5 Questions for the November 2011 Jazz Mentor

Scott Rybolt teaches band at Dexter High School in Missouri. A music educator for almost 20 years now, he spent the last 13 of them at his current school. He earned his undergraduate degree in music education at Southeast Missouri State University and has a master’s degree in administration. He has served as an adjudicator in Arkansas and runs a local summer jazz group, the Southeast Missouri Regional Jazz Orchestra. With the help of two of his friends, Rybolt also started a jazz workshop at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Please join us in welcoming Scott as the NAfME jazz mentor for November 2011.
Could you tell readers a little bit about your program and the ensembles you direct?

I teach at a medium-small school. Our high school enrollment is approximately 580. In Missouri, that makes us a class 4 school (class 4 is from 569 – 1174) in music competitions. I’m fortunate to have a great assistant with whom I get to team teach most of the day. We break the beginning band into woodwinds, high brass, low brass, and percussion. I’m in charge of the woodwinds. The 7th and 8th grade bands meet separately, and we have an extracurricular middle school jazz band which meets on Mondays and Thursdays after school, beginning in November. At the high school, band is both concert and marching (we are a noncompetitive marching band). I am thankful to have jazz band as a scheduled class in our curriculum! I’m the primary director of the high school ensembles and the assistant director at the middle school. Our marching band attends a few local parades, one festival, and one very low key competition yearly at which we enjoy varying degrees of success. The middle school jazz band attends one competition and one festival regularly. The high school jazz band attends three festivals and two competitions yearly. During “marching season,” we focus mainly on all-District/State auditions. We feel that the fundamentals applied in those auditions help the students to become better musicians and therefore strengthen our ensembles (we have one student who studies private bassoon). For the last few years we’ve garnered approximately 80% of our district jazz band and 20% of our district concert band (many of the students are selected to both groups).

What do you find most gratifying about teaching jazz to young musicians?

The easy answer is “when I get to see the light come on!” We all have those experiences. It’s what keeps us going as educators. I love to see kids enjoy music, and hopefully take it with them throughout the rest of their lives. It’s great when a student achieves success, which helps light the perpetuating fire!

You’ve said “the older you get, the stronger you feel about jazz and jazz education and promoting OUR art form.” You mind elaborating on that a little?

When I started teaching I thought I enjoyed jazz (which I did), but I really didn’t have a very firm grasp of how to teach it or much knowledge of jazz at all. It wasn’t a class I ever had in college. As I grow older, I become more familiar with the history of jazz and its importance in American culture and music. I feel strongly that we should perpetuate the one true art form that America has given to the world.

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

I would have to say that the lack of jazz classes in our curriculum would be the primary hurdle we have right now, as a group of educators/students. TIME. With so much marching, sports, homework/grade stress, work, etc., it’s hard to find time in students schedules after school to be consistent in the study of our art. I have the luxury of a class period (I also have each section an hour a week after school — the kids are pretty dedicated to doing well) but not many in my area share that luxury. Secondly, (and this seems to be changing for the better) Jazz Pedagogy. I’ve learned everything I know from watching others, asking questions, attending camps, and seeking out the people who know what I want to know. It would have been nice to have a semester of Jazz Pedagogy. In college. I understand that a lot of jazz in the past wasn’t what we would call academic. It was learn on the fly from those who were in the know, the players of the time – seek them out and copy what they are/were doing. I just think it would be nice to have a solid foundation or starting point – direction if you will. Fewer loose cannons (myself). And there seems to be a trend in the colleges around to give music education students that opportunity. I hope they observe it, and help spread the fire.

What are you listening to these days?

I’m a very eclectic listener. I’m torn, whether to give the appropriate “jazz” answer or everything I listen to.

I guess I’ll go the jazz route:

I LOVE the Basie Band. I’m big into the Basie sound and style. Gordon Goodwin is really happening. I get suggestions all the time of groups to listen to. I am acquainted with Kris Berg in Texas, and he is releasing an album soon. Maynard [Ferguson]. The Tonight Show Band. Tom Kubis. J.J. [Johnson] and Kai [Winding]. Gerald Albright. Michael Bublé. Sinatra. Ella. Harry Connick. Wynton Marsalis. GRP All Stars. Stan Kenton. Charlie Parker. Chick Corea. And maybe a little Pat Metheny, to name a few.

—Nick Webb, November 1, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)