Bassist Martin Nevin shares his experiences as a mentor

Working as a teacher at the Stanford Jazz Workshop involves a great deal of responsibility. As someone that the students look to for inspiration, information, and guidance, I want to make sure that I’m doing the best I can to help the students grow musically. Finding the right thing for the individual student can be a difficult task, as each of the students have different needs, personalities, and backgrounds, in addition to various strengths and natural gifts. That being said, the I believe the most important element that a teacher can pass onto any camper is inspiration. If the teacher can find a way to inspire the student, then the student will seek out the information that he/she needs with curiosity and vigor. In this regard, I have seen that the more experienced teachers have a phenomenal way of inspiring the students with an astounding consistency. These experienced educators find a way to reach students who have a variety of different experience levels and make them want to learn and get better. This talent also requires a creativity and spontaneity that is analogous to playing jazz. In other words, if something isn’t working, a good teacher will quickly come up with a new idea that will grab the campers’ attention.
Having to run my own combo this week has allowed me to test out some ways to inspire my own students. I find that the most effective way to do this is to show the guys in the band how much they can accomplish on their own. By guiding them while they lead themselves, they come to the realization that they have the power to make music on their own. The importance in this method lies in the comments that I make to guide the players in the group. Effective strategies can be anything from playing a short solo to demonstrate a concept, to making the horn players more engaged by playing backgrounds, or trading with each other. In the end, it’s about helping the young musician on his journey that will undoubtedly require passion and inspiration if he is to enjoy the process that is learning jazz.

Martin gets the horn section ready to do some backing parts behind the solos.

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