Stephen Dale


"All professional contemporary musicians, no matter what style they favor, should have a degree of what I call ‘harmonic improvisation’ skill. By that I mean the ability to add or change chords selectively in progressions to enhance the harmony and make the music more appealing to the listener. In my harmony classes, I cover each functional group of chords by showing how to use the chords on the spot in a free-wheeling, improvisational way."

"Transference of rules, principles, and theory definitions into actual music is very difficult. So in my harmony classes I always assign the composition of a tune. It can be jazz, be-bop, a country ballad—anything that’s singable, as long as it has certain melodic and harmonic content that corresponds to the course material."

"I feel my job as a teacher is to make the difficult job of learning easier for students. One way I try to do that is by explaining subjects differently than the textbook. I’ll also try to come at a subject from multiple perspectives. I give students formulas or mnemonic devices that simplify the learning process, and I play several examples of each harmonic technique covered. When there’s time, I do harmonic ear training exercises to help develop the students’ ability to hear what they’ve come to understand on paper. At the same time, I’ll make it clear to students that the actual learning is their responsibility, not mine."

Career Highlights


  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • B.A., Dartmouth College
  • M.B.A., Babson College
  • Pianist and arranger for the Dave Whitney Orchestra
  • Contributing arranger for the White Heat Swing Orchestra and Dick Donovan Band
  • Pianist for the Craig Ball Orchestra