Nicole Yarling’s Village Raises Musicians
Nicole Yarling has found her niche.
A veteran singer, instrumentalist, and music educator, she spotted a weakness in South Florida’s system of training jazz musicians and proceeded to fill it.
Her realization came a couple of years ago during a Jazz Encounters event at radio station WDNA. The series features established artists in performance followed by jam sessions. Yarling recalls being pleased by the group of young musicians who had gathered for an appearance by Ira Sullivan — then dismayed that when their time on stage came, they didn’t quite know what to do/
“They spent the first 10 minutes figuring out what to play,” Yarling recalls. “It happens with older musicians too, but we’re quicker because we have the experience.
“I said that night, ‘If I start a workshop on Saturday, will you come?’ Everybody’s head went up and down.”
It’s not like Yarling needed something else to occupy her time. In demand as both vocalist and violinist, she’s a member of the faculty at Florida Memorial University. So she knew that the aspiring musicians, while able to play, lacked knowledge of “the etiquette of performance.”
She notes that while the Miami area has many excellent programs in schools and outside teaching youngsters to play, there aren’t as many opportunities for them to learn how to be successful musicians.
“Even the people that are experienced jazz musicians that are teaching, they get an ensemble of 30 people, they don’t have time to teach nuance. So I started to notice how important these other things were,” Yarling says.
In addition to how to work as a musician, Yarling’s students learn things like how to prepare for the auditions required to get them into elite music programs. “We’re coming at it from a different angle,” she says.
The Saturday workshops have become the Jazz Educators Community Coalition Boot Camp. Participants, presently about 20, gather weekly to expand their skills with local clinicians such as Stephen Scott, Wendy Pedersen, and Jim Gasior. Visiting artists also participate when their schedules allow.
This fall the student ensemble will release a CD. It includes a pair of original compositions by two members, on which they have registered copyrights. “The problem to me is we sell ourselves short and we sell our kids short,” Yarling says. “We think that you have to be a certain age to understand these concepts. You can teach somebody seven years old how to fill out a copyright form.”
It’s important to Yarling that her charges learn these kinds of skills, which are rarely taught in school, “so they’re not taken advantage of when they’re 70 to 80 years old, sitting home going, ‘I don’t have any work and I don’t know what to do.’
“The point is, I’m really trying to educate these kids in more ways than just these are the notes, read ‘em off the paper. And it’s not just me by myself. That old ridiculous saying, it takes a village? It really takes a musical community.
“Not one person I’ve asked to come in and mentor the kids has told me no. I kind of think I’m supposed to be doing this,” Yarling says, chuckling.
Others agree. Earlier this year, Yarling was recognized for her work as a Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association.
The JECC Boot Camp meets on Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at WDNA, 2921 Coral Way, Miami. Each session costs $5. Most participants are youngsters but anyone who wants to play and is willing to work is welcome. For more information, contact Nicole Yarling: firstname.lastname@example.org.