"I've been mentoring with City Music since I started teaching here, five years ago. It really just lines up with my life philosophy, which is engaging and inspiring the next generation. Whether or not I'm doing it at Berklee I'm doing it somewhere, because it's part of the way I was raised. I was one of those City Music students at one point, involved in the five-week program. Now I go back and help out the students that are coming behind me and help the program to expand and grow."
"We all have a destiny, and I try to make students realize that each of them is an individual unique unto itself and you don't have to run anyone else's race. Sometimes I get students that are overwhelmed because there are so many great players at Berklee. So I just try to connect the fact that if we can find the one unique part abut us, that's what's gonna make you separate from the masses. The upside is that we all have something to contribute. No matter what. I think each student has something that the world can only get from that particular student. It's up to that student to, with integrity, work and develop that skill to bring it to fruition."
"Music is something that's as individual as each student, and my goal is to bring that out in my students. Whether it's their songwriting skills or their singing skills, or just trying to put everything together, I try to bring out their individuality. If students sing at all, or they would like to, I encourage that. My experience has taught me that's it's very important to do as many things in the music business as possible; if you're a singer who plays, or a player who sings, you're going to have many more opportunities to find work."
"Every time I play, I want to have a joyous feeling when I embrace my horn. Because jazz, to me, is your personal expression on your instrument. Every time you play is a summation of where you've traveled as a player, and that comes out in your music. It's not how fast you can play this lick, or this pattern. It's developing an approach that lets you be free on your instrument to execute your personality within whatever kind of music it is."
"The most important thing I want for my students is musicality in playing whatever they want to play: expression with rhythm, with pulse, and with movement. To make a beautiful sound, it doesn't need to be one kind of sound, but it does need to be expressive. I also want them to be aware of the culture, to be aware of what they're playing, and feel confidence in it. I try to make students aware—without being self-conscious—of how their body works with the instrument when they're performing."
"Attitudes can have a huge impact on the speed at which we learn. A dangerous attitude is when a student labels and oversimplifies a musical concept and dismisses it too easily because the term might not sound impressive. In a recent ensemble, a good bass player was having trouble improvising over a tune in G minor. He didn't have a focus in his approach, so I recommended he try G minor pentatonic. He said he didn't want to play 'autopilot pentatonic.' That stopped everything for me. 'You can't discount pentatonic,' I said. 'It's probably 85 percent of the language of this music that we're playing. Learn the language of pentatonic first, innovate later.' A mindset like that is a trap I want to help students avoid."
"The Urban Outreach Ensemble—cosponsored by the Community Affairs Office and the Ensemble Department—is a very rewarding part of my teaching at Berklee. It's an educational jazz orchestra that I've led for the past 12 years. Its primary purpose is to travel and present live jazz to inner city schools. We've played several times at Symphony Hall and other venues. Many of the students who have heard us end up joining Berklee's summer program and even getting four-year scholarships to study at Berklee."
"While I work to create a supportive atmosphere, I also focus on getting the most out of my students. Newer students are often overwhelmed and maybe even intimidated by their surroundings here at Berklee, and it can be really hard for them to open up and play. Even if they play a lot of wrong notes at first, I want them to realize that they have a voice. The more developed player should take advantage of the musical talent that floods this campus. I urge students to play as much as they can, keep an open mind, and learn from every situation."
"I constantly tell students to improve their reading skills because that’s a big thing in the music business. A lot of my performances are reading music. I do others, too, where I don’t read, where I play memorized stuff, but the big things I do are reading. And I just try to encourage the students."
"In my MP&E classes, I try to look at many of the small details of production that otherwise would have a tendency to go unnoticed. In my ensembles, I like to be 'part specific.' I look at how the drums and bass are interacting. I look at how the harmonic instruments are interacting. Are they playing in appropriate registers? Are the parts complementing or fighting each other? Once we get the tune up and running, the players have more liberty to embellish their parts—within the framework of the tune. The song comes first. All improvisational ideas are drawn from the song."