Allan Chase

Chair
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"I want students to have a seamless connection between their inner ear, their instrument, and notation. So when they hear something in their head, they can very easily sing it or play it on their instrument, and they can very easily write it down to speed up the communication process with their band or whoever they're working with. If somebody sings something, they know what it is. If somebody plays a chord, they recognize that chord and how it moves to the next chord, and they can respond to that."

"Ear training is a tool that allows you to express what you hear, what you want to play, and what you want to sound like. It allows you to interact with other musicians. If you're in a group that has any element of improvisation or surprise in it—which most popular contemporary music, jazz, and all sorts of world music have—ear training is what allows you to hear what somebody else is doing and respond to it with something that fits and isn't an accident, but is intentional and meaningful, and has feeling and confidence behind it. When you have a good ear it makes your rhythm better, because you're not hesitant, you're confident."

"Our students come to Berklee with all sorts of different backgrounds. Some have learned to play mostly by ear; others grew up like I did in a school band or orchestra program, where the first time they played a note they were looking at it on a page. Those are two really different cultural and musical backgrounds, and there's everything in between. I think an ear training teacher has to have empathy with the whole range of possible students and the ability to diagnose what each of them needs."

"We have some upper division electives that are very popular, but in terms of sheer numbers, most of the ear training sections are basic skills courses that students take in the first two years. Part of our work is showing students how to practice, helping them develop a self-teaching ability and the ability to pace themselves. I think probably one of the hardest things to teach at the very beginning of college is not to cram, not to postpone. There are some things you can learn that way, but learning a foreign language or ear training you cannot do two hours before the exam. It involves coordination, thinking fast and fluently, reading, and performance in real time. It's cumulative. Practicing fifteen minutes a day is better than four hours right before you go to your mid-term. I think students' success in ear training depends a lot on them learning how to build skills through regular practice, the same as practicing their instruments."

Hear more from Allan Chase in the video below:

Career Highlights

  • B.M., Arizona State University, music theory and composition
  • M.A. Tufts University, ethnomusicology
  • Graduate studies at New England Conservatory
  • Studies at the Creative Music Studio
  • Saxophonist
  • Leader of the Allan Chase Trio and the Allan Chase Quartet
  • Member of the Bruno Råberg Nonet, Bob Nieske’s Big Wolf Band, the Steve Lantner Quartet, Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet, and the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra
  • Jazz performances with Lewis Nash, D. Sharpe, Matt Wilson, Andrew Cyrille, Alan Dawson, Teddy Kotick, Cecil McBee, William Parker, Donald Brown, Bruce Barth, Uri Caine, Fred Hersch, Stanley Cowell, Bill Mays, Georg Graewe, Prince Shell, Mick Goodrick, Leroy Jenkins, Julius Hemphill, Steve Lacy, John Zorn
  • Chamber music performances and recordings with Marimolin, Composers in Red Sneakers, Princeton Composers Ensemble, John Zorn
  • Recordings as a leader include Allan Chase Trio, Dark Clouds with Silver Linings, and Phoenix
  • Soloist on 35 jazz recordings with artists including Rashied Ali, Joe Morris, Gunther Schuller, John McNeil, John Zorn, Dominique Eade, Phillip Johnston, Bruno Råberg, Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet, Walter Thompson Orchestra, Steve Lantner, Ralph Rosen, Joe Mulholland, Victor Mendoza, and Chuck Marohnic
  • Soloist on pop and rock recordings with Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, the AlphaBettys, Michael Callen, Men and Volts
  • Soloist on feature film scores for Faithful, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, The Music of Chance, and other recordings for film and television
  • Former chair of jazz studies, chair of contemporary improvisation, and dean of faculty, New England Conservatory
  • Former faculty, Tufts University