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Uncategorized – Jennifer Blackwell

IU NASA 2018There’s nothing quite as fun and exhausting as a NASA conference.

These events are such an incredible opportunity to reconnect with old friends, meet new people, and keep up with all of the incredible advances that saxophonists across the continent are making every day. I was privileged to perform soprano saxophone in Singelee’s Duo Concertante with my former teacher John Nichol on piano, and my friend Sean Bradley on alto saxophone. I also presented a session on publishing in The Saxophone Symposium  with my friend and brilliant assistant editor, Myles Boothroyd. I was so touched by the support of my current and former classmates in attending these events. Very sincerely – thank you!

I also heard some super cool new music by Colin Labadie (performed by my former teacher Bobbi Thompson and Ariel Kasler), Joel LoveTakuma Itoh (my soon-to-be colleague at UH!), and more. I heard amazing performances by my friends in the Kenari Quartet, Barkada Quartet, Elysian Quartet (congrats on your well-deserved quartet competition win, guys!), and countless others. I got to witness the formation of the NASA committee on the Status of Women, which is such an important step forward for our organization.

Most importantly, though, I got to reconnect with my community. NASA has provided the space for saxophonists to develop a unique voice in the world of music, to work together toward common goals, and to support each other throughout our careers. The photo here, of current and former IU students, beautifully shows how we come together as a community. I feel so lucky to be welcomed into this community at every conference, and I cannot wait for the next!

29178785_10160148686185494_7228988304916480_oWell, now that everything is in motion, I am thrilled to announce that I have accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Music Education at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa. I am humbled to be joining such a dynamic community of faculty and students, with the added perk of living in paradise! I took this photo at sunrise on the first day of my interview. I am so incredibly happy to make this place my home!

There are countless people to thank, but a few come to the front of my mind. I’d like to thank my loving parents for supporting my passions from day one, and never (openly, at least!) questioning the insanity of going to college for 11 years. To my teachers and mentors at Western, CMU, and IU, who have pushed me to be a better scholar, musician, and person: thank you. Your impact on my life is truly immeasurable, and I will never be able to thank you enough. To my friends and colleagues, who have stood by me through the stresses and joys of this process: thank you. To my partner, who deals with more of my crazy than anyone else, but still loves me and keeps me laughing: thank you. And last but certainly not least, thank you to my students. You have fueled my passion for teaching, and you have made me certain that I want to keep doing this work for the rest of my life. Thank you.

17194158_10158341357435494_916285972_oThis past weekend, I was in Fort Wayne Indiana for the North American Saxophone Alliance Region V conference. I drove up Thursday night with my friend and colleague, Bob Eason to rehearse Jun Nagao’s Paganini Lost with collaborative piano guru Liz Ames. We performed the piece on Friday morning, followed by a day of compelling performances by friends and colleagues. On Saturday, I presented my recent content analysis of The Saxophone Symposium, which highlighted a number of important areas that have not been adequately addressed in terms of saxophone research (and, hopefully, will help guide authors to address those gaps). On Sunday, the IU Saxophone Ensemble (pictured here) performed Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G minor and Joel Love‘s Three Images in the closing concert of the conference. It was a busy but fun conference, and I felt fortunate to see so many of my friends and colleagues from my time in Michigan!


17200528_10158341365645494_1427018762_oMy very first trip to Arizona was to present at the Desert Skies Symposium at Arizona State University, and it was an incredible experience, to say the least! This conference approaches research in a truly unique way: rather than offering one large presentation while standing in front of an audience, we presented brief lightning talks about our papers, followed by three twenty-five minute presentations of the paper in a roundtable format. This format is much more intimate, allowing for dialogue and camaraderie amongst researchers. I presented my recent study, “Music program alumni’s perceptions of professional skills, abilities, and job satisfaction: A secondary analysis of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project.” I was able to hear a number of engaging presentations, had the privilege to meet many notable music education researchers, and to connect with some old friends. After the conference, I also had the opportunity to take a brief road trip to the Grand Canyon with my dear colleague and friend, Mallory Alekna (here’s a great photo, but it really doesn’t do it justice!).

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-5-09-23-pmI have been coming to the Ontario Music Educators Conference since I was 18 years old. Over the years, I have come to realize just how special this community is. I get to see wonderful student musicians, inspiring clinics, and thoughtful keynotes, all while catching up with old friends. I feel truly privileged to reconnect with my roots in Ontario every year!

Yesterday, I presented my research, “Music program alumni’s perceptions of professional skills, abilities, and job satisfaction: A secondary analysis of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project” to a receptive and engaging audience. I also had a new researcher experience: while presenting my research, someone came up to me to tell me he’d read my work. Of course, I know people were reading my work in the abstract, but it was a really great feeling to know someone chose to read my work and found it compelling!

Today, I presented a clinic on similarities and differences in clarinet and saxophone pedagogy. In the photo here, I am describing the importance of the muscles in the cheeks to creating characteristics sounds on both instruments. This group of about 30 teachers asked thoughtful questions throughout, and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with them. This presentation was particularly special because my parents were able to participate in my session, which is the first time they’ve ever been able to see my work! I will certainly have a lot to think about on the plane back to Indiana tomorrow – I am going home renewed and inspired!

cic-2016This past weekend, I attended and presented at the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Music Education Conference at the University of Maryland. This is always a great gathering, and the University of Maryland music education department put on an amazing conference! I presented my recent study comparing perceptions of professional skills, abilities, and job satisfaction of studio and K-12 music teachers by analyzing variables from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) survey. It was such a pleasure to see all the great work done at the other Big Ten universities and to meet so many great people!

13269294_941002689331753_2589808445700160185_n-2This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Association for Popular Music Education National Conference, held at the Berklee College of Music in beautiful Boston. This was a really amazing conference – in addition to be incredibly well run, the organization is doing incredible work in helping to bring popular music into the classroom as an equal partner alongside all other forms of music. I firmly believe that, as educators, we need to embrace all forms of music if we hope to reach all students, and popular music can help us to reach students who might otherwise slip through the cracks. Personally, I was a teenage punk/grunge/rock guitarist and music lover long before I became a classical musician, so popular music has always been a big part of my life. I hope to continue sharing my love of both classical and non-classical music throughout my career, and APME is a great venue to do so!

At the conference, I spoke about my experiences with and strategies for introducing informal music pedagogy into the curriculum of preservice music teacher education. For the past several years, in my methods courses for preservice teachers, I have introduced Lucy Green’s work (specifically drawn from Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy, which is an amazing book that I think all teachers should read!), provided performance opportunities and class time for performing student-chosen music in small groups, and allowed the students the free space to explore learning this music with minimal intervention. The students express great enthusiasm for choosing their own music, and often pick popular music they love (recently, it’s been as diverse as Lady Gaga, John Mayer, and Coldplay in the same performance). In addition to expressing their enjoyment of learning this music, my students often work far beyond the course requirements to stage elaborate performances (choreography, anyone?). This enthusiasm also shows them how this approach might help them to connect with their own future students and the music they love. As a teacher-educator, I  want teachers to feel comfortable  incorporating authentic music learning through popular music into their classrooms – Lucy Green provides an excellent model for doing so!

I met many amazing musicians, educators, and popular music advocates at this conference, and heard some really incredible concerts – if you aren’t already a member of APME, I highly recommend becoming one!

12422385_10156626356020494_1805153238_oThe NASA conference ended a few hours ago, since which I have been enjoying the beautiful Texas weather, spending time with (old and new!) friends, and reflecting on the many fantastic and inspiring performances I witnessed in the past few days. Despite the absolute exhaustion I feel at the end, I always leave NASA conferences feeling inspired to pursue ever higher levels of musicianship. I am forever grateful to be a member of such a dynamic and passionate community of musicians.

For my part, in this event, I had the privilege of premiering Jay Batzner’s Abstain Red Hells for soprano saxophone and electronics this morning, in a recital with some excellent performers. Yesterday, Myles Boothroyd and I gave a presentation on the Saxophone Symposium, which I hope will inspire our community to write scholarly articles about our wonderful instrument.

In terms of the concerts I attended, there were far too many incredible moments to list here, but some of those that stand out in my mind are the musically sensitive and technically masterful performances by my friends in the Kenari Quartet and Barkada Quartet. You should absolutely check them out if you haven’t heard them!

The photo here (which is the only one I got all weekend that I’m actually in!) is with my friend and former UWO classmate, Gerard Spicer – it’s always great to reconnect with saxophone friends! I’m off to Atlanta for NAfME tomorrow morning, exhausted but happy!


for website 3It’s going to be a very busy week and a half for me! Immediately following the NASA Biennial in Lubbock, I will be flying to Atlanta to present at the National Association for Music Education Music Research and Teacher Education National Conference.  This will be my very first NAfME national conference, so I am looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things! I will be presenting an ongoing research project entitled, “Designing instruction on practicing: A pilot test of a micro-analytic self-regulation intervention,” with Dr. Peter Miksza, Nicholas Roseth, and Stephanie Cole for the Instructional Strategies SRIG session at this conference. In addition, Nick and I will be presenting our action research project, “The Use of Problem-Based Learning in a Woodwind Methods Course: An Action Research Study” at one of the Poster Sessions. It’s going to be a crazy, productive spring break – I’m looking forward to it!

NASA-logo-newI will be traveling to Lubbock, Texas this Thursday to perform and present at the North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial conference, and I couldn’t be more excited to reconnect with the saxophone community! I will be performing the premiere of Jay Batzner’s Abstain Red Hells for soprano saxophone and electronics on Sunday morning, and giving a presentation with Myles Boothroyd about publishing with The Saxophone Symposium on Saturday morning. It should be a busy and fun conference – I’m looking forward to catching up with some great friends and hearing some incredible playing!

From Jay about the piece: “Abstain Red Hells juxtaposes lyricism in the saxophone part with less lyrical sounds in the electronics, and is the most recent in a series of works for soloist and electronics. A lot of my writing for winds and electronics have been against most of the stereotypes. My goal is to create music which is musically and emotionally approachable, that uses electronics to connect performers and listeners. I want to make the electronics simple and approachable for the performer so that they are more likely to play works with electronics. This particular piece is an extension of this mission.” I’ve been really enjoying practicing this piece and I look forward to sharing it!