Music Education Shouldn't Be Limited to the Conservatory

Question: How is jazz changing as today’s music students come \r\nto it through the academy? 

Bill Frisell: When I was \r\nstarting to play, I think in Boston, Berklee was one of the very few \r\nplaces where you could actually, I’m not even sure you could major in \r\nguitar. It’s like, well you know... yeah you can play the guitar, but \r\nyou have to play a real instrument if you’re going to get a degree or \r\nsomething. And I played clarinet in college. When I first went to \r\ncollege, I majored in clarinet because they wouldn’t let me major in \r\nguitar. And all that’s changed. There was North Texas State and Berklee \r\nand a couple of places that had these jazz programs. And that’s \r\ndefinitely changed. And there’s so much available... so much music you \r\ncan get in books and it’s all around. My generation, I still had to \r\nlearn by going, you know, I’d go to clubs and older guys would let me \r\nplay and a lot of it happened outside of school. And I’m thankful that I\r\n was able to learn in a bar or something, that’s where you learned how \r\nto play. But that doesn’t seem to happen. I guess it's still there, \r\nbut... And I’m glad that all of this stuff is available, but I think you\r\n can’t just go one way, you have to try to get as much as you can get \r\nfrom as many different directions. I think the danger is just to go into\r\n a school and stay within that... I mean there’s a lot in there, you \r\ncould spend your life just right in there, but there’s a lot of other \r\nstuff outside of there and I think the danger is just staying... closing\r\n off whatever other ways there are to learn about stuff. 

Like \r\nthe thing about... you go to a college and then end up teaching at the \r\ncollege and then this sort of incestuous thing starts happening and I’m \r\nnot sure how healthy that is. I think there’s laws against that. 

Question:\r\n Who are some young musicians today that you admire? 

Bill\r\n Frisell: I just recently have gotten to play with Jason Moran, a \r\npiano player. He’s not that young... But he’s someone within the last \r\nfew years that I heard something in his music that I hadn’t heard for a \r\nlong time that goes way, way back. Way, way deep, into some place way \r\nfar back and every once in a while I get afraid that these things are \r\ngetting lost sometimes. And I heard him and I was like, "Oh okay, we’re \r\nsafe." I love his music so much and to get to play with him was really \r\ngreat, recently. 

I heard another piano player from New Orleans, \r\nJonathan Batiste.  He’s young and his band was young. Some of the guys \r\nin the band were not even 20 years old yet. I just heard them a few \r\nmonths ago. And I heard something in that music that, again, it was this\r\n emotional heart.... He’s a fantastic technical player, but what was \r\ngetting me was he was tapped into this emotional thing that gets me \r\ngoing when I listen to music and he was working with that. And that \r\nreally gives me hope... there’s no way we’re ever going to kill music. \r\nThere’s always going to be somebody that’s going to get it. 

Recorded\r\n on May 5, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown

Majoring in guitar is great, but you should still try to glean as much knowledge as you can outside of school as well.

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