THE EFFECTS OF PRACTICE-BASED AND THEORETICAL-BASED PEDAGOGICAL APPROACHES ON JAZZ IMPROVISATION AND PERFORMANCE ACHIEVEMENT BY HIGH SCHOOL MUSICIANS
Brumbach, Glen A
Hewitt, Michael P
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The main purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of two methods of jazz instruction—theoretical-based and practice-based—on the improvisational development and performance of high school jazz musicians. Secondary purposes were to investigate (a) what instructional activities students in a jazz ensemble setting find useful in developing their performance and creative jazz improvisation skills; (b) how instruction in a jazz ensemble setting affects students’ perceptions and attitudes towards cultural diversity in music; and (c) jazz band directors’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the two types of jazz instruction. The study sample consisted of 10 high school jazz bands from the southeastern region of a Mid-Atlantic state. Participants were randomly assigned to either the theoretical-based control group or the practice-based experimental group. Both groups were given the same jazz composition and were recorded when sight-reading the piece for the pretest. Individual student soloists in the control (n = 13) and experimental (n = 21) groups improvised over a 32-measure section of the piece. After four weeks of instruction, both groups were again recorded for the posttest evaluation. All ensemble participants (N = 191) completed a questionnaire pertaining to pedagogical and cultural perspectives and band directors in the experimental group were interviewed to address the secondary purposes of the study. Recordings were evaluated by three experienced adjudicators using measures developed for this study. Mean gain was computed by subtracting pretest mean scores from posttest means for both jazz ensemble performance and jazz improvisation. Scores were compared between the control and experimental groups using a between-subjects repeated measures ANOVA. Responses to questionnaire items were examined using descriptive statistics. The results showed that the practice-based group achieved significantly greater gains in improvisation than the theoretical-based group. Participants indicated that listening activities were useful in helping them to improve their performance and improvisation skills. Practice-based participants indicated a stronger inclination to express themselves through improvisation and were more likely to listen to jazz outside school than were theoretical-based participants.