- M.A., Dance and Cultural Studies, UCLA
- B.F.A., Theater Studies, Boston University
- Performances with Alicia Keys, Mos Def, John Legend, Reggie Gibson, Joshua Bennett, and Donna De Lory
- Recordings include HBO's Def Poetry season 5 and Ever Widening Circles
- Published in the Legendary, Numinous Magazine, and the Charles River Review
- Participant in Slam Team San Jose 2004 and Boston Cantab Slam Team 2005
"Playing the piano has got such a physical component to it. Understanding the gestures, the body motion, the language of each style—then incorporating an intellectual knowledge of the music along with the sound—it all works together. There’s no substitute for just getting in there, experiencing it, and playing, playing, playing."
"As a thriving independent recording artist, I think of my job as not only to disseminate information but to give a strong basis of context for this information and a method for incorporating it into the student's own identity as a musician, whether as a performer, a composer, or both."
"Having worked in the music industry as long as I have, I don't want to necessarily just bring war stories. You've got to back it up with some good science and theory. One of the challenges is with new media. The tools are new. So I try to balance those with some real time-tested marketing strategies. You begin to realize that it's all sort of been done before, but now we have an opportunity to recontextualize things. I do try to find a balance of things, but the music business is changing every second."
"Drummers don't play an instrument where we're consistently called upon to play pyrotechnics and get paid for it. We have to blend with other musicians around us and make them feel good. So one of the things I emphasize in my teaching is sound and touch, which is very subtle and somewhat of a lost art in a lot of ways. But it's so important in the real world because you have to be able to play any given room, whether it's a tiny club or a festival amphitheatre."
"My main message is that there's work out there for musicians—gigs and paychecks. I've brought students into the pit with me and they are glad to see that there are many attainable avenues for music other than being a rock star. There are other ways to do things creatively and work as a professional musician with a guitar in your lap. I tell students, 'Here's what you have to know, here's what you'll get paid, here's the person who will hire you, etc.' It's not always about music theory; it's experience. In my theater lab, they're seeing the actual chart that I read in the pit from shows like The Lion King or Spamalot, for example."
"I have an undergrad degree in vocal performance, and I actually started in music business because I wanted to make sure that I understood my own contracts. I think that helps me the most, because we have a lot of dual majors. I can be empathetic with them and tell them today's business is really about being an entrepreneur. I'm giving them a scope of the entire industry, so they can pick a good business manager. I think every student should take at least an intro to music business course. If you're an informed performer, think of how much further you can go."
"There are no other songwriting majors in the world. We're the only show in town. If you want to study songwriting full time, you have to come to Berklee College of Music. If anybody else teaches songwriting, they usually teach the business of songwriting, the publishing side. A couple places that I'm aware of have a songwriting course and a course in how to write lyrics. Lyrics are something that most people can relate to because a lot of them have either read or written poetry or short stories. Most of them have written some lyrics before they've come into class. So it's not that big of a leap to become a better lyric writer. But a lot of people don't really know what's going on musically in a song."
"The reason why I think music business/management programs are growing all across the country is because I think that young people get it. They know that they can actually have some form of ownership in the growth, in the development of the new music industry. They understand music, but they don't want to get ripped off, and they don't have to deal with those music companies. They think, I can do something else on my own, and I need to know how to protect myself within that whole framework of the new music business."
"In Language of Film I give students a three-part project. Their first assignment is to write an original screenplay of a scene or short-short film, and write a paper about it. Next they storyboard their screenplay and write a paper about that. In the third assignment, we improvise a scene and shoot some footage, which they edit together on their laptops; then they write a paper about editing. Students learn about how people make choices, and film scoring students gain insight into the directors with whom they have to communicate. It's probably the most exciting thing I've done at Berklee."
"Ear training is all about becoming a literate musician—mastering the fundamentals, covering everything musicians might encounter in their career. Acquiring a good ear doesn't happen by turning a magic key. It happens through performing experience or a systematic progressive approach that slowly builds and reinforces musical concepts through performance-related and recognition activities."
"I like to stress practical skills like playing the right thing for the right situation, and I also teach different styles because being able to cover a wide range of styles will make you marketable as a player. I stress playing with good time, good phrasing, and not overplaying. One of the biggest lessons I give them from my own real-life experience is that a gig usually isn't about highlighting yourself; it's more about functioning in an ensemble and playing your part. They have to learn how to play in a band, and Berklee's a great place to do that."
"I want my students to leave my classes with a heightened awareness of the inner workings of music, an embracing of the left-brain stuff, a desire to explore harmony and color. For the writers it's a no-brainer. There are a lot more singers here at Berklee now, and I really encourage them to play the piano. I hope my students come away with an openness to use the tools that we give them in their own writing and arranging."
"I teach Legal Aspects and Advanced Contract Negotiation, and I just try to break it down into plain English so that students understand what I'm talking about. And I draw a lot of diagrams. When they get a contract and are skimming through it, I want them to know when they need to talk to an attorney. I don't want them to feel like, 'I took Legal Aspects; I don't need a lawyer.' I want them to have enough knowledge to know when something doesn't feel right, and I want them to be able to have a more informed conversation with their attorney."
"Some people have stereotypes that electronic music is just about dance beats, but there's a ton of music you can make using these technologies. One ensemble I'm now teaching focuses on compositions using electronic instruments and processes. Advanced students are writing their own software and doing all sorts of things in all genres. Using the technology is the thread that holds the ensemble together, often with fascinating results!"
Dean of the Professional Performance Division,
"What makes our faculty distinctive is that they're all professionals—they're all doing what they teach. I think it's rare that you find someone who doesn't have a CD. We make sure that we have role models for different students, different styles. For example, if you look at the Woodwind Department, we have oboe teachers; we have a classical flute teacher as well as a jazz flute teacher. In the Guitar Department, we have rockers as well as jazzers. I think that students who come to Berklee and have a certain style they want to study can usually find a teacher who can help them with that style, who's actually an expert."
"There's such a spirit of excitement, enthusiasm, and interest from the students, and it causes you to look very carefully and deeply into what you're doing. And in so doing, you get better at both roles. When I'm teacher, I'm also a recording engineer. I'm not one or the other. I find that those different roles—as an engineer and a mixer and a producer, as well as a teacher—they really feed one another."
"I've learned so much playing with musicians that I admire; just having the experience of playing with them opened my eyes. I think that's an important component of a lesson, so in private lessons we often play duets together. A lot of my students come in wanting to learn contemporary improvisational styles, but I try to enable them to find their own approach instead of trying to force my approach. I want to try to expose the player's own voice if at all possible."
"We want Contemporary Writing and Production graduates to be strong enough to work within any professional environment. We would like them to be able to say 'Yes!' to anyone who wants a project written, arranged, or produced in a contemporary music setting. I try to give students the life skills to allow them to do anything in the music world."
"Most drummers are not involved in the creative songwriting process, and the bottom line is that, by and large, that is where the most significant amount of money is made. If you're one of those drummers who sits in the corner reading magazines and eating pizza while waiting for the rest of the band to get the song together so you can just add your oom-pah, oom-pah-pah to it, you can have a scenario where you'll still be home living with your parents and driving your 15-year-old car with 200,000 miles on it while the main songwriter in the band pulls up to rehearsal in a brand-new Porsche. . . . So I encourage my students to dig down deep and see if they have any kind of creative songwriting abilities. I want them to avoid what I had to live through. It took me a while to say, 'Oh, I get it. Time to come to the party.'"
"The typical bass student at Berklee is very much a novice when it comes to understanding the role of the bassist in a group. Many of them have developed skills, flashy skills, what I like to refer to as 'music store chops.' These musicians sound great in a music store. They do some very fast playing, very exciting stuff that you can actually use at the end of a solo and the crowd will go nuts. But they're spending way too much time on that, and they're not spending enough time on the fundamental maxim of bass, which is: The bass player's role is to keep time and to address the tonality of the moment."
"I teach exactly what happens in the real world, and I'll summarize what's going on in my recording studio that week—the good and the bad. I acquaint students with the business process; how we estimate how long jobs will take, how we do bids, what the competitive market place is like; how we engineer and master audio, what equipment we use. In the summer, I have an associate's program, where I'll hire four or five extra engineers from the student body, or from qualified applicants who send me resumés. I generally hire some of those students after graduation. Out of the six engineers I have working now, five of them are Berklee grads."
"The essence of the Harmony Department is music fundamentals as they play out in notation, chord progression, melody, and bass lines. In any other school, they call it theory. And it is theory, but it's much more practical than an ordinary theory class would be. We teach students to take apart the music they listen to and understand how it's put together. They take the music apart like a watch, see what the pieces are and what they're doing. Hopefully, the students learn from that and use that knowledge to create their own music, a watch of their own—but one that still runs."
"I specialize in contemporary guitar playing. I played in bands from the time I was in eighth grade, and learned a lot just through real-world experience. I was a performance major at Berklee, and when I graduated, I played relentlessly four or five nights a week. It was tough at times, but I was in my early twenties and totally loving life at that point. I never felt I was particularly naturally talented or gifted; I just kind of stuck with it and worked hard. So I think it's not necessarily about natural talent, it's about working hard and having your basics together. If you have a strong foundation, you can pretty much go anywhere from there."
"To walk out of school and have professional opportunities—that's what I want for my students. If I can recommend any of my students for performances I can't accept, then I've succeeded. The students who go above and beyond what is asked of them are the students I end up performing with or who have successful teaching businesses. They're the ones who possess that inspiration to go well beyond what I gave them. In a concert I just did, two of the four other performers were former students of mine, and both of them are successful performers and teachers."