Zero Hour Jazz: Poll Results, Part 3

Pros of Zero Hour Jazz

In a recent MENC poll, many respondents agreed that one benefit of zero hour jazz is that students don’t have to give up other music classes. Some see additional benefits to having a jazz ensemble outside of the school day. One educator commented, “Only the most dedicated students are allowed in the group; therefore, students rarely miss a rehearsal.”

A jazz educator who teaches at a K-8 school said his after-school ensemble “allows for the best students of multiple grade levels to play together—typically with the older students as leaders.”

Challenges and Conflicts

Before- or after-school ensembles have to compete with other activities like tutoring and athletics. As a result, zero hour ensembles have less rehearsal time and less time to focus on improvisation.

Here are some other challenges respondents shared:

  • “There are more kids who join because it’s ‘just for fun, no grade,’ but they can be less serious about technique.”
  • “No parts or sections are rehearsed separately unless they’re critical to the performance of the piece.”
  • “Not all of the kids who want to can stay after school because they don’t have a ride home.”
  • “Students who participate in extracurricular activities often feel they don’t have the time to add one more activity to their schedule outside of school.”

“The drummer Art Blakey once said that ‘Jazz is the ultimate form of human expression.’ With these comments it is interesting that directors have to deal with [scheduling] conflicts with jazz band when you consider that jazz may really be the ultimate form of human expression,” said MENC Jazz mentor Andrew Goodrich.

Jazz in the Curriculum

“Increasing state requirements” were often cited as an obstacle to incorporating jazz into the curricular day and recruiting students for existing ensembles. “This is a common theme,” said Goodrich. “Music education is basically being legislated out of existence.”

Overall, the poll results reflect that zero hour ensembles have their frustrations and limitations. But in the words of one educator, “We are lucky to be able to have it at all. Dedicated kids make it work.”

Want to know more? Read additional comments from this poll to learn how some of the poll respondents incorporated jazz into the school day.

Read advice from Andrew Goodrich on teaching improvisation with limited time.

Didn’t get a chance to respond to the poll? Share your thoughts on the Jazz forum.

Andrew Goodrich is assistant professor of music education at Boston University, where he supervises student teachers in addition to coaching jazz combos and teaching a graduate course in jazz history and jazz pedagogy. Read his full bio.

– Anne Wagener, February 24, 2010 ©  National Association for Music Education