"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."
"I teach a lot of things by ear—improvisation concepts, balancing solos, different harmonic and melodic concepts. There is a key to teaching improvisation. There are five elements: melody, harmony, form, rhythm, and color. Out of those five elements, I teach different concepts, so the students get a well-balanced diet of solos, so it doesn't sound like they're just concentrating on one element. Some students are more crafted in certain areas, in form or harmony. They may need more melody or more color. It all depends on the individual."
"I tell my students that the best thing to say when somebody asks you if you play this kind of music is yes, because then you can get the gig. So when you’re at Berklee you should learn as many different things as you can. Matt Garstka is a guy I use as an example. He was the drummer in the first heavy metal ensemble, and he plays with the band Animals as Leaders. They’re one of the top progressive bands in the world. He was rated all sevens. You don’t get all sevens just knowing how to play heavy metal; you have to know all the different styles."
"Good ensemble playing requires the ability to hear not only your own playing, but all the playing that is happening around you—to hear your musical relationship to the other players acutely, so that it informs and guides your musical actions. The more advanced your playing skills are, the more capable you will be of dividing your listening attention between yourself and the band."
"I didn't have a special teaching style when I came to Berklee. Goodness, no. I think what I had was a lot of ability to learn and adapt very quickly. I was on the road for 30 years or more. And being on the road, you're used to change. In a classroom situation, things change all the time. The attitude I have is that I don't know everything, especially teaching contemporary music. In a sense, I'm learning from the students, too, because they bring in tunes by groups that I've never heard of."