Chapter 3 FB: Was that portion of NEC hampered admistratively because the were piggybacked on the classical program? AC: Yes, I would say that there is always this feeling at NEC that jazz gets slightly less attention and it occasionally is alleviated, like this fall the jazz department feels very good 'cause they've had this fortieth anniversary celebration for fall of 2009 - where we are right now: with Wayne Shorter coming in and playing with the orchestra and students getting to be in a clinic with his band, with (Danilo Owen) bringing in all these alumni for reunion concerts that are quite impressive - Fred Hersch back on the faculty now, since Danilo left NEC for Berklee. NEC hired Miguel Zenon, a very famous, successful Berklee alum, to their faculty. Got Fred Hersch back for the third time as a teacher there. FB: Thank God his health has improved. AC: Yes, Fred is doing much better after a very difficult year. Anyway, the students have always been, I think I said this last time, they have always been mingling. The band at Wally's, it's Berklee and NEC people. It's always 50/50 or 60% Berklee, 40% NEC or Berklee bachelors, NEC master's people. FB: It really is a cauldron of creativity over there. AC: Just taking Wally's as an example. People are roommates, they record together, they play in each other's recitals, they hang out, they're boyfriends and girlfriends. It's one community with slight division. They aren't an opposition really. Educationally they overlapped more and more because a lot of people who teach at Berklee have a masters from NEC. A lot of people at NEC started out at Berklee and have the best of both worlds, in some ways. FB: Are people drawing different aspects of their education with the two schools? Is there a divergence in pedegogy between the two schools because of what - superficially appears to me that, NEC is an aggregate of a lot of creative individuals who teach their own way, whearas Berklee kinda grew up after World War II with systems that were developed by groups of people and were inculcated more as a matrix kind of thing. AC: I think culturally - I don't want to get too into the grand pronouncements here, I will say this somewhat cautiously - Berklee grew out of the Schillinger System which had authorized teachers of a system that claimed to be mathematically- and acoustically-based natural system. FB: It still does with Phil Ditullio AC: It's supposed to work no matter who teaches it to you. NEC, the classical conservatory system, which is often lambasted in various different ways, is actually just a venue for very charismatic individual teachers to pass on oral history. It is the legacy of piano and violin teaching for example. There is a piano teacher, Veronica Jochum, who is close to Gunther Schuller, whose father and uncle and grandfather are famous German conductors... FB: Eugen Jochum AC: ...literally traces her music pedagogy and family back to Beethoven. I mean in a very concrete way. 200 years, but it is real. It's not made up. Beethoven taught this guy, this guy taught his grandson, and that's her. It goes right to her. They're passing on these aesthetic ideas, "no, don't play it like that. It's supposed to be legato here even though it doesn't say anything on the music. This should never be done this way. This should never be done fast. This is the right kind of technique." There's Russian pianists who teach a certain way and German pianists who teach another and there are opera singers and aria singers, liede singers and new music and early music singers who have their own pedagogical backgrounds. It's the same, Joe Allard, saxophone teacher, there is no system. It's just like, "this is what i showed Harry Carney back in 1939, or whatever, about mouth pieces. FB: The first part reminds me of what Wayne Wadhams once said about (Von Talandowska.) "You play Bach your way. I'll play it his way." AC: These people, to an extent, of course these things get changed over the generations and like playing telephone perfect but it is like they are passing on culture. Often people make the conservatory, people who are outside of a conservatory system, look at it as a formalized systematic thing and think, "in the African culture you learn from the elders and in the conservatory it's so opposite to that." Well, no, it's not the opposite to that it is just a building you learn from your elders. It's actually closer to folk lore than it is to university psychology 101. There is no approved textbook at NEC. Evrything is based on the personal legacies and theories of individuals. And I think Julliard and other conservatories are generally like that. FB: I teach music journalism that way, no textbook just my notes. AC: I won't say that there's no text book at all, but I don't think they use a standardized music history textbook or, and only in the very beginning stages of music theory did they use a standardized music theory textbook - and that's just for really general things. But it's just a collection of people with very strong and often iconclastic, somewhat outside of the main stream and very contraversial views like Robert Cogan who said that we should be systematically looking at tone colour (timbre), as well as harmony and melody and counterpoint and rhythm. FB: Here here, I like that. AC: Based on that poiunt view greatest in composition really is different than it is if you just look at pitch. He would make very contraversial statements about that and he also brought music theory attention to things like Billie Holiday and shakuhachi music throught this system of studying tone colour which nobody had ever done before. And he developed computer programs for it and that is hot bed of very original idea. George Russell's theories are another. It's very unique. It's contraversial in some ways but the general thrust of it helped a lot of people do new things in music and open things up. Berklee on the other hand has had a lot of that going on. Herb Pomeroy was absolutely like that. He had his three main courses which everyone sites as the greatest thing they ever studied - that I know who studied it. They treasure their notes from these things. The Style of Duke Ellington, I don't know if I have the exact course title, Line Writing and Jazz Composition kind of class. You had to audition to get into these classes by showing that you could write a good big band chart that works. Very creative and different kind of way of teaching, but the core, the thing that every Berklee student gets in the first two years, is more general and systematic. It's a function of the size of the school. You have to have coherence when you have 4000 students. FB: That's a major factor. It is a 10:1 ratio versus the Conservatory. The Conservatory has 400 undergraduates, Berklee has 4000. Even when Berklee had 2000, that's enough people that they're gonna go from section to section and change teachers all the time. It's not black and white. NEC has to have coherence in the freshman and sophmore theory too, because even with five different sections you have to be able move. "I can't do a Tuesday at 10 o'clock, so I gotta take another teacher. They have to teach me the same language or I won't progress." FB: But even though early faculty at Berklee, Pomeroy, some of the early guys... AC: John LaPorta FB: LaPorta, he actually came later. Some of the early guys were taught the Schillinger System by Larry Berk, (Bobbit) and Bob (Sher.) They didn't adhere to it that closely and they started going off in their own directions. So you have trunk and then you have the branches going in different directions. FB: It isn't the Schillinger System today. Just some general philosophy behind it, that there is a really logical core to how harmony works in jazz and popular music and that it's coherent and it's not just random and stylistic and "well, that's just how it grew." There is some theory behind it that makes it all make sense. There is a very strong element of truth to that but it's not a 100% and there's also not a 100% of the statement that everything is contingent on random mutations of human thought and it's just turned out that way it could've been totally another way. That is exaggerated too. There is some sort of grey area in between where ethno-musicology and music theory meet, acknowledge culture and science make music the way it is. Berklee is a little more on the science side and NEC is a little more on the 'just do it this way' or 'just do what you hear' or 'here's my theory, it's totally weird and i made it up.' FB: We are talking shades of grey not black and white. AC: Yeah, I would say so, absolutely. At the higher levels of Berklee you have much more of that oral history. If you take saxophone lessons with BIll Pierce you are not getting anything like a pre-digested system. You are getting the wisdom of excellent background in the instrument plus bandstand experience and some theoretical knowledge and his own creativity. That is no different from taking a lesson at any other school with a great player. FB: His lesson will be a far cry from Dino Govoni or George Garzon. AC: They each have their own things that developed and they are inspired by slightly different things. They all know the basic stuff really, really well and they also have their own systems and creative ideas.