Facing the Music: At 25, The New School for Jazz Rocks, Raps and Jams


For The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the proverbial “those who can’t do, teach” rings flat. The faculty consists of legendary New York City musicians, such as bassist Reggie Workman and saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom. These notable instructors establish a mentoring system with students unique to the school itself.

If the first maxim fails to resonate, perhaps a second more adequately suffices: “the proof is in the pudding”. The New School for Jazz’s first 25 years have not been conventional, and perhaps because of this, it produces outstanding results, as the August 2012 issue of DownBeat magazine attests. The 60th annual Critics Poll for DownBeat recognized the program’s alumni 59 times in over 35 categories, including more than two-dozen appearances throughout the highly prestigious “Rising Stars” categories. (A full list of citations, including nominations, appears in the print edition of the magazine.)  Notable nods go out to alumni Robert Glasper and Marcus Strickland, with Glasper’s nine recognition tallies and Strickland’s win in the Rising Star Soprano Saxophone category.

“Our performance in this year’s DownBeat Critics Poll was a great way to celebrate our 25th anniversary,” said New School Jazz Director Martin Mueller. “It further confirms the success of our mission and recognizes the talent, determination and constancy of each New School Jazz generation as they write the history of the past anew.”

Glasper scored wins in five categories in the poll, including a first place for his album, Black Radio, in the Beyond Album of the Year category. He was also named Rising Star Jazz Artist and Rising Star Pianist, while critics voted his trio the Rising Star Jazz Group first.

Strickland once again scored top honors in the Rising Star Soprano Saxophone category; his first win in the division was in 2008. Though Strickland is recognized as a virtuoso on the soprano, his talents range across the saxophone family, with a highly regarded sound on the tenor, and anticipation of similar skill on the alto, which he just recently returned to playing.

The New School’s numerous nominations in this year’s poll are testimony to the talent and successful innovative teaching methods representative of the program in just 25 years since its creation. With a curriculum focused on small-group performance and one-on-one tutorial and mentoring sessions, aspiring artists cultivate inspiring musical skill from the beginning, leading to a prestigious circle of alum and exemplary tradition of achievement.