Victor Bailey

Associate Professor

"Our house was always filled with music, with great singers and musicians coming and going practically every day. So music was our whole life. One day, when I was seven, I went to the piano and started playing Bill Withers’ hit song ‘Lean On Me.’ My dad asked me how I knew how to do that. I said I didn’t know, I just did—but I didn’t really stand out because everyone in our family was talented and had a good ear. In our basement we had drums, piano, guitars, and ampifiers. When people weren’t rehearsing down there, my brother, sister, and I would play at being a band."

"I got a gig on drums when I was 10. I was a natural-born musician, but a lot of preparation went into getting the gigs. When I wasn’t in school, all I did was play the drums. I learned a tremendous amount of music from my dad, a saxophone player and an educated musician. Everything he showed me I practiced really hard, so by the time I started getting gigs, I had earned it."

"My objective is to make sure my students know the basics of music and of our instrument. My philosophy is something my dad always said: 'know your stuff.' He would give me pages of music to read and stand there while I read them. I hated it at the time, but it was good preparation. He was giving me what I’m trying to give my students now: the tools necessary to become a working musician. I want to turn out students who, when they leave school, are ready for any situation that comes to them. If they need a walking bass line, they can walk. If there are chord changes written on the page, they can read them. I grew up watching my dad do what he had to do to feed his family every single day, some days doing the music he loved and some days playing something he didn’t like. So I want my students to leave school prepared to play bass for a living."

"Teaching is all thinking, but performing is different. When it’s right, performing is an out-of-body experience and thinking goes out the window. You just let it happen, like riding a bike. There is always fresh inspiration even week to week when I perform, which is an outgrowth of being well rounded and ready to play anything. And there’s a difference between playing an instrument well and playing music well. Some people have an incredible amount of technique and can do unbelievable things—by themselves. But when they have to jam with a band they have no idea what to do. It’s like a guy on the basketball court who has all the moves and looks really great, but the ball never goes into the hoop."

Career Highlights

  • Berklee alumnus
  • More than 20 years as a touring bandleader
  • Toured with Hugh Masakela (while a Berklee student) and Sonny Rollins
  • Member of jazz fusion bands Weather Report and Steps Ahead (with Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Mike Mainieri, and Chuck Loeb); and of Zawinul Syndicate, led by Weather Report leader Joe Zawinul
  • Wrote and produced first platinum record, "Touch and Go” by R&B group Force MDs
  • Solo albums: Bottom’s Up, Lowblow, That’s Right, and Slippin’ N’ Trippin’
  • Long association with Madonna
  • 2011 recording with Lady Gaga
  • Contract with Sony Pictures and Television to write music for T.V. and movies