Day 6- Back at Eastman

Since I’m still a DMA student at Eastman, I’ve had to return to Rochester, NY to meet with advisors and forge ahead with my degree.  No one wants to be finished with it more than I do, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Being an alumni of the undergrad program, as well as a current student, I’ve had plenty of time to forge memories and contemplate how the school has helped me over the years.  Considering that I’ve been back and forth to the school for 15 years, the institution has had a formidable influence on my musical outlook.

As an undergrad, I studied music education, jazz, and classical music, all pretty intensely.  I never really set out on a specific path to be a “well-rounded” musician (this in itself seems a bit contradictory), but I found that my musical interests drew me in several different directions, often times in one day’s schedule.  Plainly put, I wanted to be involved with everything I could get my hands on.  Of course, being involved in everything means that you run the risk of mastering nothing, and no doubt, I often feel this way.  However, when someone asks what I do as a musician, my first response has always been to identify as a “jazz” musician.  I feel fortunate, though, that Eastman allowed me to participate in the jazz program, the orchestras, the new music ensembles, and anything else I chose to explore.  Thanks, George.

Jeff Campbell, my main teacher for nearly 15 years, also wears many musical hats.  Despite our decade-and-a-half collaboration, I leave every lesson with Jeff with a new perspective on music.  I think this is because Jeff is a life-long student too.   A great teacher should have a thirst for a subject that always draws them in new directions and new modes of thinking.  Like Jeff, the teachers that are the most versatile have shown me new and interesting ways to present music to my students, and hopefully this same philosophy will filter into their teaching, and so on and on.  It has always boggled my mind to hear someone say that they’re bored with music.  How can that be when there are so many nuances to be explored?  I always think of another teacher of mine from Eastman, Ralph Alessi, who said one day that he doesn’t care what tune he plays.  A great improvisor like Ralph can find novelty in the most mundane tune.

Day 6’s performance is brought to you by the letter Z, for Chris Ziemba.  Today I definitely learned some new things playing with Chris, one of my favorite pianists.  Part of the year’s performance objective is to learn a little from everyone I play with.  What can I learn from you?

Here’s a sample:

“Voyage” by Kenny Barron

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