The Aerie, Yearbook of University of North Texas, 1990 Page: 95
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Small jazz groups serve a different need
than the lab band program; these small groups help students enhance
their improvising skills while increasing their knowledge of the standard jazz repertoire
A lthough NT was mainly known for its
lab bands, in recent years the Small
Group Program had been gaining in
popularity. Small groups, or jazz com-
bos, were originally started at the collegiate
level by Jerry Coker and Dan Haerle at the
University of Miami. In 1977, when Haerle
came to NT, he was asked to help create a
small group program for
the school. In his first se-
mester, he oversaw only
three small groups. In his
second and third semes-
ters, he had eight, then
thirteen small groups, and
finally that number grew
to 30, which seemed to be as many as were
The small group program served a different
need than the lab band program did for many
of the students. The lab bands primarily
helped to improve sight-reading skills as well
as the skills necessary for working with an
ensemble, while the small group program
helped the students enhance their improvising
skills, as well as increasing their knowledge of
the standard jazz repertoire.
The format of the program had gone
through some changes since its inception in
the late '70s. When there were only three
groups to be concerned with, Haerle could be
personally involved with each. As the program
grew, however, it soon became clear that a
new system was needed, which was when the
concept of student leaders was introduced.
Each group was made up of three to six musi-
cians, and of these, one student was chosen as
the group's leader. This person was responsi-
ble for scheduling rehearsals and choosing the
repertoire. Once a week, all the students in-
volved in the entire program met in a "Jazz
Forum," where one group was chosen to per-
form, and criticisms were given at the end of
the performance by Haerle, maintaining his
direct involvement with the students.
In years to come Haerle was hoping for an
increase in the quality of the groups, which
may have to come at the expense of the size of
the program. "We'd like the quality to go up
- we want the standard to be higher. If that
means less groups, so be it," Haerle said. He
also saw a possible trend towards more spe-
cialization - perhaps each group would con-
centrate on one style of music for the entire
semester. This would lead to a wider variety of
the musical styles and instrumentation of the
The centennial year marks the return of the
small groups to the Rock Bottom Lounge,
which Haerle called "A cause for celebration."
"I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work
with students of the caliber we have around
here," Haerle said. "I admire them for their
enthusiasm and dedication to the music. My
connection with the small group program is
one I enjoy - I consider it a privilege."
With the success of the small group pro-
gram only adding to the success of the lab
bands, NT was ensuring its place on the lead-
ing edge of the jazz world.
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University of North Texas. The Aerie, Yearbook of University of North Texas, 1990, yearbook, 1990; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth61055/m1/98/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.