"I look at theory as a tool to enrich creativity. It is a language to communicate with other musicians, using the most common terms. When I teach, I try to give students all the proper grammar and correct spelling. But they must use these tools to express themselves in their own way. If they don’t have anything interesting to say, the class is useless."
"Music is harmony and melody. It's like a vocabulary. Without a vocabulary, it's difficult to speak. You can do it, but it sounds like you don't know what you're saying. As a player myself, knowing harmonic theory gives me a lot of security. I know two plus two equals four. I don't have to guess."
"One of the best classes I ever took here was with Mitch Halpins, his Nonstylistic Improvisation Concepts Ensemble, which was just incredible. It takes the stylistic thing away, so you are sort of stripped down to who you are or what you can offer. You have to be fully present to the other people who are there with you, to enter into this sacred space which has never come before and will never come again. It's just such an amazing concept, but you must be willing to really open yourself up to that, to receive and not just transmit only."
"Students deal with these varying perspectives all the time. If you’re looking at a band, you have to communicate and explain to the drummer, ‘I want a rock groove.’ What does that mean? That’s the whole spectrum of what we hear on the radio. To actually know and be able to show him, how can you do that if you’re a trumpet player? Show that I thought about your instrument enough to be able to communicate with you. It’s a very application-oriented approach to harmony."
"Arranging music is a very powerful discipline. Arrangers tell performers how to play by the marks they write on the page, so I tell my students to embrace that power. Be clear. Be specific. And insist that performers follow your instructions."
"I'd say one of the main functions of the Harmony Department is to ensure a certain level of musicianship among Berklee grads. And then, on a deeper level, it gives us the tools we need to be better writers, arrangers, and performers. I studied at Berklee for a year after already having an undergrad music degree. One year of Berklee, and especially Berklee harmony, changed the way I compose and changed the way I think about music. This system is unique to our school, and we're very fortunate to have it passed down to us. It seemed a lot more practical than the music theory I had studied previously.
"When we study chord scales in Harmony 3, I don't so much want students to memorize a list of the scales they need to know. Instead I want them to understand why somebody says, 'This is the chord scale for this purpose in this time and place.' I really want them to get the philosophy behind it. I feel that if they understand how it's put together, they can come up with the exact scales later, as opposed to just memorizing the information."