta there aren't any printed publications that cover all of the local jazz musicians, clubs, and concerts. At best, newspapers simply announce national touring acts and a few local events. To truly know what's happening in the Atlanta jazz scene, you have to go online. And even there, you can't simply rely on a single website to tell you all there is to know. You have to continually search for information. Since Joshua isn't searching for jazz online, he and his students are probably out of touch with what's happening in the local jazz community.
Sure, some students will turn to the Web for information on their own, but I don't think their initiative should be taken for granted. As with all of the other important aspects of the jazz curriculum, jazz educators should take the lead when it comes to teaching students about the local jazz scene. Educators should give students a list of websites that feature local musicians, clubs, and events and they should continually search for new online resources so that list doesn't become stale. If you leave it to the students to find this information on their own, there's always the possibility that they'll miss some valuable piece of information and/or fail to make a connection that can help them in their careers.
A major part of your success or failure as a jazz musician stems from your ability to promote yourself and your music. I don't know what Joshua covers on the subject of promotion, but I'm fairly certain there's little discussion of online promotion. I base this on the fact that several of his graduates don't have any web presence at all (not even MySpace pages). Even though I see them play around town, I can't find any information about them online so I don't know where or when they'll be playing next. Consequently, there's a good chance I'll miss their next gig. Their lack of Web presence is odd to me since all of these graduates are young, having grown up in the Internet age. You'd think it would be natural for them to get online and at least create a MySpace page. But in most cases there's nothing. I can't help but think this is because Joshua and the other educators at his school never mentioned anything about online promotion. BTW, for more ideas on jazz promotion, check out my Atlanta jazz - promotion ideas article.
I know there are several music school students who read my jazz blog and use my ear training tools. Perhaps you could shed some light on this subject. What role does the Web have in your jazz education? Do your teachers refer to the Web as a place to learn about jazz in your community? Do they give you lists of musicians, clubs, and event-tracking websites? Is online promotion included in our jazz curriculum? If somehow the Web isn't a integral part of your jazz education, I encourage you to start a dialog with your teachers on this subject. Maybe you can school them for a change!
ONE MORE THING
This is a bit of digression, but somewhat related... Jazz students should regularly attend local jazz concerts (not simply national acts). I'd go so far as to say it should be a REQUIRED part of your jazz studies. I attend at least one or two Atlanta jazz concerts each week that feature local Atlanta jazz musicians and I rarely see students at these events. When I was their age I also didn't attend many local jazz concerts. It didn't seem that important to me at the time so I didn't bother. Looking back, I can see how foolish that mentality was. Attending local jazz concerts is a fantastic way to see what life will be like as a working jazz musician and it's a great opportunity to start networking with local musicians. Any one of them might be the source of future gigs and likewise you may need to call upon those local musicians someday to play at one of your gigs. Start learning about your local jazz scene today. See live jazz!