This semester at UNT I'm going to be taking graduate-level jazz arranging. We've only had a few class sessions so far, but I can already tell it's going to be an interesting term.

Class projects

One of the things I'm most excited about is the opportunity to prepare and present some of my own research; we're expected to do one or two brief presentations over the course of the semester on writers who have contributed significantly to the history of the art.

I'm excited about this because it's an opportunity for self-education. The assignment is pretty freeform: pick an arranger, figure out what you can say about him/her in fifteen minutes, and say it. We weren't told what books to use, what structure to follow, or what type of grading rubric to expect. In other words, it's the kind of project people do outside of school.

I've decided to study three arrangers from three different periods: Sy Oliver, Slide Hampton, and Darcy James Argue. In addition to the work I have to do for class, I'm also planning to publish some of the information I find here on this blog, if for no other reason than to ensure I remember it better when it comes time to present it in class.

Personal projects

Beyond all that, I really need to get down to business on my own arranging work. Unfortunately, I frequently rely on my coursework to set the parameters for my writing; it's rare that I come up with a project all on my own and pursue it to completion. I'm not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the accountability inherent in formal study —you can't really just give up on a project when you've paid through the nose to have a professor grade you on it.

In the real world, however, there's just as much accountability —it's just that you don't pay for it in tuition money. I'm starting to realize that if I want to write, I'm going to need to seek out real-world projects with real-world parameters and deadlines.

With that in mind, my plan moving forward is to get in touch with a few ensembles to see if they could use an arrangement or two. I'd love to write something for the U-Tubes, and maybe try my hand at orchestral writing for my church's music ministry. My trombone section there has suggested from time to time that I should write some jazz trombone quartets; maybe that'd be a good place to start.

One more thing: I've been trying to finish up the same big band chart for the last year and a half. It's called Undercurrents, and I'd love to share it with you; unfortunately I can't seem to get the introduction right. It's almost there, and with any luck I'll have a recording by the end of the semester …just wanted to say so in public, so I have no excuse not to finish the thing.

I'm writing all this so that I'm accountable: I want to have some specific writing projects defined and in progress by mid-September, and I don't think that will be difficult to do …I just need to know that I have to do it. Now that I've said I will, I do. So there you have it: accountability.

Please keep watching for more information as these projects unfold!