Summertime Blues | Teachers College Columbia University

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Summertime Blues

Burt Konowitz, TC Adjunct Professor of Music and leader of the improv ensemble Spirit, at a jazz improvisation session in Horace Mann Auditorium. Konowitz is running a one-of-a-kind summer improv camp for city youth.

 Bert Konowitz has been teaching music at Teachers College longer than he cares to admit-"since the days when you could park lengthwise out front, and there were no meters." He's seen a lot of changes for the better during that time, both at TC and in New York City schools, but unfortunately one thing hasn't changed: "There are still too many kids sitting around during the summers with nothing to do."

So now Konowitz, an adjunct professor of music and leader of the TC Improv ensemble Spirit, is doing something about it. This summer, for the second year in a row, he will lead the TC Music Improvisation Camp, a five-day program for high school musicians from New York City and suburban schools.

"This is all about teaching kids how to think on their feet and become spontaneous as performers," he says of the program, which is the country's only improvisation clinic for young people. "Most of the kids we get don't know how to improvise, and a lot of them will tell you they can hardly play. But it's not true-like most people, they're much better than they think they are. We're giving them the opportunity to find that out by playing with other musicians who will accept them. They'll get a lot of music, trips to Lincoln Center and Columbia, workshops in new electronic technologies-it's quite an event."

The program, offered in cooperation with TC's Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation and the TC Music Program, runs July 25 through July 29. Grants have been awarded by The ASCAP Foundation, The Leonard Bernstein Family Foundation, Herb and Rita Gold (founders of TC's Rita Gold Early Childhood Education Center), TC Special Counsel Janice Robinson, and Sound Tree, a division of the music company Korg U.S.A. Alfred Music, a music publishing company, is supplying textbooks to the students.

The program is currently accepting applications for this summer's session. For more information, contact Konowitz at or 516 364-0286.

Published Thursday, Mar. 24, 2005