Grade school and junior high band classes were a breeze. They were something I looked forward to because I excelled with instrumental music studies, mainly because I had a serious passion for playing the trumpet, like someone I greatly admired, Marvin Turner "Poncho." He was two years ahead of me and was the most talented person I knew. He played the trumpet beautifully and I wanted to be just like him.
When my teachers advanced me to the high school band while I was still in grade school, I hit a brick wall when it came to reading the music. I found out that my ability to read music was well below what it should have been. As a result, I was determined to strengthen my weakness in this area.
Entering Western Michigan University as an applied music major after graduating from River Rouge High School proved to be even more difficult. I struggled in my private lessons as well as other performance classes like the symphonic orchestra and wind ensemble. Towards the end of my first semester at Western, I got permission to sit in with the University's Jazz Lab Band. It wasn't until then that the light came on when it came to reading notes, rests and music forms. Reading the jazz rhythms and patterns made everything fall in place and make sense. Reading jazz charts helped me to realize that there were more variations of rhythms and syncopation in the compositions. The challenging rhythms and syncopation came a lot and often. But, I think the key to improvement was just plain old repetition.
Maybe jazz in some way has had a notable influence on your overall musicianship. Please share your comments and put it out there!