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Obscure Magazine
Promoting Maine's Original Musicians & Songwriters
Vol. 1 ISSUE 06
JAN. 1994 FREE!
Isi Rudnick
*by Douglas Papa
Q         You attended college in Nevada, the University of North Texas State and then taught in the country of Poland from about 1988 to 1991, is there anything else you would like to add to this?
Isi:      I only went for a year at the University of Nevada.  It didn't have the depth that I felt I needed.  I choose to go to the University of North Texas where I got my bachelor's and master's degrees.
Q          What was it like when you were teaching in Poland?
Isi:      My teaching experience in Poland was a wonderful opportunity for me.  The students there were incredibly enthusiastic and very anxious to learn about American Jazz.  I was involved in one of their high schools and colleges in Krakow.  Five years ago, jazz had not been allowed in any of the academic courses.  When things started to open up over there I went in and had meetings with a lot of teachers.  They asked how they would go about teaching jazz, they had no idea where to begin.  They wanted to know what jazz courses would be beneficial at the junior high, high school, and college levels.  Obviously you can't get too technical at the junior high level.  The emphasis was to start a jazz ensemble, it didn't have to be a big band, but it could be a small combo.  In the high school group we started a jazz improvisation class, which was important since they had never experienced it before.  While they were technically proficient on their instruments and all of their students had a good deal of ear training and sight seeing instruction; they had never been allowed to do a lot of improvisation.  That course was very beneficial at the high school and college levels.
       The college students were particularly interested in the jazz arranging, voicing, and voice leading.  Learning how to score out passages from the saxophone section and the brass section.  They really didn't have access to jazz arranging texts per se, you know written in Polish and specifically geared towards their needs.  Books from the West, the U.S. and Europe were hard to get until a few years ago and probably cost prohibited.
     So it was a very exciting time for me, not only musically but culturally as well.  The time I spent in Poland was intermittent.  I would go there for about seven to eight months (from 1988 to 1991) to teach, then return to the United States.  I was there for the first time when the Communists were still in power and I was able to see the system change, witnessing first hand the elections there.  Since I did learn to speak Polish and my contacts were with the Polish people rather than the Americans who were visiting there, I really got a sense of what was going on and did understand to some extent the historic changes that were taking place.
    The students were dedicated and devoted to learn about American jazz, that was their passion.  It carried over into other things as well, not just music.  They were pretty much interested in anything American.
Q          What would you say is the difference between teaching college students here as opposed to teaching the Polish students in Europe?
Isi:     Well, the college students here have more material available to them.  They have more opportunities to hear really good live jazz, and they have access to better facilities.  I think the college students in Poland have a better background in the fundamentals of music theory, ear training.  That is because they start those classes at the age of seven or eight in the elementary schools.  A student that's interested in playing an instrument is usually sent to a school where there is a focus on music.  Learning at such an early age makes teaching a lot easier because they have a good foundation.  There are few students in the U.S. who go to performing arts schools or take really intensive private lessons who are on that level.  But generally, the students I taught in Poland seem to be a little more advanced in that level going in.  On the other hand the colleges and universities here are much more advanced in jazz music.  Eastern Europe is more advanced in classical music.  The students who have the capabilities both financially and have the contacts do come to the U.S. to study.  College kids in Europe have more background training, while in the U.S. they have to make up that ground time in college.
Q        Since they have all of this background how easy was it to teach the Polish students?
Isi:      That's a good question.  I would teach my smaller ensembles without music because their ear training was so good.  All I would have to do is to play a melodic line a few times, and memorized.  Their transposition skills along with their memorization skills were fantastic, so they were very easy to teach in this area.  Jazz arranging was a little more difficult because of the lack of material available there, I had to take all of that material over there with me.  I found that their experience in sight reading skills in the area of jazz were much weaker than the same caliber of students here, so it was kind of a trade off.
Q           Do you think students should set their goals beyond getting a B.A. in music as far as landing a job with higher pay?
Isi:      Today you almost have to go to a graduate school.  You must remember that a bachelor's degree is just a general study.  Nothing specific, just some of the components you are going to need to make a career in music.  Since the competition is incredibly fierce for all teaching jobs, graduate school is an absolute must for people who are really serious about a music career.  If you want to teach at the college level, then a doctorate is really becoming a standard now.  I think what we need to do here is to get away from the idea; "I'll go for four years and learn everything I need to know about music."  That's not the way it works.  the study of music is a life long pursuit, just as you think that you have something down, you realize that there is so much more to accomplish.  So, educating yourself should not be a short tem goal.  A graduate with a B.A. certainly doesn't qualify you as an authority on music.  It gives you a general background and should inspire you to continue your studies and go on. *
*   Since this interview was conducted Isi Rudnick has planned to take some students of U.M.A. on a 14 day tour to Eastern Europe.  his purpose is to expose these student's to Poland at its unaltered state, he fells that in about 10 years it will be more westernized.  the students will also teach American jazz to their European counterparts.