Craig Scott, Chair of Jazz, talks to the P&C


Craig Scott entertained the P&C meeting on the 10th September, talking about his career path and the secondary and tertiary level jazz program at the Conservatorium.

Craig’s musical life began with piano lessons when he was six.  It wasn’t long before he ditched it for the tuba, followed shortly by the cello.  Eventually he found his musical home when he swapped the cello for the double bass.    Craig never did an undergraduate degree, but he has done two post-graduate degrees in recent times; a Masters in jazz at the ANU’s School of Music in Canberra and one in teaching at the University of Sydney.  Craig’s musical education in jazz began when he started playing with a band 6 nights a week in Manly.  Eventually renowned jazz trumpet player Keith Stirling invited him into his band, and for the next 5 years Craig studied jazz with him.   Then one evening, Craig was surprised by a call from Don Burrows who was a major star at the time, asking him to join his band.  They played together for the next thirteen years.   In 1989, Don invited Craig to join him teaching at the Conservatorium.  Craig accepted and has been happily ensconced  ever since.  It is, he says, an amazing place to work.   When Don tried to take him back out on the road again in 1991, Craig opted to stay.

Ten years ago Craig became the Chair of Jazz.    In that time the jazz department has become increasingly involved with the Con High School and they are looking for ways to broaden the integration with the high school students.  They are still trying to get jazz integrated into the HSC course.  Craig says the jazz course at the Con tries to replicate the jazz scene.  It’s very hands on.  The students learn the way he and his mates did, conducting jam sessions around a cd player and learning together.  The emphasis in jazz is very different to classical.  It is an aural tradition – the players hear something being played, then play something in response.   Sight reading is usually not a strength for the jazz player.

Last year the jazz department auditioned 168 hopefuls for 20 places in the university jazz course.  To do well in the audition a student needs to have a background of listening to jazz and being able to articulate something about it.  Probably about half the kids auditioning last year didn’t have this experience and ability.   Students at CHS are welcome to watch the Jazz Department’s concert rehearsals with performance critiques which are held on 3-5 pm on Wednesday afternoons.   There are also recitals coming up in November 7th, 8th and 18th which provide a great way of hearing the best up and coming jazz musicians in Sydney.

If a child wants to be a jazz musician they will learn to do everything except being a classical virtuoso.  Jazz musicians play in rock bands, jazz ensembles, they do pit work, play jingles and soundtracks for television and film scores, and they work behind the bar in jazz clubs because this is another great opportunity to learn more about jazz.    The live music and jazz scene in Sydney has suffered for a long time under punishing licensing laws.  In Melbourne a club paid $800 for a liquor licence, while Sydney clubs had to fork out a hefty $80,000.  Frank Sartor overturned these laws in December 2008, and today there is a much healthier live music scene in Sydney.

To get a place in a university course at the Conservatorium, a student needs a good ATAR.  No amount of talent can overcome an ATAR less than 80.  Craig has been in the painful position of being forced to turn away outstanding young musicians because their ATAR was too low.  So if you want to get into the Conservatorium study and get a good HSC result!

To prepare for the entrance audition read website:

If  you don’t understand anything ring the staff and  ask questions.   Craig also runs two Tertiary Jazz Pre-audition Workshops.

Because Year 12 students are too preoccupied with the HSC to be able to go to these workshops, he recommends that students attend in Year 11 if they’re interested in auditioning in the following year.

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