Jazz ‘jam session’ provides platform for music students
From the classroom to the stage, students who decide to study music as a career sometimes struggle to find a platform to be heard.
A couple of SF State jazz professors have put together a live jam session that provides an outlet for music students to showcase their talent and share the stage with their musical mentors.
Every second Tuesday of the month, SF State University professors, Andrew Speight and Michael Zisman host Jazz Master and Student Night at a historic building called the 7 Mile House in Brisbane. On Sept. 13, these jazz professors alongside their students, alumni and musicians will take the stage in an improvised ensemble, also known as a jam session.
“We don’t really rehearse, it’s a jam session, so we get there and it all comes together on that night,” said Speight.
Zisman, who plays the bass, has taught at SF State for eight years. He currently teaches modern musicianship and jazz bass. Speight specializes in the saxophone and teaches survey of jazz, Coltrane seminar, jazz improvisation, small and big ensemble.
The two met 15 years ago while playing music in San Francisco and have been friends ever since.
Coming together for this show wasn’t only to have the opportunity to play alongside each other, but to show an audience the talents of their students.
This collaborative showcase, which began in February, allows students to get on stage in front of a live audience to perform and apply what they’ve learned in class.
“It’s students we see in our classes or have seen in our classes, or graduated from our classes or graduated from the college, they come get a little real world experience,” said Zisman.
The night is set in two parts: for the first half, both Speight and Zisman will perform accompanied by a mix of alumni and other musicians unrelated to SF State. After intermission, the stage will fill with students, alumni and local musicians to close out the set.
One of those students is alumni drummer Lilian Wu. Wu will usually perform for the entire night, but will occasionally give the reigns to another drummer for the second half.
When Wu received the phone call from Speight before the first showcase was booked, she made an effort to travel up to play the show after moving back to Los Angeles, where she is originally from.
“It really gave me the confidence to keep going,” said Wu. Last year after I graduated from May to December I had a silent period where I didn’t play and Andrew sort of got me back; it was really an honor and a privilege.”
Speight and Zisman believe they have created a unique night full of improvisation, keeping things loose and fun, where the audience won’t hear the same set from the last month.
On stage you’ll see musicians “taking turns” and “sitting in” communicating without having to speak to one another about what’s going to be played next.
“We’ll have a jam session that is very loose and if people know what we’re doing, they can come and join us. And if they enjoy music, they should come and hang out,” said Zisman.