In January he will be on stage at the Alte Oper Frankfurt with young musicians from four schools. During rehearsals, the young people learn what jazz has in common with learning vocabulary.
Till Brönner is giving four workshops in Frankfurt these days. One for each of the four jazz bands that are part of the “Till@School” project: The big bands of the Heinrich-von-Gagern-Gymnasium and the Helmholtzschule, the youth big band of the Frankfurt Music School and the Frankfurt student jazz ensemble are rehearsing with the jazz trumpeter for one joint concert in the Alte Oper.
The whole thing is not intended to be an elitist master class. What counts is the experience: meeting a role model, making music together and getting even more excited about jazz.
Till Brönner is one of the most successful German jazz musicians; he even played for Barack Obama in the White House. With such prominence, you might think that the tension would be high and the mood would be awestruck.
But that’s far from it: As is typical among jazz musicians, things are relaxed, like a normal band rehearsal. At least almost: the students realize that this is something special.
Communicate what makes jazz so exciting
This is not an everyday occurrence for Till Brönner either, as he otherwise has to deal with other jazz greats and with students at the University of Music in Dresden, where he teaches jazz trumpet. His goal for meeting the next generation: to pass on to the young people “why this music is still, for me, the most exciting thing you can actually do.” He is sure that he will be able to take something home with him personally from the encounters.
The supreme discipline in jazz is improvising, i.e. empathizing with the music in such a way that you come up with musical ideas even without notes that then fit in with what the others are currently playing. This freedom also creates a great inhibition threshold, especially at the beginning: many young jazz musicians ask themselves: What if I can’t think of anything when it’s my turn?
What singing has to do with improvisation
The Frankfurt students pepper Brönner with questions – and he has good tips: “If you can’t sing, you can’t play it,” he claims. If that’s true? We try it out together in the workshop. And in fact: Anyone who manages to sing their instrumental part will also be able to play it without any problems.
Tips like these are worth their weight in gold for students. Till Brönner also encourages them to simply listen to a lot of jazz and to absorb everything there is. Then practice briefly every day – that way you might one day be able to have a say in the “musical language of jazz”.
Young musicians rehearse with Till Brönner
A lot of the rehearsals are about the art of improvisation. Image © hr
The trumpeter explains: “Once I have learned as many words as possible, I am suddenly able to use these words to say something that I actually want to say in another language.” That’s what he tries to pass on to the young musicians.
Joint concert in the old opera
The students were already enthusiastic about jazz before meeting the star trumpeter, otherwise they wouldn’t play in a jazz band. “In the classical orchestra, if you miss a note – no one notices,” says 17-year-old Nora. But if you miss a note in a jazz band, the whole band stops, the bassist explains the appeal of jazz.
By making music with the professional, the young musicians were able to gain inspiration and really want to immerse themselves even more in the world of jazz. The joint concert “Till@School” will take place on January 24th in the Mozart Hall of the Alte Oper, where Till Brönner is currently “Artist in Residence”.
The young talent project is part of the “Jazz and Improvised Music to School!” program, which was developed in 2011 by the Polytechnic Society Foundation. The Frankfurt Music School has been the sponsor of the project office since 2014.