Milton Academy Jazz Director Bob Sinicrope will receive the inaugural John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award on Wednesday, January 10, at the 34th Annual International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Conference in New York City.
Underwritten in part by Berklee College of Music, the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award was created to recognize an outstanding international high school educator with five or more year’s classroom experience who represents the highest standards of teaching and whose results in the classroom have brought distinction to their institution and their students.
The award memorializes jazz education pioneer, John LaPorta, who left behind a career that included stints playing alto saxophone and clarinet with Woody Herman, Charles Mingus, and Lennie Tristano to teach at Berklee. Passionate, opinionated, garrulous, witty, an uncompromising artist, and an inspiring teacher, LaPorta revolutionized jazz education. He spent more than 30 years at Berklee, becoming one of college’s most respected and influential educators. Thanks to his innovative approach to jazz education, the college was able to open its doors to students at all levels of ability and training.
“By creating an annual award which recognizes excellence in the classroom, IAJE is able to highlight teaching standards which others can emulate as well as honoring those educators who have shown a unique commitment to jazz education and, in turn, have made a profound difference in their student’s lives,” said IAJE President, Chuck Owen.
Bob Sinicrope founded the Milton Academy Jazz Program in 1974 and has taught there ever since. Winner of several DownBeat, MusicFestUSA, Arts and Talent, IAJE and Berklee Festival awards, the Milton Academy jazz program has produced many fine professional musicians, most notably Aaron Goldberg and Steve Lehman. The jazz program serves students who seek an introductory experience in improvisation in a small group setting.
Bob has brought dozens of local and international artists to work with and inspire his students. He uses jazz as a way for his students to connect to other schools and learn about diversity. Milton Academy groups have shared performances with inner city and international schools, and even a local school for autistic children. In the classroom, students explore Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and South African music in addition to mainstream jazz.
Over the years Bob has made given clinics in schools on six continents. Other teaching credits include Jamey Aeberold’s Summer Jazz Workshops since 1981, Jazzwise Summer School (London) since 1997, John Payne Music Center (1979-2001), and Jamaican Peace Corps. His IAJE conference presentations include Develop Your Own Groove (1994); Tips on Teaching Improvisation to Beginners (1997); A History of Jazz Bass PowerPoint presentation and Walking Bass Lines for Beginners at the 2004 South Africa Jazz Educators conference; and Tips on Using Technology in the Classroom (2007).
His special connections with South Africa have evolved since 1991 when Abdullah Ibrahim visited Milton Academy and invited the school’s combo to tour South Africa. Bob is a regular visitor there and has forged special bonds with Johnny Mekoa’s Music Academy of Gauteng, Darius Brubeck and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Sinikthemba Choir and the Amy Biehl Foundation. Bob’sWorld Leaders band were featured presenters/performers at the 2004 South Africa jazz educators conference. In March 2007, Milton Academy students will tour South Africa for the sixth time; his groups have also delivered valuable donated materials to township music schools.
Bob’s Milton groups have performed at six IAJE conferences, twice at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton, at the North Sea, Fribourg, Viennes and Montreux Jazz Festivals and at local jazz clubs. They have also opened for Eric Alexander, Lynne Arriale, the Either Orchestra, Hal Galper, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, Abdullah Ibrahim, Elvin Jones, Hank Marr, Poncho Sanchez, and Kenny Werner. Bob has also helped raise funds through his music for the Iraqi Symphony, Amnesty International, and Katrina Relief. He has been honored with the Milton Academy Talbot Baker Teaching Award, a Berklee College of Music Alumni Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Study Grant, five Massachusetts Arts Lottery performance grants and two Milton Academy Endowed funds which bring visiting artists to campus.