Jazzing It Up at TC
Published in Inside - Volume XIV, No. 7
Kai Furbeck vividly recalls the emotion he felt the first time he attended the Teachers College Music Improv Camp: cold fear. He was part of an ensemble scheduled to play jazz legend Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” and the head of the camp was none other than TC Adjunct Professor of Music Bert Konowitz, who had once played with Brubeck.
“Basically, I was terrified,” recalls the 16-year-old drummer.
Kai plowed into the music nonetheless, and with some additional hours of practice after camp, he and the other musicians managed to make their way through “Take Five,” improvisation and all.
“It pushed me into exploring something I hadn’t listened to a thousand times,” Kai says. “It was really successful, and I was proud with myself for doing it.”
The Teachers College Music Improv Camp for Middle and High School Students has become a summer mainstay at TC since Konowitz, also a TC alumnus, started it in 2004, attracting dozens of young musicians from throughout the tri-state area. This year’s camp, which will feature award-winning jazz saxophonist Erica von Kliest and vocalist Wanda Ray Willis as guest artists, is scheduled for July 20–24, 2009.
The camp is open to everyone from singers and percussionists to keyboard and guitar players, and Konowitz says the students learn to improvise on jazz standards, as well as blues, rock, ragas and even world and classical music.
The goal, Konowitz says, is to teach students the concepts and skills of improvisation and to do so while enabling them to develop their self-confidence. “Lots of camps emphasize what students can’t do,” Konowitz says, “we do the opposite.”
Konowitz also believes that the camp helps develop leadership skills. Kai, for example, will attend the camp for the third time, but he’ll do so this year as part of a special leadership training program that the camp developed for more experienced musicians. And Sarah D’Antonio, 17, a classically trained vocalist, will be back for her fourth camp and will serve an associate faculty member.
“At first, improv is scary,” Sarah says, “but once you take that leap, it is the most fun thing in the world.”
Both Kai and Sarah credit Konowitz for pushing them to take chances. “He provides a warm and welcoming environment,” Sarah says, “but at the same time brings you out of your comfort zone.”
For his part, Konowitz is pleased to be able to share part of the TC experience with young people.
“I love all that the camp represents,” he says. “I received my master’s and doctoral degrees at Teachers College, so I have an intimate connection with the school, and what we’re doing in the camp is an embodiment of what TC is all about and what it strives for.”
For more information on the camp or to apply, go to www.tc.edu/improvcamp.previous page