Music education provides so many opportunities for children to learn skills that are applicable for anything that comes their way, and one of these skills is learning how to work in a team. By playing in orchestras and wind ensembles, one learns how to listen to others and find where they fit into the grander scheme of things. However, sometimes students get lost in these larger groups — they either fall behind, or they feel that they are unimportant and that nobody would notice if they did not play altogether. This is when the jazz combo gains significance.
A combo is usually made up of four to seven people: a few horns, a bassist, a drummer, a pianist, and maybe a guitarist. It is a bare bones kind of group that not only gives each individual a chance to shine, but forces them to be the best musician that they possibly can be. If somebody makes a mistake, it is very clear to the audience who that person is. These groups generally play jazz, playing a head together and then taking turns improvising, and even though this may be more daunting than playing with forty other people, it can be so rewarding on so many different levels.
These kinds of small groups (whether it is a combo or a string quartet) reaffirm a student’s individuality and importance within a musical context. Some of my favorite middle school memories are from the fun times I spent with the friends I made in my seven-piece combo. We were given the space to experiment and make our own musical decisions, and even agree on things such as our band name and what our corresponding outfits would be on concert night. These things may sound trivial, but they mean the world as a young musician. One learns how to work well with others, but also their own significance in the realm of music.