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Carl Allen

Contributors: Eric Nemeyer
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Carl Allen - Drummer, COmposer, Producer, Director of the Juilliard Jazz program.

“I always tell our students, ‘You are being auditioned whenever a guest comes in, whether you realize it or not’ – because they’re always listening and always on the lookout for that next talent.”

JI: What is the vision or mission that is the cornerstone of your school's jazz program?


CA: The vision of the Juilliard Jazz Studies program is to prepare our students to be productive, creative, contributing musicians in society, globally. Our vision is to meet our students where they are and find a way to impart what we have learned, as faculty, over the years to make it relevant for our students’ growth and development.




JI: What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of your school's jazz program?




CA: There are several distinguishing characteristics of our program. Most importantly, we have a faculty and administration that cares about our students and their development. I can recall when I approached bassist Ron Carter about joining our faculty. He said that we needed to have a series of meetings before he would make a final decision. Each meeting lasted several hours and we discussed what my vision was and what we stood for, and how I saw the program moving forward. After many hours of discussions back and forth, he agreed to join the faculty. But he said that it would have to wait until the next academic year. This was about four months before the upcoming academic year. I was excited that he agreed to join. I was also very anxious to get him started. I asked him, “Why not this coming year?” His response was, “I have commitments already for tours. I have basically retired from teaching. But I believe in the vision of the program and what you are doing. I like the direction it is going in. And, once I make a commitment to the students and to the program, I want to be there for the kids.” That spoke volumes about his commitment and his passion for the development of young musicians. So, we waited, and he has been on board for two years now, and doing a wonderful job. There are other stories like that. This means that we have very committed faculty members who are there. They are not just there on paper – in terms of just lending us their name. They are there and very involved and on a very consistent basis. Another thing that distinguishes us from a lot of other programs is the number of educational outreach opportunities that we provide for our students and for other students around the world throughout the year, and particularly in the summer. We take some of our students on the road to teach side by side with faculty members, workshops and residencies and giving performances - all over the world. Just this year alone, we had students and faculty in Costa Rica, Columbia, South America, Melbourne, Australia, Japan, Atlanta, Utah. We’re also in Maryland doing a collaboration with the Boys and Girls Clubs. This is part of the ongoing commitment. We believe that the next generation of musicians not only have to be great players, but great educators as well.




JI: What are some of the biggest challenges current students are and will be facing and how is your program preparing them to overcome those to succeed?




CA: One of the biggest challenges our students are facing and will face is the prospect of employment. The question becomes, what are we preparing our students for? I am of the belief that jazz is very much alive, and not dead, contrary to what others have said. But in these times, I believe it is a time for musicians to unite and be more self-sufficient. It would be a wonderful thing to see more musicians starting their own jazz festivals, and starting their own labels and clubs. But one of the things that we have been doing to help prepare our students is to bring in a lot of guest artists for concerts and master-classes. I always tell our students, “You are being auditioned whenever a guest comes in, whether you realize it or not” – because they’re always listening and always on the lookout for that next talent. So as we continue to expose our students to these great masters that are out here playing, and that have bands, and that are employing young people, it is a great opportunity for them.




JI: What kinds of guidance does your program offer to ensure that students are positioned with the business skills to empower themselves?




CA: I think this is a great question and I agree with you wholeheartedly that many musicians have not developed an understanding of business and marketing for themselves. The challenge as musicians is that we first have to musically represent ourselves. If we are not playing on a high level, and if you don’t have a marketable product, with your skills and talent and ability, then having great business and marketing skills, is like putting the cart before the horse. As musicians, we have to first represent our selves on the highest level. Then we also have to understand business. We have a Business of Jazz class. We also have an Ensemble Practicum, which deal with hands on things – press packages, how to put together a budget. I take examples from different things I have encountered – where a label gives you a budget of X amount of dollars, and you have to deliver a Master recording. Many of us have gone over with the students what that entails. Guitarist Rodney Jones was the contractor for Bill Cosby for a number of years. He has gone over what it is like to contract a show. So we talk to the students about the business and give them the real things that they have to do. We try to encourage them – especially about owning your own product, how to set up your own publishing company. Setting up a record company is not hard. You can set up a record label in 24 hours. But the question becomes, how do you get your product out there? We deal with social networking sites. We have contractors, publicists, producers from record companies, and club owners visit the school, and they offer ways of getting your music out there, and what they look for. A record label executive will come in and say when I get packages on my desk and I don’t listen to them, this is why. We give the students ideas about what they should do and what they should avoid.

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