[radio piece] The Root Progression: Teaching In A Uniquely New Orleans Way At The Heritage School Of Music (WWNO/NPR. July 2014).


This fall, the 24-year-old Don Jamison Heritage School of Music will move into its first permanent home on Rampart Street, across from the French Quarter. The building’s façade is being sanded and painted for a December opening.

“All the classrooms are gonna have recording equipment so we can record each class,” says Derek Douget, the school’s coordinator of music education since 2010. “We have a state-of-the-art stage where we can do performances at the end of the week.”

Douget is excited about the upgrade to a new building, but he’s equally excited to expose more students to a nearly lost New Orleans tradition called the Root Progression: a teaching method devised and codified by mystic clarinetist Alvin Batiste.

“The Root Progression is basically a practice technique, and it involves the learning of intervals, so that you get them in your ear and get them under your fingers,” Douget says. “Section one of the Root Progression is just half steps. Then if you want to learn, say, an idea in half-steps, like a triad, it would be this —”

Douget plays an example on his saxophone. He studied Root Progression under Alvin Batiste — arguably the world’s first jazz teacher. The New Orleans-born Batiste taught at McDonough 35 before founding Southern University’s Jazz Institute in 1969. Batiste later spent four years as chair of the Jazz Department at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts before passing away in 2007.

Over 40 years of teaching, Batiste continually revised and self-published his own spiral-bound textbook titled The Root Progression Method: The Fundamentals of 20th Century African American Music. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this transcript…

Or go ahead and  to the audio version as it appeared on the radio: 

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