Aspiring jazz musicians in Turkey finally get summer academy

Turkish jazz drummer Emre Kartari (PHOTOS TODAY’S ZAMAN)

December 21, 2011, Wednesday/ 17:29:00

The Cappadocia Jazz Days festival has just wrapped up its 2011 season, and there’s still two months until the Ankara Jazz Festival, which is preparing to mark its 15th year in February 2012.

But in between festivals, does jazz in Turkey cease to exist? Are there no jazz schools in the country? Where do aspiring jazz musicians in Turkey go?

Turkish jazz drummer Emre Kartari shares the good news: next summer the Aegean city of İzmir will host Turkey’s first-ever summer jazz academy. Preparations are already under way, Kartari says. Thanks to the summer camp, aspiring jazz musicians from Turkey will no longer have to seek jazz education overseas, saving for months just to attend a short two-week workshop abroad.

Unfortunately, higher education for jazz musicians in Turkey is still insufficient, explained Kartari in a recent interview. The Hacettepe University of Ankara formed its first jazz program approved by the state in 2010 with help from Kartari, who currently teaches at the Yaşar University in İzmir.

The Ankara-born Kartari moved to the United States with his parents when he was 10 because his mother started working with the public broadcasting company, Voice of America. There he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) music department as a jazz performer and went on to study jazz composing at New York University (NYU), where he earned his master’s degree.

The drummer and educator, who has released his third album this year, “Old New Things -- Ghosts,” speaks about jazz education in Turkey in an interview with Today’s Zaman:

What do aspiring jazz musicians in Turkey do for an education?

There are currently two institutions in Turkey that give formal jazz education: the Yaşar University in İzmir and Hacettepe University’s State Conservatory in Ankara. As far as I know, the İstanbul-based Yıldız Technical University, although it doesn’t have a separate jazz department on its own, does offer jazz classes to its students at its music department. … Otherwise, aspiring musicians from Turkey who want to receive a jazz education have to go to workshops or summer academies abroad. But next summer in İzmir, we’re opening Turkey’s first-ever summer academy for jazz. World-class jazz musicians and educators who teach at the Yaşar and Hacettepe universities will be teaching at our camp. The VCU is lending support to our project. Turkish jazz students will no longer have to seek education overseas or save up for months for a mere two-week workshop abroad.

When was Hacettepe’s jazz department inaugurated and what kind of jazz education does it offer?

The idea first came about around five years ago, but there had been no serious efforts until two years ago. The department was officially launched in September 2010. My name was proposed by the American Embassy [in Ankara] to officially found the department and to design its syllabus. I designed the syllabus together with vibraphonist Jon Metzger, the head of the jazz department at Elon University. Thanks to instructors who came from VCU and NYU, it offers a world-class jazz education.

Yet the personal and professional disagreements we had with department head Erol Erdinç led me to seek another school, where I could work more independently and feel better supported. That school was the Yaşar University.

Instructors who currently teach at Hacettepe work as part-time instructors and classes are taught with a rather classical approach.

What’s the situation at Yaşar University?

Its jazz department opened just this year. Just like in Hacettepe, Yaşar University also provides basic music education as well as jazz classes in the first two years of school. After two years each student decides a branch to focus on. The school also grants scholarships to successful students.

As part of the school’s extracurricular activities, our guest instructors and musicians we invite for concerts or workshops have blended with the music scene in İzmir. … We present a great variety of concerts and events in İzmir throughout November, observed [by the international music community] as the International Drum Month.

So before all these, where did Turkey’s jazz musicians receive an education?

Previously [Ankara’s] Bilkent and [İstanbul’s] Bilgi universities had jazz departments but unfortunately both have been closed for a while. When I look at the biographies of well-known, successful jazz musicians of the present-day jazz music scene in Turkey, I often see they are graduates of Bilgi University. The department had very distinguished lecturers, but somehow it was closed after its students graduated. However, as far as I know there still are some musicians who teach jazz classes in Bilgi. And of course there are also Turkish jazz musicians who have graduated from schools in the United States and Europe.

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