Zero Hour Jazz: Poll Results

A recent MENC poll asked jazz educators when they teach jazz. Here’s what 89 respondents said:

  • Before school  30%
  • During lunch  1%
  • During the school day as a class period  24%
  • During the school day – students are pulled out of another class  2%
  • After school  24%
  • Other, or some combination of the above  19%

“Other” responses included weekends, recess, lunch, homeroom, evenings, and after-school clubs.

The Challenges of Scheduling Jazz

“The results seem pretty typical. Most people (music educators) will say that jazz bands are an important part of a school music program, yet it is typically offered at ‘zero hour’ and often as a class for no credit or simply as an extracurricular ensemble,” said MENC Jazz mentor Andrew Goodrich.

“Scheduling demands are often the culprit,” added Goodrich. The challenge of scheduling around athletics and other extracurriculars was a common theme in the poll. Respondents who teach “zero hour” jazz have an average of 2 hours a week of class/rehearsal time.

Where’s the Improvisation?

Forty-six percent of respondents who teach “zero hour” classes said they don’t have enough time to teach improvisation, while 34% said they have “somewhat” enough time.

“Jazz bands are often rehearsed as ‘mini concert bands,’” said Goodrich. “Jazz musicians, jazz researchers, and jazz pedagogues have all argued that improvisation is typically not the primary focus of the jazz ensemble. This is interesting, since jazz music is primarily improvisation.”

As one respondent pointed out, limited time means not only less improvisation, but also less jazz history and theory.

While many respondents feel frustrated with “zero hour” limitations, one made the point that “at least the students are getting exposure.” Another said, “I’m glad to have what I have, but I’d like more time.”

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 3, 2010 ©  National Association for Music Education