Youtube’s effect on jazz education

I’ve been teaching a jazz history course at a local, private high school ( It’s an interesting challenge because it’s open to all students – not just music majors.

As a way to make the music accessible to non-musicians, I’ve been playing a LOT of music from various posts: early Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, etc. What an amazing experience to be able to discuss the evolution of jazz and then show videos of the players. It really brings the whole topic to life.

I’m not claiming a big discovery here. Sure, it’s a rather obvious thing to do. The reason I’m writing about it is the revelation to me: this was completely impossible just a few short years ago. I went to one of the largest music universities in the US but never saw any film footage of the jazz greats there. I remember the impact of seeing John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy on film – that was an incredible moment! Today, it’s immediately accessible.

I wonder what the impact will be for all this immediate access to so much content. When working with young jazz bands, I’ve been suggesting they search youtube for any music they’re playing. What a great thing to see and hear the original bands playing the tune. But also, possibly just as important, seeing similar age school groups playing as well. I remember how inspirational it was to come back from a jazz festival having heard other great bands. It was always a very quick lesson in how much more I needed to practice!

This is one of the positive stories about the good the Internet can provide. Well, as long as you don’t show your students some of the obnoxious comments people sometimes post on youtube. Can’t we all just behave ourselves?

4 thoughts on “Youtube’s effect on jazz education”

  1. Maaaan!!! En fuego, Tom!! This is future proof that you have a positive effect on jazz and that you are a great musician, composer and bandleader! This is beside the fact that you are a great guy, as well. It was a pleasure and honor to play FreedomFest with you. Give Kristina my best and I hope to see you and her, along with the kids, very soon.

    -Ernie Adams

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