There has been a quiet musical revolution in Barcelona since 2006 when the Sant Andreu Jazz Band was started as part of The Municipal School of Music in Sant Andreu, Barcelona, which up to that time had been concentrating on teaching kids to play classical music.
The idea of the founder of this section of the music school, a well known Catalan Jazz musician, Joan Chomorro ( a man, in spite of his name, which outside of the Spanish speaking world is a womanś name), was to teach kids between the ages of about 7 to 21 to improvise on their instruments, rather than the more normal methods of teaching kids the theory and techniques of playing music.
He puts it much better than I can in these worlds…….
¨Most of what is learnt in music should come from listening. When a child starts out, they should go straight to the music, the sound, not how it is coded through language, because as yet we do not know if the person will need to use it. Music should come before writing. It is not a new methodology, but many people are wary of it because, depending on how you look at it, it may be regarded as anti-dogmatic and anti-conservatoire. There are still many things that appear to be immovable. It is taken for granted that children should be grouped by ages or begin to learn through reading and writing music. However, by doing this we are telling the child that they should wait to have a perfect technique to be able to make music or take to the stage. It is believed that most children, particularly smaller ones, cannot climb onto a stage and give a good performance.”
This theory has produced some astonishingly creative and sensitive musicians, and not only that, but also has given kids as young as 7 years of age, the confidence to get up on a stage and perform intricate improvisations with aplomb, and a good technique, as in this video.
Isn´t that amazing?? That little girl plays that trumpet with such skill and feeling that I am left speechless.
That video demonstrates another important part of the bandś philosophy, namely bringing well known and highly professional jazz musicians into the mix to demonstrate to the kids how it can be done.
Kids and Music – A Documentary.
There is a full length documentary about the work of this band and its founder which is well worth watching – even if you happen not to speak Spanish, as its meaning is clear enough. It shows how the kids go about their studies, and demonstrates very clearly that playing music is central to what they are doing there, rather than learning a lot of musical theory – In other words the Kid Ory approach to playing jazz rather than the Miles Davis approach.
So here is that film, which I warmly recommend you watch when you have a spare hour to give it the attention it deserves.
Whilst not many of the kids involved in this band have yet gone on to become professional jazz musicians (it is early days after all), one at least is already making a considerable name for herself both as a singer and as a trumpet player.
Andrea Motis is a young woman (now 21 years old), who joined the jazz band when she was 12 years old, and quickly showed an amazing musical gift as a singer, sax player and trumpet player, and in many ways can serve as a great demonstration of what the jazz band is aiming to give to the kids – and us.
To demonstrate this, here is a video of her playing and singing at the age of 14…………….
And then at the age of 19 she was still amazing! And continues to be. Here she is playing and singing with a group under the leadership of Joan Chomorro.
Very reminiscent of Chet Baker I feel, as if he has been reincarnated into the body of a young Catalan woman – such a sweet and mellifluous tone on that trumpet.
In many ways the Sant Andreu Jazz Band is in the same world as the El Sistema in Venezuela (El_Sistema) which teaches kids to play classical music with the same love and enthusiasm.
To show you what that one is about, here is a TED talk on the subject, which will show you how kids can respond to making music if it is presented in the right way, regardless of the type of music.
Making music should be fun, and these kids show us that it is possible to both have great fun, and also to play music with consummate skill…..