March 1-8 Jazz Residency At Sauk Trail

Laurie Lang & John Becker teaching improvisation to the little jazz kids. 

Sauk Trail students will have an opportunity to interact with professional jazz musicians on Wednesday, March 8 thanks to two grants.

The Madison Jazz Society and the District’s Global Initiative Grant project provided funding for Sauk Trial to have an have an all-school jazz and world music assembly with four professional musicians and special guests from Sauk Trail performing with music teacher John Becker.

Some students will have the chance to “sit in” with the band as jazz vocalists and improvisers. Before the afternoon assembly bassist Laurie Lang Croasdale of Middleton is doing jazz workshops with Becker for each classroom, kindergarten through fiourth grade.

In addition to the jazz artists-in-residence, Sauk Trail students have also had the chance to work with classical musicians from the Madison Symphony in connection with their “Up Close and Musical” program, as well as with hip-hop dancers through a grant from the MCPASD Education Foundation.

“I am very grateful to all of these funding organizations for bringing these performing artists educators directly to our Sauk Trail students,” Becker said.

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So many great high school jazz bassists!

Saturday. Feb 17, I had the opportunity to dig into the blues with 15 amazing young bass players from 7 different Wisconsin schools at Regional Essentially Ellington.

I wish i would have taken a photo. 🙂


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Whitehorse Students Play the Blues and much more

img_1306Check out this video spot from Channel


Grant helps jazz to fill halls of Madison middle school

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My Favorite Things

John Coltrane (most famous jazz version of this song)

a young jazz musician in 2016 – Joey Alexander

For improvisation on this tune let’s start by practicing an E dorian scale

E F# G A B C# D E

learn this up and down your instrument as high and low as you know how to play.

Next week we will try some call and response improvisation over the intro vamp in your music.

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Blues Thursday @ Whitehorse


D Jam Blues (known as C Jam Blues or Duke’s Place: 12 bar blues)

Check out these music videos for inspiration and ideas:

Duke Ellington jam- an original “music video”

Ellington Big Band

Ellington Band with Ella Fitzgerald


  1. Play melody    – AA rest rest rest AA AA A— D rest, rest, rest, rest, rest – 3xs
  1. This is the 12 bar blues form:
I chord I chord I chord I chord
IV chord IV chord I chord I chord
V chord IV chord I chord I chord
  1. Harmonic/rhythmic accompaniment: with chops on the off beats 1 2 3 4 – chops: up and down, row bow hold
I –(open)A/F# (E1) I -A/F# I -A/F# I -A/F#
IV – (A1)B/G (E low 2) IV – B/G I -A/F# I -A/F#
V – A/E IV – B/G I -A/F# I -A/F#
  1. Bass Line type of accompaniment
I: D A D A I: D A D A I: D A D A I: D D E F# WALK UP
IV: G D G D IV: G D G D I: D A D A I: D A D A
  1. Arpeggios accompaniment:

D Jam Blues I : D IV : G   V: A

D F# A F# D F# A F# D F# A F# D F# A F#
G B D B G B D B D F# A F# D F# A F#
A C# E C# G B D B D F# A F# D F# A F#
  1. The Art of the Jazz Solo
    1. Messing with the melody – rhythm and notes
    2. Using notes from the scales/making up your own melody:
      1. Major scale – works everywhere too.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

  1. Blues scale – magic—it works everywhere

D, F, G, G#, A, C, D


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October 20, Thursday at Whitehorse

Version 2

Hi Whitehorse String friends,

I get to meet you all this week on Thursday as i will be in your orchestra classes. I thought you might like this photo!? It’s a gig i played on Labor Day with 2 of the musicians coming to your school with me in December, Jon Vriesacker (on violin) and John Becker (on keys).

I want to encourage you all to practice the things in the post from last week and to write me notes. Make comments or just say “hi, with your name and instrument” by clicking the “leave a comment” button.  below this post.

Looking forward to Thursday!

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Getting Started- C Jam Blues


Learning scales and arpeggios is a good way to build your vocabulary as an improviser. For C Jam Blues (for the ease of string players we will learn this song in the key of D Major) practice these exercises:

D Major scale – D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# D (up and down)

D arpeggio  – D, F#, A, octave D, A, F# D (up and down)

G arpeggio – G, B, D, octave G, D, B, G (up and down)

A arpeggio – A, C#, E, octave A, E, C#, A (up and down)

D Blues Scale – D, F, G, G#, A, C, octave D (up and down)


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