Edgar Crockett left one longtime music education job and was surprised to find a new school home.

The friendly 55-year-old Virginia native retired early from Black Hawk College in summer 2021, and was soon asked to head the music program at the Bettendorf college-prep school Rivermont Collegiate.

Dr. Edgar Crockett leading a band at the private school, Rivermont Collegiate, in Bettendorf.

After a year in the job, Crockett is seeking Quad Cities students (middle and high-school age) for a new Rivermont Music Academy. Open to any area student, the after-school program for aspiring music-makers will kick off with Middle School Jazz Band and High School Jazz Band in early October.

“We want to offer courses for elementary students and expand to include classical music and other genres as the program develops,” Crockett said. Interested parents and students are invited to join the ceteran teacher, trumpet player and composer for an information session Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m., Rivermont Collegiate (in the mansion), 1821 Sunset Drive in Bettendorf.

Graduating students celebrate at Rivermont Collegiate, Bettendorf.

“We will brainstorm things we want to do, including things for elementary students down the road,” he said Monday. The new program (to meet weekly and offer its first concert Nov. 30) aims to fill a gap locally for student jazz combos and small classical ensembles.

Crockett — who teaches privately, performs in the area, and judges instrumental contests — has performed with Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, James Ingram, Peabo Bryson, Maureen McGovern, Shirley Jones, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and many others. As a jazz trumpeter and director, he’s played with Jimmy Heath, David Sanchez, Vincent Herring, Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, and Buddy Di Franco.

He earned his bachelor’s in music from James Madison University, a master’s from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D in music composition from the University of Iowa.

Taught at Black Hawk 29 years

Crockett took early retirement from BHC in Moline, effective Aug. 1, 2021, after a challenging 18 months trying to make music during COVID (including outdoor performances and socially distanced indoor ones).

Crockett is a 55-year-old Virginia native who taught music at Black Hawk College for 29 years.

“I was 25 when I started off in ‘92 and worked through 29 years and I was planning on keeping going, but I just found out that I was eligible for an early retirement,” he said Monday. “They didn’t have an incentive to leave. But at the same time, I felt like the time was right.”

After retiring from Black Hawk, Crockett was quickly recruited to come to Rivermont that fall, teaching K-12 general music and leading the band program.

“I was loving it, but what I found is, I was teaching completely full-time and on top of that I was still trying to maintain my chops as a player,” Crockett said of performing locally, and keeping up composing.

 “I was also doing quite a bit of recording work, because during the pandemic so many things were being recorded and streamed and stuff like that. So I had those different things in the air and I just thought, maybe I better back off a little bit,” he said, noting he’s still conducting the middle school and high school bands, but one of his former students is teaching music K-5.

That’s Sarah Anderson, a BHC and Augustana alum (2021, music education).

“There are other younger people that are a little more suited toward that age group,” Crockett (who now is Rivermont director of bands) said. “She was a fantastic student at Black Hawk, just a straight-A student. And so I’m actually getting a chance to work with a former student as a colleague. She’s just doing a fantastic job. It’s a great fit for her and it’s wonderful for Rivermont.”

For serious music students

The new Music Academy is intended for students who are serious about the field as a possible career.

Crockett working with a trombone student at Rivermont Collegiate, which serves kids in grades K-12.

“We’re starting with offering jazz courses — of course, there are lots of high schools and middle schools that even have jazz bands, but I think one of the things that’s different about our program is that we are placing our emphasis on what we call chamber music,” Crockett said of quartets or quintets. 

Later, they will offer classical chamber music, which is not really an option in public schools. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to play with a lot of great musicians over the years, so I feel that this would be an opportunity to talk with students who are serious about music,” Crockett said. “What does it take to get into the music industry?”

That includes not only the performance aspect, but the business side, like marketing yourself, joining a musicians’ union and copyrighting compositions.

“Our first goal with the youngsters is going to be just learning their instruments and developing a relationship and learning how to listen to other musicians,” Crockett said. “As time goes on, we’re hoping to groom students for auditions, helping them prepare for their auditions — for college auditions or for All-State auditions.” 

He also hopes to give students the chance to play a wide variety of music – from jazz to pop to classical, to swing, polka and more. 

“My philosophy is to be as broad as possible,” Crockett said. “A trumpet might be playing lead one day and then the playing Dixieland or bebop the next day. And then he might be going into a studio and recording jingles another day and then another day, he might be getting called in to do symphonic work, or Broadway pit work, it’s all different.” 

“If you said well, I’m just going to play know bebop or I’m just going to play Dixieland or classical or whatever, you may not get enough work to survive, you know?” he said. “And that’s very much what I do.” 

Open to Rivermont and anyone

The new jazz bands will be open to Rivermont students, among any area youth.

“I’m sort of putting out feelers to all the middle schools and high schools and we want to encourage anybody to come out,” Crockett said. “If tuition is an issue — sometimes people might think, oh, never mind, that’s a private school. It’s got to be really expensive. And the cost of this class is about the same thing as a weekly private lesson.”

Crockett shows a student how to use a mute at Rivermont Collegiate.

But instead of a 30-to-40-minute lesson or band rehearsal for 45 minutes, the new Music Academy offers 90-minute lessons for the same price, he noted.

The new academy is not meant to replace other existing school or youth ensemble programs (like the Quad City Symphony youth ensembles).

Students are so busy with activities like marching band in the evening and football games and pep band. “So this is a way for students who are really interested in digging deep, where we can stop and say we’re going to dig deep into this,” Crockett said.

“That’s what we’re trying to do is, promote excellence. And it’ll be exciting to see how everything develops,” he said.

Meeting for eight weeks

Classes will meet weekly for eight weeks, and both programs conclude with a live performance. It will take December off.

Tuition for the eight-week course is $320 if paying by cash or check (and $332 if paying by credit card). Tuition is non-refundable unless the course is canceled by the school. Your spot is not reserved until payment is received. The deadline to register is Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.

The rehearsals will be held separately for the middle school (Tuesdays) and high school groups (Wednesdays) from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

During the eight-week course, students will delve into:

  • Music Literature: Study and play jazz by the masters, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and many others.
  • Music Technique: Music Reading and Sight Reading.
  • Music Theory: Key Signatures, Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios
  • Creative Playing: Improvisation and Composition
  • Stylistic Playing: How to play various styles (Swing, Bossa Nova, Rock, Funk, Ballads, etc.)

The new Music Academy jazz bands will give a concert on Nov. 30, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. in Becherer Hall Auditorium at Rivermont Collegiate.