Lee Bash, Head of the Music Department at Bellarmine College

By Joyce Trammell

"When I was ten years old, I thought everyone had Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton's Band and Louis Armstrong's Band at their home for live entertainment."

Dr. Lee Bash, head of the Music Department at Bellarmine College was talking about his youth in Northern Indiana. His mother played piano and his father displayed an insatiable appetite for jazz. It was common for the elder Mr. Bash to hold jam sessions in his South Bend, Ind. home until five or six in the morning. Jazz musicians of all caliber would gather and jam, including some who were then famous and some who would become famous later.

"My father loved jazz," Bash said.

"He would take my brother and me to meet Louis Armstrong and other things like that. It was just how I grew up."

So immersed in music was Lee Bash that it was natural that he would take up an instrument. He developed such skill on the trombone that he was working as a professional by age fourteen.

"In high school," he commented, "the music teacher had the regular band and I had the jazz band."

After graduating from high school, he had a chance to join the Ellington Band.

"That sounded like fun," he stated, "but I wanted to teach. I wanted to give something back."

Bash continued on in school and earned his doctorate in music, but he seems almost to discount the degree.

"It shows that I can do it, but I don't have to," he said, referring to playing classical pieces in traditional ways. Bash practices the definition of a good teacher someone who places the emphasis of instruction on the needs of the student as an individual.

"No person is told that their type of music is wrong," he says. "What good is it," Dr. Bash asked, "if you force someone to sing an operatic aria when they want to sing Broadway musicals, country or jazz. You serve no purpose except to lose the student.

However, there are some aspects that are the same in all music, such as a good foundation in fundamentals, breath control, etc.

"If somebody comes in and wants to learn to play ragtime piano, we've got a teacher who will teach it. Along the way, of course, we might suggest that there are other things that might be fun to learn, but we don't push it."

After studying trombone at Indiana University with Buddy Baker, a former member of Stan Kenton's band, Bash graduated and began teaching music in Buffalo, N.Y. After four years of elementary, middle and high school experiences, he became the first full-time music teacher in a private boys' school, very similar to Louisville's St Xavier and Trinity. The program was so successful that his jazz ensemble was invited to play at the Montreaux Jazz festival in Switzerland.

Moving to an affluent school in Connecticut, he put together a high-school jazz band that toured the U.S.

At the University of Buffalo he obtained a Ph.D. in Music Education with an emphasis in jazz. He spent two years as director of the jazz program at Buffalo. The opportunity to teach in a smaller liberal arts college, where students could receive that special, individualized attention, was offered to him and he came to Bellarmine College in 1985.

Dr. Bash is quick to point out thatLouisvilleis home to such jazz performers as Lionel Hampton, Jonah Jones, Jamie Aebersold, Jimmy Raney and many others who have since gone on to success in Chicago and New York. He also continues to look for the next great jazz artist from Louisville.

Bash has completed two books on jazz education and two more are in the works, to be published by Alfred Publishing. He is assistant editor of a quarterly magazine. Jazz Educators Journal, put out by the International Association of Jazz Educators.

He is also working on getting a Bachelor's degree in Arts Management program in place for the Fall 1991 session at Bellarmine. The program will focus on the business side of making music.

"It's important that students know how to make a living with their music," he said, "Otherwise, they'll be driving a cab or waiting tables. The Arts Management program will fill that need and we hope to make it a topnotch program." s