Jazz Mentor Says Creativity Is Key

Sue Terry, this month’s jazz mentor, shares a little about her passion for jazz, what she learned from her jazz mentor, and her advice for fellow educators.

What initially sparked your interest in jazz?
My dad had a great record collection, which I was allowed to play if I asked permission first. I also found WRVR FM on the radio and was hooked from then on.

What’s one way students can celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month?
Learn a song by Duke Ellington!

What was it like to study with Jackie McLean? What are some of the things you learned?
Jackie was tremendously influential not only because of his unique musical voice and perspective, but also because he was a generous, kind, and thoughtful human being. He was a true role model. He also knew how to acknowledge your strengths, while still guiding you to fill gaps in your knowledge and your listening so you could improve.

How do you see the current economic crisis affecting jazz education and/or music education as a whole?
In these uncertain times, it is essential to have a highly developed sense of creativity so you can keep moving forward. In a musician, nothing develops this sense more than studying and playing jazz music. Jazz can teach you how to “think outside of the box,” a skill that will serve you well your whole life long.

What’s currently on your jazz listening list?
A friend from Berlin, Susanne Wegener, just sent me her new recording, Ego Dance, all excellent original compositions. I’ve also been listening to guitarist Vic Juris, an amazing musician I recently had the pleasure of performing with, and a “secret” recording by my friend and colleague Bill Easley. Most recently, Joao Gilberto’s version of “Wave”–his phrasing reminds you of how this ubiquitous Brazilian standard by Jobim is supposed to sound.

During my tenure as Jazz Mentor, I will be posting tips, pet peeves, rants and raves and Uplifting Inspirational Ideas! If you don’t get enough here, then please also see my regular column “From the Bridge” in the quarterly Jazz Improv Magazine, and “The Blog That Ate Brooklyn.” I look forward to responding to your questions and concerns, and wish everyone a happy, healthy, and music-filled 2009!

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Sue Terry has played and recorded with a variety of notable jazz artists including Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Charli Persip, Clifford Jordan, and Wynton Marsalis. She’s been a jazz soloist with the National Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New York Pops, and has performed at jazz festivals and venues across the globe. Her discography currently contains over forty commercially released CDs, and she’s the author of several music instruction books. For Terry’s full bio, visit the Mentors site.

–Anne Wagener, April 7, 2009, © National Association for Music Education