Grace is a nationally-recognized expert at teaching improvisation to students. She brings vast knowledge from her history of working with many Jazz Masters such as Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, and many others. Utilizing dozens of techniques and strategies, she will enlighten and inspire your students to present themselves confidently. She is a positive and motivating festival adjudicator and all-purpose jazz ensemble clinician who can help your bands take giant steps toward the next playing level.
WS-1 – Improvisation
In this workshop we explore different aspects of improvisation. I’ll be teaching my concepts to the students along with hands on exercises during our time together. Many of the techniques/concepts will be explored to the depth that is appropriate for the level of musicianship of the class I am teaching.
WS-2 – Connecting the melodies in your head to your instrument
One of the hardest things about improvisation is translating the ideas you have in your head (melodies, rhythms, chord changes, notes) and simultaneously playing it on your instrument. Improvisation shouldn’t just be about theory. It’s not just about moving your fingers. Improvisation is about the musical ideas in your head (along with the theory you’ve learned) and spontaneous interactions with the band. Overtime I have learned how to translate the music I’m hearing in my head to my fingers. It’s a slow process that involves practicing ear training, and singing out your ideas THEN finding the notes on your horn (or whatever instrument you play.) I’ve done a lot of workshops where I present my own ear training exercises to musicians I’m working with and they are very surprised how simple they are and yet very challenging at the same time. It’s amazing how a whole new musical world opens up when you can truly PLAY what you are HEARING. Playing/singing melodic phrases and voice leading are key musical elements that are like the “connective tissue” for me when I’m improvising.
WS-3 – Creating “Magical Musical Moments” with your band
How do we create that “spark,” that indescribable moment when you and your band are truly locked in? It almost feels as if you’re reading each other’s mind, it’s a type of synchronicity that feels higher than high.
Improvisation is all about spontaneity and listening it’s also about telling a story. We’ll dive into exercises that make you and your combo sound much tighter as a BAND. We’ll work on exercises that show you how to shape your solo, work dynamics into your song/improvisation and interact with your band members on a deep level. It doesn’t matter what “level” you are. I can improvise with my band on one note and get some fire behind it. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from my mentor and saxophone legend Lee Konitz. He talked about true spontaneity when playing with others. It’s a frame of mind one has to be in along with an openness and willingness to experience the moment.
While teaching past workshops it’s been exciting to see student combos evolve (and very quickly too!) There have been times I’ve watched a combo play a song and then after throwing them some new ideas and techniques I watch them play the same song in a completely different light. It’s great to see the students walk away buzzing with excitement and new ideas.
We’ll also go through improvisation techniques for one to practice alone in their everyday practice schedule. By practicing these concepts a little everyday your improvisations will get stronger. Just like a visual artist it’s important for us to have our toolbox. We want to expand our palate, have more choices so we can ultimately feel FREE when we’re doing the actual music making.
WS-4 – Saxophone techniques
The saxophone since the age of 10 has fascinated me, which is when I first picked it up. It continues to fascinate me every day and the possibilities are endless. In this workshop I will be talking about techniques I use on the saxophone. I’ll also be talking about “finding your personal sound, bringing out the versatility of the instrument, and influences of mine. The workshop will be formatted to the level in the room.
WS-5 – What is jazz?
In this workshop I’ll be talking about my story and how I got to where I am now. I feel like I’ve been breathing and playing music ever since I could talk. I started singing when I could talk, classical piano lessons at 6, wrote my first song at 7, saxophone at 10 and performing/recording professionally since the age of 12. In the past I’ve structured this workshop so there’s lots of playing in between talking and plenty of room for conversation. If the workshop is geared towards beginners I like to talk about jazz, what improvisation is, and why as a young person I have found a fascination for studying this genre.
If we have more intermediate advanced students in the workshop I like to get more in depth about my musical inspirations, techniques, how I go about practicing and addressing any specific music questions students have.