Jared Sims has had a busy year.
Last April, Sims became director of jazz studies in the School of Music at West Virginia University and hit the ground running, developing an updated and innovative jazz curriculum for students. On April 14 – almost a year to the day of his appointment – Sims will tell his tales through songs on a new CD with Ropeadope Records.
“Change of Address” is a memoir of sorts for Sims, a 1996 WVU jazz studies graduate, narrating his return to Morgantown after receiving his doctorate in classical music performance from Boston University and spending more than a decade teaching saxophone and jazz at the college level in New England.
“Morgantown is a very relaxed atmosphere and the natural beauty of the landscape really appeals to me,” Sims said. “It has been a really amazing experience reconnecting.”
Playing baritone saxophone on the new album, Sims leads a quintet of players on a set of original compositions that range from slinky and grooving to pensive and brawny.
“Much of what I was trying to do with the recording was to capture a very unique point in time for me, as I was coming back to Morgantown yet still surging forward to expand my own artistic expression,” Sims said. “Music reflects a very personal experience.”
Throughout his teaching career, Sims has maintained a rigorous recording and performance schedule as a soloist and with artists like the Temptations, the Four Tops, DJ Logic and Matisyahu. He’s played with large ensembles including the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the Artie Shaw Orchestra and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
According to Sims, continuing his career as a professional performer is an important factor in providing a well-round education to WVU students.
“I think that the depth of what I have to offer to students comes from my experiences performing and hearing musicians outside of WVU, and I try to share with my students the musical trends and events that are currently happening,” Sims said. “Teaching also helps me to be a better musician, specifically because I spend a lot of time exploring jazz and demonstrating and explaining relevant concepts to students.”
Over the past year, Sims has used the knowledge he’s gained as a professional artist to shift the focus of the jazz studies program from a concentration on style and repertoire to methodology.
“I stress the importance of the skills that jazz teaches first, like learning music by ear, then reinforce the principals and repertoire of the genre,” Sims said. “Jazz is a methodology rather than an end point in our program, and students can apply their training to any genre.”
Sims’ goal through the updated curriculum is to produce forward thinking musicians.
“Instead of thinking of jazz as a music made by strangers in the past, jazz is instead considered a current and future art form that involves musicians of today,” Sims said. “Jazz education is a moving target. Focusing only on music of the past trains students for a career in 1960. Our program reflects on the past, while teaching our students to forge the genre’s future.”