Music camps, usually during the summer months, can be an exhilarating and informative venture for aspiring music students and working professional musicians. I recently wrapped up my second stint on the jazz faculty for the JazzWorks Canada Jazz Camp near Harrington Quebec at the beautiful CAMMAC Arts Center which is about two hours northwest of Montreal. At the camp, I get to teach some amazing students and perform with supremely gifted artists. Most of the faculty members are Canadian, but this year there was a faculty member from Israel and a few from the United States. I was one of three Americans that were on the faculty list this year. On the eastern side of Canada, you have an extraordinary pool of incredibly talented artists to tap into from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Each faculty member is assigned a group of students to form a jazz ensemble which is not unusual at these camps. In addition to teaching our ensembles, we also teach masterclasses (private lessons for our instruments) and give a workshop for the student body and other faculty members. My workshop was titled “The Rhythmic Nuances of the Swing Beat.” I discussed and demonstrated my concepts of the swing rhythm in jazz using triplet figures as the foundation with accent placement, beat emphasis and note durations. There’s much involved here, but I had an attentive and interactive workshop with a wonderful group of deeply focused students.

One of the great things about the camp, and with most jazz camps, is the access to multiple perspectives. You have three or four piano instructors, as an example, or a few different saxophone teachers, or guitarists or drum instructors. The students can get differing approaches to playing their instrument and jazz. One teacher is one perspective. The camp gives the students access to informative choices that only helps to move them forward…getting different perspectives from different teachers. The teachers don't know the ability of the students until we arrive unless we’ve had them at a previous camp. Many of these students have attended multiple years. This year all my students were new. The ability levels vary from student to student. You get jazz beginners and intermediate levels and the once in a blue moon advanced student. Many of these students have played their instruments for a while but haven't dappled much in the jazz concept which is very different than anything else they will play. As their teachers we have to figure out their strengths and weaknesses in determining what we can play musically. It’s a challenge merging beginning talent with intermediate or advanced level students. Perhaps in the future there can be different level ensembles, but I don’t want to be the teacher making that decision. Ha!

During the week the students learn to play different jazz pieces, in different styles. All of the faculty members teach the students to play in a variety of styles and concepts such as straight up 4/4 swing, the waltz or other odd meters, ballads, Bossa novas and Sambas. Also, there are deep improvisation studies utilizing rhythmic, harmonic and melodic variations. It’s a heavy load jazz crash course for a week time frame, but the students are hungry to learn. It’s so great to see the interest in this music from students and professionals from all over the globe.

On the last day of the camp we have the equivalent of the student recital with ensemble concerts. Each one of the faculty members' ensemble performs for everyone at the camp. It’s pressure for the students, yes, but it gives them the true feeling of playing for a live audience. We try to create a real live professional performance setting for them. It’s invigorating for the students and helps to fuel their motivation. They LOVE it!!! We get the students to play two to three pieces for the final concert. There’s much preparation that goes into a week of teaching. Areas such as the rhythm and improvisation are difficult to teach under any time frame but a week is really tough. You have to give the students the foundation to build from. The ideas, and again, it's about finding the areas that work for the students. I thought my students did a fantastic job on Joe Henderson's Recorda-me, Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and My Funny Valentine. I played drums with them and a huge part of my approach to teaching this music is putting heavy emphasis on the rhythmic foundation which is about playing good time, swinging and creating a comfortable, soulful feel for the group. I always challenge them to go beyond their comfortable range. If you can establish a strong, feel-good foundation, you can build on it more easily. As a teacher, I work on developing their confidence. Jazz is an intimidating music to play, and jazz camps are in my view, a very nice option for the student to learn much about this music. Even for professional musicians. A great idea. It’s like 24/7 jazz for the week. I’m so proud of all of these students. Every group was great, and congratulations to all the teachers for a job well done. The students played beautifully!

Jae Sinnett hosts Sinnett in Session, The R&B Chronicles, and Students in Session on WHRV FM. He also shares his love of the culinary arts on Cooking with Jae on Facebook every Sunday at 6 p.m. Plus, catch up with past episodes