Celebrating Berklee's Faculty Pioneers
When the 160 Massachusetts Avenue building opens in June 2014, the facility’s six student lounges will be dedicated to late faculty members who were standout pioneers in their work at the college. For five of the rooms, two honorees will share the dedicatory plaque. The sixth room will honor Berklee’s first provost, Robert Share. What follows is a short career summary of each and their contributions to the college.
Alan Dawson and Joe Viola
Alan Dawson (1929–1996) made his mark in the music world as a drum instructor, but he also had a distinguished performance career. Dawson taught at Berklee for 18 years, and his students included Terri Lyne Carrington, Steve Smith, Kenwood Dennard, Vinnie Colaiuta, Harvey Mason, Joe LaBarbera, John Robinson, and more. Perhaps his most famous non-Berklee student was the legendary Tony Williams, who began studying with Dawson at age nine.
During the early 1950s, Dawson began touring and recording with a host of jazz luminaries. Among those he worked with were Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, and others. He balanced his teaching and performing careers until a back injury in 1975 curtailed his performance and teaching work. He left Berklee in 1975 but continued to teach a small group of students privately. Dawson was highly regarded as a drummer for his speed, precision, control, and remarkable independence between hands and feet. As a teacher, he stressed mastery of drum rudiments and is credited with raising the standards for teaching drum technique.
In a 1995 presentation of the Berklee President’s Award to Joe Viola (1920–2001), then-President Lee Eliot Berk stated, “Joe is one of the cornerstones upon which the college’s reputation for excellence is built.” Berk went on to describe Viola’s achievements in teaching and publishing as “intrinsic to the development of instruction at Berklee.” As the founding chair of Berklee’s Woodwind Department, Viola guided the development of wind players and others during his five decades at Berklee. Among his early students were Herb Pomeroy, Ray Santisi, Charlie Mariano, and Quincy Jones. He later mentored Joe Lovano, Jerry Bergonzi, Bill Pierce, Donald Harrison, Antonio Hart, and others.
A Boston native, Viola attended Berklee (when it was known as Schillinger House) as a student after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. A rounded woodwind player, Viola played clarinet, saxophone, oboe, English horn, and flute, and began teaching at Schillinger House in 1946. Published during the 1960s, his groundbreaking, three-volume method The Technique of the Saxophone remains part of Berklee’s curriculum. Its second volume was adapted for bass, brass, flute, guitar, vibes, and violin and translated into German, Italian, and Japanese. Over the course of his 49 years at Berklee, Viola helped build the foundation for the careers of hundreds of wind players.