null Studia Generalia - Alternative Approaches to Jazz Education in Secondary Schools

CERADA – Studia Generalia Autumn 2019

Alternative Approaches to Jazz Education in Secondary Schools
Richard Frank, California State University, Northridge (CSUN)

When: Thu 21st November, 17:30-19:30
Where: Music Centre's Auditorium, H-1112 (first floor)


Mainstream music education in the United States has not changed significantly in over 75 years. Primarily teacher-led, it remains focused on Western classical repertoire, geared toward three main types of musical ensembles: band (marching and concert), orchestra (strings), and choir. A fourth pillar, jazz band, favors big band classic swing repertoire and instrumentation. This calcified approach to music education emphasizes strict mechanics and mastery of large group performances at the expense of individualism and creativity. Prioritizing the collective over the individual and mechanics over creativity often produces disengaged and passive music learners, resulting in high student attrition. 

The PlayTheGroove initiative decalcifies music education with a fresh approach, which has now been implemented in the national study that forms the basis of this action research. PlayTheGroove consists of modern jazz and world music presented in the classroom along with materials and methodologies designed to encourage and engage secondary school ensembles. Students take ownership of the learning process, choosing music they find meaningful and relevant, and participate in solo and group exercises that promote the Four Cs of a 21st century education: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. In this study on PlayTheGroove, research participants used a student-led, problem-based learning approach consisting of recordings, sheet music, and other resources, with a flexible methodology aligned to the National Core Arts Standards (NCAS).

During the lecture Richard will walk you through the methodology of the project, and present the research that put the initiative through objective implementation with six case studies. The results show a significant increase in student engagement, changes in teacher’s heuristic approaches to teaching music, and an increased ability of students to communicate, collaborate, and organize as a group to solve problems.

Live-streaming of the lecture via THIS LINK.



Richard Frank has been entrenched in the entertainment industry for 30 years as both a professional musician and a successful business development executive. He received an AAS in Music Performance at Onondaga Community College, and a BM in Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California, took numerous graduate level course at USC and is now pursuing an M.A. in Educational Technology at the California State University Northridge. His proficiency as an acoustic & electric bassist turned professional when invited to perform with several world-class ensembles including the Harry James Orchestra, and The American Youth Symphony under the baton of Maestro Mehli Mehta. This background led to a manager position for the American Youth Symphony, where was quickly elevated to Director of Development. His appreciation of Mehli Mehta ultimately led Richard producing a one-hour PBS documentary on the legendary Indian conductor entitled Maestro Mehli Mehta and the American Youth Symphony with Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Midori, Robert Merrill, host Walter Matthau and several others.  

These ambitious accomplishments led to a series of positions as a marketing and communications specialist with several top-tier creative agencies gaining expertise in everything from film and TV title design and branding to major launch packages, radio campaigns & animation sequences. In his expansive career, Frank has worked with nearly every major television network and film studio in Hollywood and New York. 

In the early 2000s, Richard joined forces with Ronnie Kaufman, the original mesmerizing drummer from GAP Band, to create Present Tense, an organic contemporary groove-jazz band based in Los Angeles. The duo produced two original CDs Night Shadows and Smooth Talkin’ that drew glowing reviews and nationwide radio play. 

Though drawn toward music at a young age, Richard was not introduced to so-called jazz or classical until college. This lack of exposure was the underlying inspiration behind PlayTheGroove. PlayTheGroove is his current passion to bring modern jazz and world music to secondary ensembles with a rhythm section that is inclusive for all instruments from horns, strings, woodwinds, brass, and rhythm players. It’s a new path for music education and he reached out to some of the top people in the field to contribute including educators Patrice Rushen - Chair of the USC Popular Music Department and outstanding pop & jazz performer, Chris Stevens – past-president of the California Alliance for Jazz and head of the Long Beach Polytechnic High School’s jazz department, and Tony White - Los Angeles Unified School Districts (LAUSD) Music and Entertainment Coordinator joined Richard to help forward the vision.