Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My Old School:

Given that I graduated from a music school with a very strong jazz foundation, this may surprise some people: Jazz in its pure form really doesn't appeal to me.

When I was taking classical guitar lessons in my late teens, and planning on attending Berklee, I thought I might be a jazz guitarist and even bought a hollow body Gibson guitar. It never happened though (I've since sold that guitar). My music is more rock/blues based -- that's the dominant form (I also play classical guitar). Other styles like jazz and country, I enjoy when they are mixed in with rock in a "fusion" of styles (with of course, rock or blues being the dominant element). For country-fusion, I like Southern Rock, like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Outlaws, Neil Young and Bob Dylan's country tinged music, etc. For jazz-fusion, I like Steely Dan and Sting, and much of the 70s fusion music like Jan Hammer and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al Dimeola, etc. For rock, jazz, and country, there is (my favorite) the Dixie Dregs.

There were many at Berklee who similarly weren't jazz based (any many of them complained about the jazz foundation that we were given in our music theory class; although that stuff was really valuable -- lots of great ideas that can be mixed in with rock or pop). See, when Berklee first opened, it was established as both a jazz school and a contemporary "popular" music school, because jazz was the contemporary popular music of that age. The conservatories wouldn't think studying jazz; it wasn't thought of as a serious form of music. When Miles Davis studied at Julliard, he used to blow off his classes (which were strictly classically based) and learn Dizzie Gillespie's music in the practice halls, which wasn't part of the curriculum back then at Julliard.

But today, the conservatories have, by in large, embraced jazz as a serious form of music, although classical music is still dominant (which it should be). Rock, blues or country, as far as I know, still aren't on the curriculum at most conservatories.

But Berklee had it all. There was a "jazz" school, and a "rock" school there. I fell into the latter category. There was even a small classical (conservatory like) school at Berklee as well. You see, in order to give out baccalaureate degrees in music, accreditation bodies required that students take certain number of credits in classical harmony and counterpoint, and conducting. So Berklee hired a few conservatory like Professors. That in turn led to a composition department and later a really cool film-scoring degree.

Berklee has a lot of famous alum. Most, it seem, never graduated; they just attended for a few semesters and then moved on. One of my dorm room hang out buddies, Matt Rubano, is now in a band called Taking Back Sunday. And an acquaintance from across the hall on the 5th Floor John Blackwell has been Prince's drummer for some time.

Finally, that pic is me graduating. And that's James Taylor, our graduation speaker, giving me my diploma.


Justin Kreutzmann said...

wow, you have cool taste in music.
That's great.

Jonathan said...