"We get the misconception that you've got to be John Scofield or Pat Metheny. But that's such a small percentage of the population of musicians. For most musicians who are not quite up to that level, you're accompanying, you're part of band. The music wouldn't be the same without you, but it's not your name drawing the crowd. And that's okay. There's something to be said for being the side person and doing your job well. You get to be a part of making the music sound great and not have to worry about all the logistics. Go play the gig, do the music, do your job well, take the check, and don't worry about all the rest. That's the job of the versatile side musician. And that's, at least, what I am trying to prepare my students to be."
"Teaching is all thinking, but performing is different. When it’s right, performing is an out-of-body experience and thinking goes out the window. You just let it happen, like riding a bike. There is always fresh inspiration even week to week when I perform, which is an outgrowth of being well rounded and ready to play anything. And there’s a difference between playing an instrument well and playing music well. Some people have an incredible amount of technique and can do unbelievable things—by themselves. But when they have to jam with a band they have no idea what to do. It’s like a guy on the basketball court who has all the moves and looks really great, but the ball never goes into the hoop."
"My whole perspective on preparing a student for the real world has evolved significantly over the years. When I was going through school, all you had to be was a really good musician, and you could move to either coast and be successful. Today you've got to be a really good musician and all of these other things: You've got to be technologically adept. You've got to have good communication skills. You've got to be able to interact with people with positive results. And you've got to fuse all of that together with all of the marketing that you can do yourself, thanks to the internet. I call it the Millennium Musician. Since the year 2000, it's all these other skill sets that are the ingredients for success. And Berklee still sets the standard for that."
"The ideals of being professional—being prepared, being on time, having a good attitude, being someone who's friendly and easy to work with—sometimes is as important about getting the gig as anything. Because there are so many great players, the more that you're prepared and the more that you're a good person to work with, you're going to move to the top of the list of people to call.
"In teaching private lessons, I help students find repertoire to work on and to study the essentials of phrasing, soloing, chords, and technique. The goal is for the student to be able to sound the way he or she would like to sound—for them to take their instrument in whatever direction they would like. I also teach a recital prep lab. In that case, the object is to gain experience playing in front of people and to discover what a good performance means to each individual student."
"You can't know where you're going unless you know where you are, and where you came from. When you put those three things together, you have the best formula for making a successful impact on your craft and on the world of music. When students start to sense all the connections, you can see the 'aha experience' in the eyes. It's in the questions they ask, it's in their performances. It's a spirit."
"I want students to enjoy the process, and the rest will come. To take students out of their comfort zone, I might ask them to throw the song into a completely different key. Or make them play with only one hand, if they're a piano player, to hear the space in the song. Or ask them to play the whole song up two octaves, or take out all the vibrato, or, for the guitar player, to use an alternate tuning. It's not that the crazy version of a song is the best alternative; it just sends them down a different road so that they come out somewhere fresh on the other side."