Neil Olmstead

Class of 
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  • Career Highlights
    • Performances with Jimmy Giuffre Quartet
    • Founder and leader of Symbiosis Jazz Trio
    • Radio and television appearances
    • Compositions recorded by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Bratislava Radio and Television Orchestra
    • MMC recording artist
    • Author, Solo Jazz Piano, The Linear Approach
    • International clinician and lecturer
  • Education
    • Diploma, Ecole d'Art Americaines
    • B.M., Berklee College of Music
    • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music

In Their Own Words

"I grew up listening to my father's Bill Evans and Stan Getz records, imitating Thelonious Monk and studying classical and then jazz piano. It seems my whole life I've been moving between the two idioms, studying, performing, writing, and teaching jazz and classical music. As a result I not only have a plethora of jazz students but also find myself teaching many classical pianists how to improvise and how to be creative within the jazz idiom. What I love the most about teaching at Berklee is being able to delve into both of these worlds with student musicians from around the world."

"Private teaching by nature is the most personal. How a student thinks and what a student wants are the first questions in my mind as I meet a student. To balance this against what a student needs is the great challenge for a teacher. Then giving students the tools to express themselves is where the deeper challenge (and fun) lies."

"Musical ideas are nothing without technical ability. I often tell my students 'we play the piano with our entire body, not just our fingers and ears.' Our skeletal, muscular, and tendon structures work together and respond to each other in accord with the laws of nature as we play, regardless of whether it is jazz or classical music. I strive to help the pianist organize how the body moves, from the fingertip to the feet on the floor. This frees up the physical motions for greater facility, more beautiful tone, and deeper expression. It is a joyful moment when a student suddenly discovers how a motion in the forearm or torso will open up the sound or result in a new improvisational idea generated from deep in the subconscious."

"Technique is essential, but technique alone is nothing. Recognizing and building upon our musical attributes while working on the weaknesses is essential to the development of individual artistry. This is generated by curiosity, concentration, and an enthusiasm to study and practice; this drives our artistic vision toward its goal. The pleasure of working through the difficulties and arriving at an artistic end is one of the great rewards of music and life."