Student Profile: P.J. Brutzman

By 
Brenda Pike
August 12, 2010
P.J. Brutzman<br> <b>Hometown:</b> Morristown, NJ<br> <b>Program:</b> Five-Week Summer Performance Program<br> <b>Instrument:</b> Guitar
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

When blues/rock guitarist P.J. Brutzman placed first in Daddy's Junky Music's Battle for Berklee, he won a gearhead's dream: two guitars (one autographed by Pat Metheny); a Fender G-DEC 30 amp; a Dunlop dual inductor wah pedal, Aqua-Puss delay pedal, and volume pedal; and a $2,000 blank check to D'Addario. But the biggest prize of all was a full scholarship to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program. The high school senior had attended Berklee's Guitar Sessions the previous year, after winning second place in the competition, and he was more than ready to take the next step.

How did you win Daddys' Battle for Berklee?

I wasn't going to be able to go to this thing if I didn't win. So I was kind of putting it all on the table. I borrowed one of my buddy's computers and did a GarageBand song, an original. That's kind of the ace in the hole, I think. If any other kids are reading this, definitely do your own stuff. Make it yours.

What have you gotten out of the Five-Week program?

I've been playing with people so much that my classes haven't been the number one thing. Since you're here, you want to make the most out of playing with these people that you're never really going to get a chance to play with again. Especially the drummers—some of the best drummers in the world are right here. I'm playing a lot with these people in jam sessions. I think you get at the center of what music is all about when you're jamming. When you're actually grooving and feeling it out, that's when the serious stuff comes out. Then it's a community, with the other players and with the people who are listening.

What about the classes?

Chord Lab is probably my favorite class, because I have Jim Peterson. He's a funk guy—an unbelievable guitar player. I wish Chord Lab were a longer block, like an hour and a half, just because rhythm guitar is crucial. If a guitar player can't do that, you can't really do a lot of other things.

I also enjoy my private lesson with Craig Hlady quite a bit. Before I came here, I never did the whole position thing, where you dedicate each finger to a particular fret and you don't really move. In blues guitar you can do whatever you want, pretty much. It's mainly these two fingers [index and ring] doing a lot of the work and this guy [middle] pops in sometimes. This whole position thing opened me up to a different realm that I've never really been exposed to. But one of my heroes, Jimmy Herring, plays like that, and he's one of the most soulful players out there.

Pop/Rock Styles might be my favorite class now, because John Mayer came in. We were doing some funk rhythm and he added on to it with some right hand techniques. He just walked in. It was surreal.

How does it to compare to the Guitar Sessions you went to last year?

That, I thought, was the time of my life. But it's not as much a taste of college life as this is.

My roommate from Guitar Sessions, we're going to be buddies for the rest of our lives. We're probably going to become rock stars and tour together. He took me to Crossroads this summer, Eric Clapton's guitar festival.

There were lots of jam sessions. I remember this one in particular: it wasn't students playing the instruments, it was faculty. Jim Peterson was one of the guys. It was epic.

How did you find out about Berklee?

The first time I heard about it, I was watching this guitar player movie, Crossroads, with Ralph Macchio, the karate kid. And at the end of it, he and Steve Vai cut heads—that's a guitar duel. My brother was like, "He went to Berklee College of Music. It's, like, the best music college for contemporary stuff in the world." So I've always been interested.