September 4, 2012
NAMM’s SchoolJam USA is a one-of-a-kind national teen battle of the bands competition. It provides teen musicians with a national stage to showcase their talents, compete for fantastic prizes and support their local school music education programs. Unlike other music competitions, SchoolJam USA works to unite local schools, teens, educators and communities in the quest to get young people making music and to promote the importance of school music programs.
The SchoolJam USA season starts each year in August and is open to amateur teen musicians between the ages of 13 and 19. There is no cost for students to enter and all styles of music are welcomed. Submissions deadline for the 2013 competition is October 26, 2012.
In 2012, Jazz Avenue won Best Teen Band in the USA in the third annual SchoolJam USA Competition. They received $5000 for their school music education program, $1000 toward the purchase of new equipment, and a professional music video recording session on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. Following their win, the band traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to headline the Original SchoolJam Competition held during the MusikMesse trade fair.
Two members of Jazz Avenue (guitarist Joshua Vasquez and bassist Marc Encabo) sat down to talk with Debra Bresnan about music, music education, and the impact of winning last year’s SchoolJam USA competition.
Why do you play music?
Josh: I play music because it is a positive outlet for my emotions, both positive and negative. When I’m happy, I play. When I’m sad, I play. Music allows me to express my thoughts and feelings in a way that everyone can relate to.
Marc: Music is an escape for me. It puts me in another element and gives me another platform to be creative and express myself.
Why do you think it’s important to have music education and instruction in school?
Josh: Music education is very important in school because it gives the kids a release from the mundane everyday activities. Some may argue that a release is not needed or that PE class or recess is enough, but the fact of the matter is that students need a peaceful time to wind down during the day. If students are not given this peaceful time, their minds grow tired and fatigued. It’s also very possible that through school music programs, students can start to pursue music, either as a career path or a hobby.
Marc: Music education is an extremely important thing to have in school because it encourages more than just learning music. It builds good work ethic, expands creativity, and enhances a student's ability to learn and work in other areas.
Tell us why your band entered the SchoolJam USA competition and how did participating help you?
Josh: I entered SchoolJam USA under the encouragement of my first guitar instructor, Pauline France. I thought it would be a fun experience as well as a way to see where my group and I stand in the music world. Participating in the competition helped broaden my horizons and helped me to realize that good music is found everywhere, not only in one place.
Marc: We entered the SchoolJam USA competition as a fun way to showcase our music. It helped us grow even more as musicians and helped us get our music out there to the world.
What advice or words of encouragement would you offer to other student bands that may want to enter the SchoolJam USA competition?
Josh: My advice to other bands that want to enter is to just have fun playing the music that you love. No matter what style of music you play or whether your band comes out on top or not, you can always say that you tried your best and had a blast doing it!
Marc: Be yourself. Develop your own unique sound and enjoy the experience of playing together as a group.
What did you learn from this experience?
Josh: The most valuable thing I learned is the importance of making sure your playing is of quality. It’s truly amazing how if an entire band is good, just one member who is off their game can set the whole thing on fire. So I learned how to be on top of all my musical parts.
Marc: I learned how much I love playing music, and how important it is to be collaborative and tight as a band. Playing in a band has a much greater dynamic than playing solo. Each band member has to listen and vibe off of each other for the combined product to sound good.
Tell us about what it was like to go to Germany and perform in the SchoolJam Finals.
Josh: My experience in Germany is one that I will never forget. I have never been to a place with a history as rich as Germany’s. It opened my eyes to an entirely new culture and I loved every second of it.
Marc: Germany was a surreal experience. It was definitely a blessing to be able to perform on a foreign stage where no one has heard our music before, and to even step foot in a foreign country with all expenses paid.
(Editor’s Note: Learn more about Jazz Avenue’s gig in Germany here.)
And, what's next for the members of Jazz Avenue?
Josh: As of right now, Jazz Avenue is on hiatus so that its members can focus on college. However a reunion concert at NAMM 2013 is in the works!
Marc: Five of our six members will be going off to college this fall, so we will be focusing our time and energy on getting our studies finished. In August, we finished recording our debut studio album, "Bridging the Gap," which is available online at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jazzavenue1.
If you’d like to learn more about Jazz Avenue, here are two interviews with the band on YouTube:
-- Debra Bresnan is a communications consultant for SupportMusic.com and a member of its Steering Committee. She produces web content, newsletters and other written materials for businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org