Ear Training Faculty

Ruthie Ristich

Assistant Professor, Ear Training
rristich@berklee.edu | 617 747-6376

"We identify intervals, chords, melodies, and rhythms through repetition, familiarity, and shared experience. Part of the fun in my classroom is making connections between the musical examples I bring in from all over the world and the curriculum."

Gilson Schachnik

Associate Professor, Ear Training
gschachnik@berklee.edu | 617 747-8406

"My approach, I think, is very pragmatic. How can I teach things that are going to be practical? How do we make ear training relevant, instead of being some academic or abstract course that students have to take, but don't understand why. I try to demonstrate examples of things I've transcribed. Throughout my career, I've been playing diverse styles. In my classes, I use funk, r&b, Latin, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban. . . ."

Mitch Seidman

Professor, Ear Training
mseidman@berklee.edu | 617 747-8357

"I demonstrate as much as possible: ways to practice, how this helps my music. . . . I might relate a story sometimes, and very often I'll demonstrate how they'll benefit from it. I also try to get them to think of themselves as musicians instead of guitarists, drummers, or vocalists. I think that ear training classes help to level the playing field so that everybody is considered simply a musician first. Then they can all can strive for equal results, regardless of their instrument."

Mark Shilansky

Assistant Professor, Ear Training
mshilansky@berklee.edu | 617 747-8598

"There's a lot of work involved in acquiring the skills to become a creative musician. You can have the creativity, but it comes out more easily if you do the work to acquire these tools. It doesn't have to be a drag to do that work, but even genius needs help. Even Lennon and McCartney went through lots of study. They learned every song that came on the radio; they knew hundreds of songs before they became the Beatles. We're not trying to inhibit anyone's creativity; we're just trying to give them the vocabulary to express themselves."

Paul Stiller

Professor, Ear Training
pstiller@berklee.edu | 617 747-8236

"When you're producing an album and run into performance problems, you have to troubleshoot on the spot. Ear training gives you tools to draw from. But you also need communication skills to work with different musicians in a way that makes sense to them. I've worked with groups of people who are unbelievably talented but can't read music and have never tried to lock to a click track before. So you have to come up with a new musical language to reach them. It's all about figuring out new ways to teach the same thing."

David Vose

Professor, Ear Training
dvose@berklee.edu | 617 747-8389

"I've written for Columbia Pictures Publications. Most of my arrangements were for the educational division of the company. I learned from some great writers about phrasing—writing in a way that gives musicians the opportunity to be expressive in performance. I also learned how to highlight strengths in ensemble settings. Because of my writing experience, I try to get the students to be aware of how music is phrased, so that in Ear Training they can recognize melodies, rhythms, and harmonies as something that's not so abstract."

August Watters

Associate Professor, Ear Training
awatters@berklee.edu | 617 747-8686

"Nobody comes to Berklee to study ear training, and yet what we do here is the most practical thing. What we're dealing with are long-term musicianship skills that are not for any particular style, but are important to all musical styles. It's really not about style at all. It's about the musical language that's common to all musical forms. We're developing long-term learning skills that, really, you're not going to digest for five or ten years. So we do our best to make it challenging and rewarding to every musician. What we're doing is building a style-neutral method for musical learning, one that will take many years to master."

Julia Werntz

Associate Professor, Ear Training
jwerntz@berklee.edu | 617 747-6240

"I want students to understand why a certain note—the highest, lowest, or longest note in a melodic line—moves them in a certain way. To be conscious and in control of this is central to anyone’s musicianship, not an addition to instrumental training in the studio, but a necessary extension of it. I can see in my students’ facial expressions that they know this. When you get it, then it’s like you have 12 actors at your disposal, each with his or her own general traits, but also chameleon-like, able to change character according to the setting. Master this, and then you’ll really start to be in control of your own art."

Darcel Wilson

Assistant Professor, Ear Training
dwilson@berklee.edu | 617 747-3048

"I've done a lot of jingles in my career, and having been a student here at Berklee and understanding how ear training works, I use solfège to learn the jingles. Jingle houses don't really use written music anymore. You just have to go in and listen and learn the song by ear. So over the years I've used my ear training skills to write down whatever I can't memorize right away. I literally write, just over the lyrics to the jingle, the solfège, or the sol-fa. If it's really confusing to me, I'll write the rhythm that goes along with it. Just little personal notes—but ear training has allowed me to do that, so that I can work fast. And I really think that that has been a plus through my career. You get called back when you can work quickly."