HomeLJS PodcastThe Dark Side of Jazz Musician Culture

The Dark Side of Jazz Musician Culture

The movie Whiplash came out in 2014 and it’s about this young jazz drummer named Andrew Nyman, who is determined to succeed as a jazz musician, and he’s driven by his demanding music teacher, Terrence Fletcher, who can be best described as a harsh, ruthless yet highly respected instructor who really has abusive teaching methods.

And Andrew the drummer, a student at college, can best be described as an overly ambitious young musician who is completely obsessed with improving and, of course, fulfilling his desire to be a great musician.

And when this movie first came out and I watched it I absolutely hated it. I hated it because to me it seemed like this completely wrong view of what it’s like to be an aspiring musician or what it’s like to be instructed by great jazz musicians.

Is it really this abusive, horrifying, stressful, deprecating experience? And for me, I just absolutely hated the notion that this could possibly be true. Or let’s go to another movie that depicts jazz, La La Land, where Ryan Gosling plays a character, where he’s this musician trying to make it, a jazz musician trying to make it in Los Angeles, and his personality type is that of a very narrow, single-minded, focused, overly obsessed musician who has to “sell out” by starting to play in a jazz fusion band in order to prove to his girlfriend that he actually can make a living in the music.

So really, even though I actually liked some of the depictions of jazz within this movie and what it’s like to be a musician, I still hated the fact that it seems like the characters are just absolutely swarmed in this dark cloud that is raining on them with self-loathing, with obsession, with all of this negativity. And then I realized why I hate it so much. And it’s not because, unfortunately, that it’s entirely untrue, as I originally had felt when I first washed Whiplash. Sure, absolutely very exaggerated examples of a problem that can exist.

But nevertheless, there’s always a little bit of truth in things that you find so repulsive. There’s always something in there that’s actually correct.

So in today’s episode, I want to talk about the dark side of jazz musician culture and what can be done about it and how you should be thinking about improving as a musician, and the way that you want to enjoy playing this music.

Welcome to episode 425

In this episode:

1. Questioning the kind of jazz community one wants to be part of and the relationship with music.
2. Exploring the dark side of jazz musician culture, starting with the perception of superiority.
3. The negative effects of perceiving jazz as superior to other music styles.
4. The unhealthy mindset of considering oneself a superior musician.
5. The importance of avoiding the perception of superiority and embracing a more inclusive view of music.
6. The dark side of the “practice until your fingers bleed” mentality and its negative impact.
7. Advocating for practicing smarter, not harder, and surrounding oneself with musicians who share this mindset.
8. The detrimental “school of hard knocks” mentality and abusive teaching styles in jazz education.
9. Encouraging a more supportive and nurturing approach to teaching and collaboration in the jazz community.

Important Links:
Free Guide to learning standards by ear: Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way
LJS Inner Circle Membership
Listen to the Learn Jazz Standards Podcast

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstrahttp://www.brentvaartstra.com
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."

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