Blog: New York, New York!


Each year the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, in collaboration with New York University, offer students the opportunity to study a performance unit in New York. This two-week intensive unit is held at New York University and gives students the opportunity to study with world-renowned musicians, actively engage in cutting edge music education, undertake private lessons and participate in workshops. Most importantly the students perform with, and under the tutelage of, some of the greats of music! Recording sessions and performance opportunities with such mentors are, without doubt, the highlights of these units.

This year Rob Burke and Paul Grabowsky headed to the Big Apple with 18 of our jazz students, ready to take on the challenge….!

How it works: Each day consists of a theory class, two 90-minute ensemble sessions, and a workshop with a seminal NY jazz artist. For our singers, this has been Janis Siegel from the infamous Manhattan Transfer.  During the evenings  concerts at NYU’s Provincetown Playhouse. The students also have the opportunity to  record their ensembles at the end of each week. For the rest of the time, students are out seeing gigs getting lessons and practicing – this is an intensive program!

Day 1 –  Sunday 5th July

Orientation meeting and group dinner – hamburgers in the Village!! (Greenwich)

Day 2 – Monday 6th July

IMG_7144Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz was today’s guest speaker – amazing stories of playing with Miles Davis in the 1970’s and what it takes to play with the best in NYC. Janis Siegal (Manhattan Transfer) worked with the singers and rhythm section on scatting techniques.  Janis will be working with the  voice students every day at 5.00pm for the 2 weeks.


Day 3 – Tues 7th July

IMG_7192Workshop with bassist Drew Gress who talked about fundamentals of time and playing changes. (John has played with the likes of John Abercrombie, Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Bill Carrothers, Ravi Coltrane, Marc Copland, Mark Feldman, Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck, Tony Malaby, and John Surman). Drew focussed on flexibilty of playing ‘time ‘ and how he would play along to lots of records focussing on the time of the drummer. He also talked about  playing along to recordings of bass players, aiming to match their time – success was  not hearing them as he was ‘locked in’ their time feel.


Day 4 – Wed 8th July

IMG_7164Today –  the special guest was drummer Lenny White. Lenny’s started playing drums at 12. By the age of 14 he first heard Miles Davis. At the age of 19, Lenny’s first recording session was with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew – a seminal jazz recording.

Lenny talked about the jazz scene in the 1970’s and how the industry has changed today with downloads and the like. The main theme of his workshop was having a reason to play music.

After class, (6.00pm) students made their way to Provincetown Playhouse (near Washington Square). A student group opened (30mins) for  the Alan Ferber Nonet – amazing compositions and playing!

Day 5 – Thurs 9th July

A big day for students starting with classes at 10am and then off to the Provincetown Playhouse where all students performed with their ensembles and directors. Rob Burke led an ensemble that performed compositions by Ornette Coleman (Congeniality) and Sonny Rollins Tune Airegin. Paul Grabowsky’s ensemble performed some of his compositions as well as Ornette’s Lonely Woman. There are many students from across the USA in the course and so  students get the opportunity to make many new friends and liaise at an international level.

IMG_7200The special guest artist today was New Zealander pianist Allan Broadbent. Alan has lived in New York since the late 1960s having composed music for film and as MD to Diana Krall and Nelson Riddle. His workshop focussed on being  diverse in your understanding of music. Alan has photographic memory and could play Mahler  symphonies, jazz standards, show tunes basically anything. His ability to be able to quote many styles helped with his ability to compose and arrange at the highest level.



Day 6 – Friday 10th July

Recording day. All students spent a day at NYUs multi million dollar  Dolan recording studio where they documented their week’s work. Each group had 1 hour to play their best version of three tunes – some outstanding playing 


IMG_7208 DSC_3159 DSC_3151










Day 7 – Saturday 11th July



Day 8 –  12th July

Brunch at the Blue Note Jazz club with Janis with voice students – amazing opportunity for these singers…..

More to come……