Rob Thomas

Professor
617 747-2903

"Teaching is a conversation. I try to be responsive to the needs of the students and to their musical direction, but a strong fundamental approach transcends that in a way. For instance, I use a pretty specific chord scale method that a lot of people in this department know about and a lot of students know about before they walk through the door. It's turned out to be pretty useful no matter what kind of music they end up playing."

"I'm sort of the mainstream or straight-ahead jazz guy in the department. Being a 'semi-retired' bass player, I have a lot of experience in that realm, as opposed to the many other string styles represented by our faculty. I also teach a Rock Strings Lab; I've played a lot of jazz rock, and for better or worse, that class is weighted pretty heavily toward rock I listen to. The violin hasn't really shown up too much in modern rock. Most of the best examples I can point to are from the '60s and '70s."

"I hope that I inspire students to listen to more music, to want to play jazz, to explore the rich history of this music. I hope that students come away from my classes with the inspiration to teach themselves after they've left school. It's really hard to assimilate everything I teach and everything everybody else teaches in four years. You're just not going to do it. But you can come away with a really good vision of the way forward."

"There is a big, all-inclusive, alternative strings styles movement, and I represent one corner of that movement, which is this idea that we should be able to play, go toe to toe, with any jazz instrumentalist. The violin is a frontline instrument; it can fit right in. The more of us that learn how to do that, the less it's going to be considered a fringe element. Hopefully, what I teach transcends the idea of playing jazz on the violin specifically. To paraphrase something Jean-Luc Ponty said years ago, I've always thought of myself as a jazz musician who plays strings as opposed to a string player who plays jazz. I'm trying to put a universal jazz vocabulary onto string instruments."

Career Highlights

 

  • Alumnus, University of Oregon
  • Violinist and bassist
  • Member of String Trio of New York, appearing on Gut Reaction (Omnitone), Frozen Ropes (Barking Hoop), and The River of Orion (Black Saint)
  • Additional recordings with the Mahavishnu Project, Lee Konitz, Mark Ribot, Andy Summers, Claude Williams, Nancy King, Chuck Owen, and Los Jovenes del Barrio
  • Performances with Mose Allison, Jerry, Hahn, Jan Hammer, John Handy, Eddie Harris, Ken Hatfield, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, and Frank Rosolino
  • Author of Chord Scales for Jazz Violin
  • Specializes in helping string players develop upper-level jazz skills