Jazz Bridge Journal Post #13: A Legacy Move

Posted on December 21, 2011

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 This is a post from our second day in Khabarovsk.  Wish I’d gotten to it sooner. But it is interesting to reflect on my perspective early on and how it fleshed out over the week.

I’m thinking of coining a new phrase.  The phrase is “Legacy Move.”  A legacy move is the single action or course of action that has repercussions down through generations.  Carnegie building his libraries was a legacy move.  Setting up the WPA was one too.  But they can happen on a local scale too.  My colleague Charley Gray told me about a guy named Phil Hardemann, who was an administrator in the Berkeley school districts in the 70’s.  He made it a practice to fill the ranks of general education grade school teachers in his schools with skilled jazz musicians.  So your first grade teacher was a jazz musician.  Your second grade teacher was a jazz musician.  Then he developed a curriculum that allowed them to deliver music into the classroom.  So you learned recorder, as well as math and reading from a jazz musician.  Enough years of this and you get musicians like Grammy winner Joshua Redman, pianist Benny Green and dozens of other musicians who are both leading figures and contributing members to communities far from where they grew up.

I’d love to make one legacy move in my life.

We met the music administrator of this school- Ludmilla.  I’m still not clear on what she does, but I’m told she is not a teacher.  From what I can tell they don’t teach music, but they teach about music.  After several months attempting to understand the Russian music education system I think I’m getting a handle on it.

Valery Khusainov, the director of jazz at the Khabarovsk College of the Arts has a vision of creating a music school like David Douglas.  Ever since his visit here, he has been telling me how inspired he was by seeing David Douglas Middle and High schools, and how they wanted to create a school like that in Khabarovsk.  I couldn’t figure out what had so impressed him about it.  David Douglas is a fine music program, but that unique.  I couldn’t understand what made it exceptional.

Now I get it.  There are no orchestras in Khabarovsk public schools.  There are no bands.  There are few if any choirs. If you want to learn an instrument you have to pay to attend a private music school.  (We will visit one of them tomorrow.) So for all intents and purposes there is no music in the schools in Khabarovsk.  There is also no non-profit, privately funded, community supported youth orchestra in Khabarovsk.  No Portland Youth Philharmonic.  No Metropolitan Youth Symphony.  And needless to say there are no youth jazz programs.

Now I see what was so stunning to him about David Douglas. In that one school he saw an orchestra, a band, a jazz band, and a choir! This was enough to create a vision.  But he wants to do us one better.  He wants the kids to learn how to play instruments in the school.  Which makes sense because if they could afford to take lessons, then they would be going to a private music school

So now I know Valery’s secret motive in finagling our visit to Gymnasium #3.  We were bait.  We were a means to plant the seeds for a long-term effort to change the way things are done, one school at a time, and one grade at a time if necessary.  He says it will take ten years.  Instruments for the first graders is the first step.

But his vision goes beyond this.  His real goal is really far reaching.  In Russia, you go from high school, which ends generally in 11th grade, to college.  College is four years and prepares you for University, which is two to five years depending on your course of study.  In University you intensely study your subject, or your major, as we would call it.  But Universities have a wide range of extracurricular activities. So if you are, say at the University for Polytechnic and you want to play music, you might join one of its extracurricular organizations.  If you were at Pacific University in Khabarovsk you might take part in jazz big band this way.

These programs are often well funded, as in extremely well funded.  In fact, one of these extracurricular programs at the local University has a budget that exceeds the entire annual budget of the College of Arts where Valery teaches. Valery says that different schools even schedule competitions with each other.  It seems like the Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) that they have at Portland State, only with the budget of big time college sports.

Valery’s plan, and I think it is brilliant, is to get all these public school kids playing music, involved in ensembles, taking lessons, so that when they get to college, which ever college they go to, they will continue with music.  They will start and maintain extracurricular music programs in their colleges and Universities.   They may even teach or tutor music, for which some Colleges will cover their tuition.  So it’s like a big feedback loop. The students are initiated into lifelong participation in music.  Even as they are learning they are teaching and inspiring the next generation.

It’s a legacy move.

Valery Khusainov talking to the 8th grade class at School #3

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