University of Florida School of Music Assistant Professor of Jazz Scott Wilson and nine UF jazz graduate students recently had the opportunity to spend a week in San Diego, California, during the 6th annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference. The conference, which was held Jan. 7-10, 2015 included clinics, exhibits, research presentations, performances by celebrity jazz artists and more. This was the second consecutive year that Wilson was elected to serve as education manager for the conference. Wilson was tasked to make sure all of the clinics ran smoothly and that the artists were happy.
Wilson’s team of graduate students served as artist handlers for the conference, assisting as needed. There were many notable artists in attendance, including Herbie Hancock, Poncho Sanchez and Bobby Shew.
Clyde Connor, who is currently pursuing his M.M. in Performance at UF, was one of the nine graduate students in attendance. “It was great to make contacts and get an idea of what's going on in jazz education,” said Connor. “Just being there and seeing everything gave me an idea of what is being taught in mainstream schools. It was a great educational experience.”
Dave Becker, who earned his M.M. in Music Education in 2014 and is now working on getting his M.A. in Digital Arts and Sciences, is another graduate student who worked alongside Connor at the conference.
“Clyde and I were utilized when Scott was running a clinic with a band. He would have Clyde come up and show the drummer how to play and he had me come up, play saxophone and act as the lead alto in the jazz band,” said Becker. “Basically, we were just assisting in any way we could to make things run smoothly. The rest of the time, we were able to enjoy some of the performances outside. It was a nice balance of being able to soak in a lot of jazz, help with the school and meet some people who are very important in the educational circle of jazz around the country.”
One of Becker’s most cherished moments during the conference was being able to reconnect with one of his favorite saxophone players, Sal Lozano, who is part of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. This was the first time in more than four years that Becker had seen Lozano since meeting him at a UF summer camp in 2010.
“It was so neat because we had only known each other for that week that we were together at camp, and I came up after they performed and I looked at him and he remembered my name,” said Becker. “It made me feel so good. I was like ‘Wow, after four years this incredible player remembered my name.’ That made my conference. That was so cool.”
Beyond networking, the part of the conference that had the biggest impact on both students was reconnecting with friends. Connor, who spent some time in the U.S. Navy Jazz Band in Washington D.C. before attending UF, said he was excited about catching up with old military band friends.
“It was great to see those people again and talk about what I’m doing now in school. That was the best part – seeing old friends and educators,” said Connor.
For Becker, bonding with all of the current UF graduate students, who he calls his “brothers in crime,” was the peak of his conference experience. “We were at the Ramada Inn and it was right in the middle of the Gaslamp district of San Diego and we could go hang out on the rooftop,” he reminisced. “We could watch the planes land and watch the sunset. Bonding with my fellow grad students was my favorite part.”
Participation in the conference will also have positive effects on the students’ future endeavors. “Because we all have that on our resume, it will open some doors down the road when we go to get a job and at future conferences,” said Becker.