Count Basie & The Common Core
In the mid seventies the estimable Band Leader Count Basie was asked to compare musicians from the 30s and 40s to today's musicians.
Unequivocally he said that musicians in the 70s were so much better trained than they ever were. He noted that if he needed a replacement for his band in the 40s it was really tough to find someone who could just sit down, read his charts and fit in. Today, he said, finding a capable replacement is not a problem at all. What was missing, he said, was uniqueness.
When the training was more limited and less "codified," musicians really were able to develop highly individualized methods and stylized techniques that created a sound that was uniquely their own. A B-flat still needs to be a B-flat but you could hear the difference between a Harry "Sweets" Edison and a Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge from the first B-flat blow.
We need to think about this as we think about nationalizing standards and assessments into a single common core. We need to make sure we are not just teaching everybody to sound the same.