WILL HIGHTOWER’S STAGES OF FIELDWORK
Directions: Find a parter and read Will Hightower’s chapter in Talk That Music Talk (Pages 104-113) together. You can alternate between the voices of Will and two of his mentors, Benny Jones, Sr. and Roger Lewis. While you are reading, pay attention to how Will’s experiences with music could fit into the different stages of fieldwork that anthropologists go through to learn about a different culture. When you finish the chapter, work together to fill out the questions below.
1. Where does Will live and what is he doing with his time prior to getting interested in music?
Will’s parents grew up in New Orleans and he visited his great-grandmother in the city, but he grew up in a suburb called Metairie. He was a shy kid who did karate to help with his coordination. He also played a lot of video games.
2. What was his most significant entrée into music and why?
Will decided to play music in the band at school to get out of P.E. but this was not because he had a love of a music. A love of music developed when members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band lived with him after Hurricane Katrina. One of the members told his family about Music for All Ages, and this is where he began to learn how to play New Orleans brass band music. When he heard jazz clarinetists, he started had role models to follow.
3. Who have been important people in the world of music for him and where did he meet them?
Roger Lewis was a family friend. Like a lot of young people, when WIll was growing up he didn’t think that much about what Roger did for a living. It wasn’t until he started playing with other brass band musicians in the music program that he realized that the Dirty Dozen was a world-famous band. From these musicians, he gained confidence to take on some of his own schooling issues. He transferred schools and joined another brass band musician, Desmond Veneble’s, marching program. By this time, he understood enough about music to realize what a good teacher he was.
4. What were his experiences of “culture shock?” How did he begin to overcome them?
Will’s extreme shyness made it hard for him to play in a band when he first started out with Music for All Ages. He talks about how nervous he was to take a solo, but the other musicians continued to ask him to do it until he started to gain more confidence. Being around a diverse group of students helped him in other ways.
5. Will talks to Benny and Roger about developing your own voice in music, or, in the words of anthropologists, “developing rapport.” What does Will say helped him, and what do the other musicians recommend?
Will says studying with other clarinet and saxophone players helped him develop his own voice. He branched out to other music programs and participated in the New Orleans Young Traditional Brass Band where he played in the Black Men of Labor Parade. Getting to play alongside other professional musicians was disorienting but afterwards he realized he had learned a lot about how to develop his own sound. Benny says playing professionally is important, and that you don’t have to talk a lot to be the leader. Roger Lewis tells him the interaction between the musicians and the dancers in the parade is important in New Orleans music. The call and response pushes musicians to develop new ways of playing.
6. How does his experiences with music influence how he sees the different schools that he attends?
He realized that a lot of the problems he was having in other areas of his schooling were around the close-mindedness of his classmates. He decided to go to a public school that didn’t have as good of an academic reputation, but had a student body that was more accepting. Diversity became an important part of what he valued in education and in his social life.
7. On page 111, Will says, “If you go in thinking it’s just a piece of music, you are going to miss it because it’s an entire cultural entity of its own.” What does he mean? By playing music in brass bands in New Orleans, will also got to have a new relationship with the city. The music takes people through different stages of life. When a musician dies, they are honored by their community of musicians with a jazz funeral. Will talks about playing at Lionel Batiste, Sr.’s jazz funeral, which was one of the largest on record. The bass drummer for the Tremé Brass Band, he had become an icon of jazz music in the city, and was one of the mentors in the Music for All Ages program.