By Simon Isham–
The Cardinal talked to two Jazz School students, Kendall Carter (KC) and Isaac Poole (IP), about their experiences. Carter is a sophomore who plays piano; Poole is a junior who plays piano and guitar.
Q: What makes the Jazz Department so tight-knit?
IP: (W)e are surrounded by people who not only respect each other for the skills and ideas they have, but also share the same goal of making great music. It always surprises me that we don’t have more a competitive atmosphere, but I think when it comes down to it, everybody is here to be the best they can be and we are all willing to help each other accomplish this. Jazz isn’t about being better than anybody else, just making the best out of what we are given.
KC: The jazz community as a whole is filled with such diversity. We have had and still do have guys from Brazil, Canada, Columbia and Australia. Some guys also play rock, pop, gospel, et cetera, but what knits us together is our love for music. We each bring to the table a different approach. Together, we mold new ways of listening to and playing jazz. To form a really good jazz group, the members have to know their roles individually, and they have to know each other both artistically and personally.
Q: Kendall, you have called the music school ‘the happiest place on campus’. What makes it that way?
KC: Because in order to form a really good jazz group, the members have to know their roles individually, and they have to know each other both artistically and personally.
IP: (W)e all work hard, but we still have a lot of fun and end up making great music, which is extremely rewarding.
Q: When you decided to enroll, were there any faculty that you could tell that you wanted to work with right away?
IP: When I enrolled, I realize now I went into it blindly. I only really knew my guitar teacher, who I have taken lessons with when I was a little kid. He was the main reason I came here. When I auditioned I met some other professors, but I did realize how amazing they are and how much the will teach me. I got really lucky.
KC: When I enrolled, I knew that I at least wanted to study under John LaBarbera, the infamous composer-slash-arranger-slash-trumpeter. I knew his forty-plus years of experience would help shape my playing and composition.
Q: What makes it better than other jazz programs?
IP: It’s hard for me to say how this program compares to others, because I don’t know too much about other places. It’s much smaller them places like Berkley so we more individual attention, which I like, and I believe the professors are at the same level. Really, how much you get out of a program depends on how much you put in. You have to be autodidactic to succeed; I’ve seen some amazing players who work hard come through here and I’ve seen people half-a** and remain at the same level they came in as.
Q: How has your training helped you in getting and doing gigs?
IP: Like any profession, going to college can only give you a strong theoretical base, but never compares to the real thing. We get a lot of chances to perform and create our own music, but going out on your own is always going to be a new experience. But I know I wouldn’t stand a chance if I hadn’t had the experiences I had here.
KC: My training has been phenomenal. I studied under Cincinnati native Jim Connerly, who is an excellent pianist in his own right. What I love about his teaching is that it demands a lot from you. He pulls out hidden talents. By doing this, he has thrust me into a level of musicianship that I never thought I’d reach. In my first year alone, he has taken me from performing gigs only during the holidays to performing on a weekly basis, which is a tremendous testament to his mentorship.
Photos courtesy Isaac Poole and Kendall Carter