Bring the Beantown Swing Orchestra to your school and introduce your students to the culturally and historically significant form of music known as big band swing, and have our players work with your jazz ensemble members to enhance their performance capabilities. Our musicians are young, energetic educators dedicated to achieving the Beantown Swing Orchestra's mission of promoting this timeless music to younger generations.
We are pleased to offer the following:
Presentation on The Origins of Jazz
Critique of school jazz ensemble performance
Sectionals to work on current charts
Masterclasses for each instrument
Jazz improvisation workshops
Swing Era transcriptions
Joint concert or swing dance
Recruiting for our "farm system"
THE ORIGINS OF JAZZ
This lecture and live music demo describes the fascinating way that jazz music was created in New Orleans after the Civil War. As part of the discussion, seven of our musicians will explain the function of their instrument (drums, bass, piano, guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone/clarinet) in the context of the traditional jazz band, emphasizing the importance of listening to each other and playing as a cohesive unit. Several ensemble pieces will be performed, followed by a Q&A session. Geared towards general audiences, this presentation is a great way to boost kids' interest in musical instruments while introducing them to an exciting and purely American form of music.
Our educators will lend a critical ear (and eye) and provide feedback on your jazz ensembles’ live performance. This will also create a reference point for our clinics; specific passages can be worked on in the sectionals, and mechanics, techniques, and skills will be discussed in the masterclasses. Improvised solos can be addressed in separate workshops as well.
For each instrument in the big band, we'll give masterclasses for your students to learn essential skills and techniques that are fundamental to that instrument. For example, proper posture and breath support for trumpet players is the key to volume, pitch, stamina, injury prevention, and many other important elements of playing. This is of particular significance in big band swing music, which requires all instruments to play with a big, full sound and up to 50 charts per gig.
Correct mechanics are important to learn at an early age so students don't develop bad habits which would take longer to correct if left unchecked.
If specific passages on charts need to be worked on, we will break your ensemble down into sections and go over phrasing, articulation, dynamics, lead/support roles, and methods of practice. Many fundamental skills can be learned from any one passage, which can then be applied to other charts.
Here is an example of teaching trumpet shakes, emphasizing proper techniques and practice methods.
Jazz Improvisation Workshops
Improvisation is the essence of jazz and an important and exciting element of any big band. Though ensemble playing is our main focus, it creates a supporting framework for individual features like solos and vocals to shine. In our improvisation workshops, we teach the basics of playing over chord changes without delving too deeply into jazz theory and overwhelming the students. Most Swing Era charts feature short solos for several instruments over basic changes, which works well for ensembles looking to give a greater number of students the confidence to improvise over at least a few bars. Our emphasis is using a basic scale and playing notes that sound good to the student; "less is more" applies here, and much can be said with fewer notes and varying rhythms. Interestingly, many musicians in early Swing Era bands played the same solos every time; for the student, we encourage writing out short solos as a good way to play with confidence if they are not yet fluent in jazz.
We can arrange custom charts tailored to the strengths of your students while deemphasizing their weaknesses, making them sound better as a whole. This will also provide your ensembles with a distinct advantage at competitions where experienced judges can hear every mistake. One of the problems with stock charts used by most schools is that they are usually written by arrangers who do not have a full understanding of the intricacies and limitations of each instrument, often resulting in unnecessarily complex parts and frustration for the players. In contrast, our trumpeter and staff arranger Danny Fratina has arranged and transcribed hundreds of charts for the Beantown Swing Orchestra over the past ten years and knows, for example, how to create voicings that allow instrumentalists to play their parts without being overly taxed, as well as simplifying them based on the ability of the players but still retaining the full big band sound. On the improvisation front, he'll arrange according to the soloists you want to feature and adjust the harmonizations based on their abilities. Like a tailor crafting a custom fitted suit, Danny Fratina will create arrangements that will make your ensembles shine.
This video features a chart that Rockport High School commissioned Fratina to write for their jazz ensemble's performance at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival competition. It is Michael Bublé's version of "Feeling Good" transposed to a key suitable for their star female vocalist and, at the same time, playable by their young and unexperienced (but extremely talented) trumpet section.
Swing Era Transcriptions
We also have dozens of classic Swing Era charts, all transcribed by Danny Fratina from the original 1930s and 1940s recordings and available for sale at an economical price. By listening to bands like the Benny Goodman Orchestra performing these beautiful arrangements and then playing it themselves, students will quickly learn and emulate the fundamental techniques and style of big band swing, providing a firm foundation in jazz to build on. As with our custom charts, these transcriptions can be tailored to feature different soloists than originally written for, as well as adjusted to fit your ensemble’s configuration (e.g. replacing the clarinet with a sax or adding a 5th trumpet).
A compilation of 24 instrumental Swing Era charts available for your big band to perform
Show off your ensemble players' new skills by inviting students, parents, and the community to a joint big band concert in your auditorium. Your students will experience the Beantown Swing Orchestra in all its glory, while our musicians will get to see the fruits of their labor in your ensembles' representing the future of big band music.
Alternatively, invite the student body to a swing dance in your gymnasium, cafeteria, or other performance space. Dancing was what Swing Era music was created for in the first place, and partner dancing is a whole other lost art that we would love to see revived in younger generations. We'll bring a pair of experienced dance instructors to give a group lesson, perform demos, and encourage students to dance, while the Beantown Swing Orchestra performs songs that are sure to be enjoyed by this age group. This social activity provides a wholesome and healthy alternative in an era where electronics and other sedentary activities dominate young adults' leisure time.
Our school clinics have the added benefit of allowing us to scout out young and talented students and train them for eventully performing with the Beantown Swing Orchestra. We often invite some of the most promising students to sit in with us on a few charts at a performance, allowing them to gain some experience with a professional big band and its high level of musicianship. One of our proudest moments came when one of our trainees, 16-year-old vocalist Kiva Trumbour, appeared as our special guest at a holiday concert and stole the show with her performance of "All I Want For Christmas Is You," for which she received a standing ovation.