Jerry Gates

Professor
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"l started at Berklee in 1981, was here for a couple of years, went out to Los Angeles for a number of years, then came back. I finally got my undergraduate degree from Berklee in 1997. When I tell my students that, I hope they take it as, 'If I can take that long and still do it, then there's hope for you, too.' [Laughs]"

"I think it's important to give students a concept to explore and get them writing. Period. After a while, your ear and your experience will tell you whether it's right or not. For me, the process is more organic when I'm using a pencil—it's coming out your head, through your arm, out the fingers, through the lead, onto the paper—but that's just the way I learned."

"My students are composing on notation software. There's immediate feedback, of course, from using the computer, but the music's not going to sound that way with live players. That's often eye-opening for students used to hearing their work on the computer. So I tell my students to write every day and find a way to get some players to play it so they'll get to know what their music is really supposed to sound like."

"As a working writer, you have to be versatile in different styles and idioms. If somebody calls you to do a film or jingle, you're not going to say, 'Well, no, I don't really know how to do that.' You take the gig and figure out how, through your training and network, to make it happen. When I first told students about the music videos I was producing for the Wonka.com Internet promotion campaign, 'Wonk Your Room,' they were kind of like, 'Who cares?' But when I finally showed them what I'd done, and illuminated the process I went through, the ones who turned their noses up at first were the ones to go, 'Wow, that's really cool.'"

"One of my mentors, Jack Smalley, is about 80 and still writing in Los Angeles. He's still studying scores; he hasn't stopped—always looking for something new to learn. That's the main thing I've taken from him that I try to pass on to my students. It's important to keep searching, all your life, for new ideas and concepts. The discoveries move you forward to a deeper understanding of the language of music. I'm working on my fourth new course at Berklee in six years, and that's just because I really like to keep learning."

Career Highlights

  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • M.M., Hartt School, University of Hartford
  • Composer, orchestrator, and arranger of music for all types of broadcast media
  • Author of All Twelve: Dodecaphonic Resources for Contemporary Composition
  • Online course author and instructor for Berklee Online
  • Television and radio credits include Bank of America, AT&T, Log Cabin syrup, Scope mouthwash, and Marlboro cigarettes
  • Web credits include Nestle/Wonka.com's "Wonk Your Room" campaign
  • Prepared music for The Dennis Miller Show, Bill Holman, film composers Jack Smalley, and Richard Band and orchestrations for various international songwriters
  • Codirector, Contemporary Writing and Production concerts
  • Private online instructor in composition, arranging, and orchestration