Jazzy new book hits shelves

Dr. Michele Caniato, a professor in the humanities department at FSC, researched jazz arrangements for his new book.

By Holly Smith-Young
Sharing the gift of inspiration with the next generation, a Fitchburg State College music professor recently released a book of jazz arrangements designed to help conductors “revisit favorite arrangements, discover new ones, and inspire your jazz ensemble with sound and adventurous music to play.”
Dr. Michele Caniato, a faculty member in the humanities department, said he wrote “The Jazz Ensemble Companion” as a reference book for conductors of high school and college-level jazz groups to help with analyzing, conducting and composing jazz music.
The process of researching and writing the book did not progress at an even tempo, however. “It took on a life of its own,” Caniato said – seven years, to put a time stamp on it.
Within the first year, Caniato said, he had about 10 percent of the book’s materials compiled. By 2004 he had about 30 to 40 percent compiled, but then the publisher he had been working with died, and that set back the process quite a bit. “I thought about giving it up,” Caniato said.
Then in 2008 he decided to pick it up again, found a new publisher, and worked for another six or seven incredibly intense months to finally finish the book.
“I had LOTS of help,” Caniato said. To write the book, he interviewed many jazz educators, gathering their recommendations of important pieces of music and their interpretations and analyses of jazz theories and compositions.
He also had longtime friend Steven Lipman, of Berklee College of Music in Boston, helping him from the beginning when the book was merely an idea. Caniato also had copious amounts of help from work-study student Natalie Weisenbaker.
Caniato said his favorite part of the book-writing process was learning about new arrangements and compositions. He said he also enjoyed learning about the different approaches used by different directors. “Each director has their own interpretation of each piece of music,” he said.
After completing the book, Caniato said that he did feel a little let down. He had allowed it to take up so much of his time for seven years; it was strange to not have that constant idea of an ongoing project.
Still, he said he has no firm plans to write any other books. Perhaps, he said, he will release newer edited and revised editions if the book goes well, but he doesn’t have anything in process currently.
Dr. Michele Caniato’s book “The Jazz Ensemble Companion,” subtitled “A Guide to Outstanding Big-Band Arrangements Selected by Some of the Foremost Jazz Educators,” was published by Rowman & Littlefield Education. Further information can be obtained from his Web site, www.michelecaniato.com.