“There was just so much soul, I couldn’t help but yell,” said jazz studies major and drummer Anthony Johnson during a particularly sultry performance from a small jazz group during American River College’s second Jazz Clinic on Thursday, featuring Sacramento native and award-winning percussionist Alex Jenkins.
The Jazz Clinic series at ARC provides students of all majors an opportunity to come and interact with music professionals who can teach and constructively critique students’ jazz music performances to help them refine their talents.
The clinic focuses on educating students through practical demonstrations and interactive teaching.
Jenkins, who plays more than 100 gigs a year, enjoys teaching as much as he does playing.
“The teaching and the performing I think of as equal parts. I really love doing both and if I did just one or the other, I don’t think I’d be as happy,” Jenkins said.
“I love the interaction with people and whenever I teach something, I learn a lot from my students. It becomes more like an exchange of information than talking down to them.”
Jenkins won two Sacramento Music Awards in 2005 and 2008 for his work in local music groups, but says he places much more importance on teaching others about music than winning awards.
Jenkins discussed with ARC students how to perfect their technique with percussion and other jazz instruments while defining notes and space when playing jazz. He also gave tips on performing in the form of an analogy.
Jenkins compared jazz to a budding rose bush on a porch at home, saying, “The owner walks by the rose bush every day and barely notices gradual change, but really notices when the rose is fully bloomed.”
“Progression in jazz soloing is an organic process,” Jenkins said.
Johnson, a first semester ARC student who is a member of three jazz ensembles at ARC, has been drumming and playing percussion since he was in sixth grade. While attending the clinic, he drummed with two different jazz music groups in front of Jenkins.
“I really like Alex’s creativeness and I really enjoyed what he said about writing things out and how to practice,” Johnson said.
Jenkins reiterates to his students that practicing jazz drastically improves performance, even for him.
“I practice my a– off still, everyday. I’m either teaching, recording, performing, doing clinics or practicing,” he said. “There’s never a single day that goes by that I’m not doing something with drums.”
Jenkins has traveled to many different countries in the name of learning more about music to take home to his performances and students.
“I think that the greatest education one can have is actually getting as far away from this country as possible. And I mean any country that you’re in. I learned more doing that than anything else in life,” he said.
“It’s really benefited me on many different levels, but … to be able to have the experience of going to Bali has influenced how I teach and how I play.”
Jenkins also encouraged students to support their local music scene saying, “You can see jazz every night of the week in Sacramento.”
This was the last Jazz Clinic of the semester, but the next jazz performance is from the ARC Latin and Studio Jazz Ensembles and the ARC Jazz Collective. They will be performing a tribute to the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.