All that Jazz
By Justin Boulmay
Carroll V. Dashiell Jr. has a way of understating exactly what he does for his jazz students. “I’m just here trying to find B-flat for students,” he says. That’s a self-deprecating way to describe the teaching style of a man who has learned from the music industry’s most talented performers, one who has played with the Boston Pops, the National Symphony and the Washington Philharmonic Orchestra. By all accounts, Dashiell found B-flat and every other note long before he joined the faculty in 1989.
In his musical tradition, Dashiell sees his role as sharing ideas and passing on what he’s learned to every student who enters his classroom. No matter where they come from, Dashiell tells his students that many of them probably developed their musical interests in the same way.
“I always say for my students…I’m sure it was some band or orchestra or something that came to your school and you were sitting on the floor in the kindergarten room or somewhere in primary school and you looked up on stage and saw some bright, shiny instrument,” Dashiell says. “And you say, ‘Wow, what is that? I think I want to do that.’”
In addition to his teaching load, Dashiell also is the director and founder of ECU’s annual Billy Taylor Jazz Festival, scheduled this year for April 15–16.
Now 51, Dashiell was exposed to music at a young age by his parents while growing up in Washington, D.C. He already knew how to play the violin and viola when he picked up the bass between fifth and sixth grades. He had hit a growth spurt and his teacher asked him to handle the string bass because he was the only student big enough to carry it up and down the stairs.
Although he could physically handle the instrument, Dashiell didn’t know how to play it and couldn’t read the music, as he had been used to reading notes in treble clef. So his teacher took sheets of music and above each note wrote a number that that corresponded to the strings and finger placements Dashiell needed to play.
“I didn’t know that half position on the G-string was A-flat,” he says. “I just knew it was first finger, first string.”
At that time, Dashiell didn’t know his interest in music would lead him to a career. That moment came in high school, after he tore his hamstring during a football practice but still had to make a rehearsal at the Kennedy Center later that night.
That passion for sharing music is something Dashiell gets to do with rising musicians at East Carolina. After nearly 20 years as the director of the jazz studies program, Dashiell is in his 22nd year as an ECU faculty member, serving as the director of jazz ensembles and the jazz professor for string bass and electric bass. He still remembers his struggle as a young teacher: balancing his time between performing and teaching so he didn’t get burned out by doing two things for which he was passionate.