School for Cool
The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity
Few art forms epitomize the anti-institutional image more than jazz, but it’s precisely at the academy where jazz is now flourishing. This shift has introduced numerous challenges and contradictions to the music’s practitioners. Solos are transcribed, technique is standardized, and the whole endeavor is plastered with the label “high art”—a far cry from its freewheeling days. Wilf shows how students, educators, and administrators have attempted to meet these challenges with an inventive spirit and a robust drive to preserve—and foster—what they consider to be jazz’s central attributes: its charisma and unexpectedness. He also highlights the unintended consequences of their efforts to do so. Ultimately, he argues, the gap between creative practice and institutionalized schooling, although real, is often the product of our efforts to close it.