Robert Schlink

  • Career Highlights
    • Inventor of the viotar, a hybrid instrument combining elements of the violin and the electric guitar
    • Leader of group the Ballistics
  • Education
    • B.M., Berklee College of Music

In Their Own Words

"I teach almost all ensembles. I’m pretty much the go-to guy when they want a new style. I teach the heavy metal ensembles, and I teach the Radiohead ensemble, but I also teach the Steve Coleman ensemble, which is kind of avant-garde/funk/jazz/alt-time signature stuff. I also teach the contemporary fusion ensemble and the ‘70s funk/R&B/soul ensemble. I’ve played virtually all of those styles professionally."

"In some ways I don’t care what material I work with. There are certain basic things that underlie all of those styles: classical, jazz, heavy metal—all of them! And that’s what I focus on."

"I consider all of the ensembles to be directed study, because they’re already very good at it; I’m just helping them to present it in the best way. Generally speaking, heavy metal bands have serious problems with balance, because they’re playing at such extreme volume levels, so that’s what they have to work on. It’s not only that they’re too loud; sometimes with the guitar players, you can hear the chords, but you can’t hear the solos. And frequently you can’t hear the vocalists, because the drums and the guitars are so loud. So those are the kinds of things that I work on with them: more performance rather than the nuts and bolts."

"I tell my students that the best thing to say when somebody asks you if you play this kind of music is yes, because then you can get the gig. So when you’re at Berklee you should learn as many different things as you can. Matt Garstka is a guy I use as an example. He was the drummer in the first heavy metal ensemble, and he plays with the band Animals as Leaders. They’re one of the top progressive bands in the world. He was rated all sevens. You don’t get all sevens just knowing how to play heavy metal; you have to know all the different styles."

"I frequently get students who don’t want to learn the stuff, but they need to. I tell them, ‘If you want to be in a garage band, then go to a garage. It’s a lot cheaper than Berklee. If you want to approach learning music at a college level, then this is it.’"