5 Questions for the January 2012 Jazz Mentor

Paul Baransy has been a band director in Ohio for 34 years. He is currently assistant director for the Ottawa Glandorf Local School District. During his lengthy career, he has directed high school, junior high and elementary jazz ensembles. At Ottawa Glandorf, his junior high bands have performed at the Bowling Green State University and Tiffin University Jazz Festivals. He has music degrees from the University of Findlay and Bowling Green State University and is active as a trumpet player, performing in pit orchestras and area jazz ensembles.

Please join us in welcoming Paul as the NAfME jazz mentor for January 2012.

You’ve taught band and jazz for over 30 years now. When did you know that this was what you wanted to make your life’s work?

I never thought of turning back after I started my first teaching job. There have been many “challenging” years, but with the help of mentors, conventions, clinics, and graduate studies I kept my interest and energy at a high level.

What should jazz educators hope their students take away from the time spent under their tutelage? Any particular skill set?

I think every jazz educator must include jazz history and improvisation in his/her teaching goals. Without these, our jazz ensembles would be like any other musical group.

What are the toughest challenges facing jazz educators today, in your opinion?

Every school is different when it comes to the “environment” for jazz. In my rural setting, the general public, student body, and administrators don’t hear (or know) much about jazz. They are supportive, but they don’t encourage us by urging us to be like “so and so’s” group. Everyone has to be educated about jazz. As teachers, we really have to set the pace.

What is your proudest moment as a jazz educator?

I have taken my junior high jazz band to jazz festivals at Tiffin University and Bowling Green State University. On several occasions, an adjudicator has commented that: “I can’t believe this is a junior high group.” That’s the kind of affirmation that encourages a teacher.

What are you listening to these days?

Since my daughter teaches Zumba, I hear a lot of hot Latin jazz around our house! I like to listen to Gordon Goodwin. I never tire of Basie’s music, and hold it up as a model for my groups. My favorite trumpet players are Arturo Sandoval, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Allen Vizzuti, and Freddie Hubbard.

—Nick Webb, January 4, 2012, ©National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)