14. Finding a good course

Another good way to progress is to find a college course in your chosen instrument, or in some aspect of jazz that will help you play better, like reading music, ear training, ensemble work or jazz harmony. Many practising jazz professionals also teach in colleges. (But you still need to find a college teacher whose approach you feel you can work with, so ask to sit in on a taster class before you commit yourself to paying course fees). Method books may make more sense once you’ve kicked the ideas round in a class and heard them demonstrated, discussed and argued over. Playing alongside others helps you share difficulties, have a laugh, support each other in the learning process, cope when things go wrong and find ways forward, as well as developing band sensitivity. City Lit, Morley College and Richmond Adult Community College in London offer a wide range of good courses, and some people travel long distances to attend them. The E17 Jazz Collective in London offer good quality workshops and weekend courses. There are also many good jazz summer schools that you’ll find advertised in Jazzwise Magazine or at www.jazzinlondon.net where you can learn a lot in just a week, (although you do have to be a reasonably competent reader to get the most out of these and you need to know some songs which you can bring to their jazz sessions).  The Global Music Foundation runs a range of impressive programmes led by seasoned professionals in a variety of European locations including London. And colleges like ‘Berklee Online’ run ‘webinars’ with online tutoring.

But ask the question: 'where is this course going to take me?'  The answer: 'to our next level' is simply not good enough. A half-decent programme should have a definable and meaningful curriculum outcome like: 'this series of courses is intended to enable you to hold your own at jam sessions with a working repertoire of the most common standards'. 

Next step: Gaining momentum...