Terri Lyne Carrington

December 13, 2018
Terri Lyne Carrington

Grammy-winning jazz drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington '83 '03H has taught with the Berklee Global Jazz Institute since it began. Having been a professor at Berklee since 2007 and known [BGJI artistic director] Danilo Pérez for years, Carrington was glad to join the BGJI because, as she says, “I knew that anything he was involved with would be something that I would feel good about, on a creative level and how we look at the issues.”

When she started working with the BGJI, she appreciated the focused time she could spend with students and with the amazing array of industry professionals the BGJI attracts; these characteristics remain a draw of the program for her today. “That is really one of the benefits of having an institute of higher concentration, you’re able to have more of a concentration for the students, each other, and the teachers,” she says.

Do you approach teaching any differently with your BGJI classes than you do with your other classes?

I don’t approach it differently, it’s just that they’ve been through an audition period. Knowing that all these students have been through an audition period, I know that they’re higher level students. It’s always a pleasure working with high-level students because I feel like they understand where you’re going.

Can you say a little bit more about the quality of musicianship that you see among the BGJI students?

The quality of musicianship is very high because of the audition process. The other thing that I like about that is that the students also have to be concerned with other areas of life, and not just how well they play jazz or music, but more about developing as a human being, community service, and all of the other things that are going on. Both Danilo and I are from the Wayne Shorter school of thought that you’re playing life, not music. They’re not separate. You can’t be a great musician without being a good human being. I like the fact that those qualities are talked about and focused on as well. So basically the level of musicianship is high, and you really see how students take the information and disseminate it. You [have to] have compassion and more human qualities to be a great musician. You can tell people that and they can be on that trail, but they really have to understand that, and it seems like with BGJI, the audition process tries to focus on some of that.

How important do you find the international aspect of the BGJI to be in terms of helping students develop their compassion and their ability to bring their lives into the music and help people with the music?

It’s important because we live in a very small world, so you have to have a sense of not just tolerance but of being inquisitive of other cultures, and other music.

Do you have a favorite experience from working with the BGJI?

I can’t really think of a favorite experience. But a couple years ago, Wayne Shorter came, and the students really played on a high level because you know, Wayne Shorter became an idol for most of these kids, and they got to play in front of Wayne, and then we as the teachers got to play together as well as with Wayne….That was great, to be able to bring somebody of that caliber and have the students perform for him; that’s life-altering for them and those kinds of experiences are important. More importantly, they’re critical because you see the light bulb go off and finally see that there are things you can reach for, those highest of highs like Wayne Shorter. There’s nothing like seeing it like that, to see it as a possibility for yourself. You know, when you can see something that inspires you to that extreme—it’s all about inspiration—then you’re charged with making a difference, reaching for your dreams. It’s outstanding.