Tucson Community Music School students learn long-lasting skills from international recording artists and experienced concert musicians. The school's founding trio, Brice Winston, Doug Tidaback, and Scott Black serve as the school's primary instructors, each bringing a different set of skills. Tucson native Brice spent 16 years performing with Jazz notables such as Brian Blade and Nicholas Payton before recording with Herbie Hancock and recording music for Spike Lee Films. Doug toured as a bass trombonist for nine years with the Monterey Symphony, and served as lead trombonist for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, all while winning awards in numerous jazz festivals across the country. A career educator, Scott spent years working with prominent educators such as Barry Harris, and has done everything from teaching private music lessons to directing jazz schools.
With such an experienced staff of educators, students of Tucson Community Music School have opportunities to learn the ins and out of performing that go beyond just reading notes. During jazz and concert band classes and workshops, fledgling performers practice working with fellow musicians, learning how to harmonize without stealing all of the more advanced students' reeds. Through the school's various endeavors, students may also have the opportunity to practice, record, and travel to concerts near and far.
Drum & Drummer instructor Erik Truelove knows how to improvise. When the country-rocker and four-time winner of the National Association of Music Merchants' World's Most Accurate Drummer title found himself at a TV gig with no cymbals, he simply pulled the license plates off his car and attached them to his kit, he reported to the Tucson Citizen in 2009. This spirit of flexibility and quick thinking is something he passes along to his students in both group and private lessons. Other instructors—all working musicians—join in that goal backed by expertise in hand drumming, R&B grooves, jazz improvisation, and competitive marching percussion.
To mark progress and keep motivation levels kicking, the school uses a program of Truelove's own devising. Modeled on karate's belt system, sets of colored drumsticks provide a vivid reminder of the skills students have conquered. To advance in rank, they must master their level's set of grooves, fills, and concepts, then perform a predetermined song at the school's performance center. Class sizes are typically capped at 10 students to ensure lots of one-on-one assistance and keep the downstairs neighbors from constantly calling the cops with noise complaints.
Music & Dance Academy caters to a variety of learning styles with group classes, private lessons, ensembles, and master classes for students of all ages and experience levels. Dance lessons range from parent-and-child dances to coaching for wedding dances to lessons in styles such as ballroom, ballet, and hip-hop. Music lessons help kids and adults of all skill levels learn a variety of instruments, including guitar, piano, cello, clarinet, or music theory.
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Conductor Clyde Baker has spent a career taking high-school and college ensembles all the way to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Along with a team of seasoned dancers, actors, and musicians, he prepares students for success on stage and in the orchestra pit.
The school inhabits a handsome flagstone-and-stucco home base designed to produce a single harmonious chord in the event of windstorms. Within its specialized spaces, students stretch on the hardwood floors of giant dance studios and casts of triple-threats put on shows for their ardent fans on colorful sets.