Norman Zocher

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Originally from Chicago, Illinois, and referred to as "a guitar legend in the making," as well as being one of "Boston's best composers" through his work with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, Norman Zocher is a longtime New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music faculty member.

Zocher has performed and recorded with a broad range of artists, including Maria Schneider, Muhal Richard Abrams, Oliver Lake, John Medeski, Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, Esperanza Spalding, Bob Moses, Paul Bley, and Dave Holland. His recordings with the Abby and Norm Group with his wife, fellow Berklee guitar professor Abigail Aronson Zocher, gained him international recognition as a composer and an instrumentalist. Other critically acclaimed albums have featured Zocher with Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, John Patitucci, and Joey Calderazzo. He is a resident composer and guitarist/pedal steel guitarist for the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra.

  • Career Highlights
    • Performances and tours with Muhal Richard Abrams, Jerry Bergonzi, Bob Brookmeyer, Marty Ehrlich, George Garzone, Steve Lacy, Oliver Lake, Bevan Manson, John Medeski, Bob Moses, and Maria Schneider
    • Coleader (with George Garzone) of the critically acclaimed Abby and Norm Group
    • Recordings with Miles Donahue (with John Patitucci and Joey Calderazzo), Brooke Sofferman (with Jerry Bergonzi), the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, Darrell Katz, and Paul Bley
    • Jazz guitar faculty, New England Conservatory of Music, 1995 to present
    • Composer/guitarist, Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra
    • International residencies as visiting artist and guest clinician


  • Education
    • B.M., New England Conservatory of Music
    • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music

In Their Own Words

"I'm educated in jazz performance and jazz and classical composition, and have a lifetime of experience in all forms of rock, shred, blues, free jazz, film music, classical guitar, funk, and even bluegrass. I've had the opportunity to perform and record with many great jazz musicians. I'm often called a fusion guitarist; I'm known for my stylistic diversity, and that's reflected by the stylistic diversity of my students."

"Ask not what the music can do for you; ask what you can do for the music. You'll have four soloists on stage, and there's always one whose solo has the most energy, the high point of the song. You might think it's the soloist creating all that fire. It became clear to me that it was, in fact, the player who got the band most excited whose solo burned the hardest. In a way, the best soloist 'tricked' the band into playing a large part of their solo for them."

"This is done by playing ideas that elicit a response from the rhythm section, playing rhythmic and melodic motifs that dictate what the 'right answer' should be from the accompanying musicians, essentially conducting the band with the solo. The beauty of it is, the 'solo' is now a 'we' thing, rather than a 'me' thing. Also, it's the way a player with far less knowledge and technique can outplay someone who knows everything and, playing alone, has more chops."

"You can't sound good if you don't sound good. Sound is probably the most fundamental musical element. It's the thing nonmusicians, even newborn babies, know instantly if it's good or not. There are so many facets to what makes a good sound, but I think what captures it best—the basic definition of technique—is touch. It's also that your sound must be coming from your ear internally first, then you shape it on the instrument. The answer is not in the equipment. The answer is in your own hands."