5 Questions for the November 2010 Jazz Mentor

Rob Parton is Associate Professor of Trumpet at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He teaches trumpet, Jazz History, and Jazz Combos, in addition to performing with the Capital Brass Quintet and the faculty jazz group,Spectrum. He also performs five nights a week at Chicago’s Catch 35 with his trio. A vastly experienced studio and theater musician, Rob has shared the stage with the likes of Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, and the Chicago Symphony, and toured with local and national productions of WickedThe Music ManSweet Charity, and Billy Elliott.

Please join us in welcoming Rob as the MENC jazz mentor for November 2010.
What should jazz educators hope their students take away from the time spent under their tutelage? Any particular skill set?

I believe the students should take away first and foremost an understanding that jazz is a lifelong endeavor. Jazz, like any other language, has to be used everyday. One must listen regularly, practice the jazz vocabulary (scales, etc.) daily, and transcribe (without writing) as much as possible.

You’re both a professional working musician and an educator. How do your experiences playing gigs affect your teaching and vice-versa?

My strengths as a teacher are built around my experiences as a professional trumpet player. I know what is expected of a professional player and how to convey to my students the importance of professionalism on the job. In the theatre we are often expected to play many different styles, from classical to lead trumpet playing. A working theatre musician commands the same versatility that the studio musicians were expected to have in the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s–someone who can do just about everything very well.

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

The toughest job is knowing how difficult it is to become a successful jazz musician in this poor economy, dealing with the recording industry’s transition to all digital delivery, copyright issues, and just finding a place to offer your music for a living wage after school. For me, it’s the students’ perspective and best interest that is my greatest concern. As far as me, the teacher, I believe there’s no quick way, or cheat codes for learning jazz. Students must transcribe daily, practice the vocabulary daily, and set forth short term goals to measure productivity.

What is your proudest moment as a jazz educator?

Watching my students perform in a professional setting, knowing where they came from, and how far they’ve progressed. Also, playing with my students in a professional setting, knowing where I had nothing to do with getting them hired. Probably the greatest moment is knowing, in my mind, that I helped them accomplish their goal of becoming a successful jazz/commercial musician.

What are you listening to these days?

I’ve been listening to Nicholas Payton, Frank Zappa, Clifford Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Tierney Sutton, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, and Oscar Peterson this week!

—Nick Webb, November 3, 2010, © National Association for Music Education