Chapter 1 FB: Well John, this is the Damian tapes take two. JD: Take two, yep. FB: Take two. Rollem! JD: Practice makes perfect right? FB: Huh? JD: Practice makes perfect. FB: Right. We were out birding this morning to get ourselves in a good mood for talking about life at Berklee. Natural music and then man made music. John has been a stallwart of the guitar faculty here at Berklee for 30 plus years and was a student prior to that With an auspicious career as a performer and teacher and more recently, an author. John it's a pleasure to sit down with you in a semi formal setting and talk about your long career at Berklee and out in the music world. JD: It's a pleausre to be here Fred. FB: Perhaps you could give us a little bit about your early career and your musical beginnings in Brooklyn, just to kind of set the stage for everything to come. JD: Well I'm blessed to have been lowered in Brooklyn, as I like to say. Usually people are rasied someplace, but in Brooklyn, if you know Brooklyn, you just say you were lowered. It was a great place to begin. I mean my music connections actually began with my sisters record collection. That's the earliest memory I have of really getting attached to music. I remember being about three or four years old and just listening to her collection. And she had a great collection, she had some Bassie, she had some Sinatra stuff, some light opera things and I was just enammerd by this music. And to this day, it's still a very strong connection for me and that really early impotess to get my love for music kindled and going. I just spent some time with it this Thanksgiving. We were listening to some old Montevardi recordings, I can't believe that. I mean here I am, I'm this jazzter and I'm talking about Montevardi. Jackie Gleeson Orchestra, talking about Bobby Hackett. We were talking about Bobby Hackett earlier this morning and we were just sharing our love for that. And thanks to her I was three years old and I was first turned onto these recordings. So that's when it started for me. And one of my early heros was Tony Mitolla, you know, guitarist, he was probably, he became most well known for the danger soundtracks that he would do, that tv show. And also being on the Johnny Carson show so I'd be able to see him play. And he was one of my heros and what I loved about him was his diversity. You'd see this player and he'd be reading the charts on the Carson show and then you'd hear some recordings. You just had a wide range of things and I thought, hey that's what I'm supposed to do. So one of the first things I did when I first started to play the guitar, was to learn to read music. And I didn't realize at the time that reading music on the guitar is a difficult thing, I mean as guitar players well know. And other people are finding out that it's a very confusing world of notes on the guitar. So anyway, I did pretty well at it, at least enough to get me going and that was probably one of the best moves of my career was learning to read early and get some strength with it. FB: As a teacher do you find that you're running into kids who learned by doing and played naturally and didn't learn to read but would just figure stuff out? And then they came to you later on needing to learn to read. Is it tougher to back up when you've been playing for a few years by ear, or is it a natural transition to picking up reading? JD: Well when I first started playing, I was doing a lot by ear also. I was learning tunes, Wes albums and Kenny Burrell and so forth. And Tony Metola things, they're always picking things up that way. So for me, both sides are very important at least in my development and I try to engender that in my teaching too is that your intellectuall and instinctive sides are very good freinds and they teach each other a lot. And a lot of people don't realize that sight reading is an incredible high level of improvisational art. I mean people think, oh but you're just reading the notes. But it's how you interpret it, you're reading something for the first time. For example in theatre music, which I've been blessed to have a lot of those experiences. You know Tuesday comes and the show somes into town, a band is hiered, you rehearse from 10-2, that night is the first show. And that's a three hour show so there's lots of music to get together, lots of music to feel your place in an ensemble. So this is improv at work, I mean you're reading that stuff, following that conductor, trying to get through some solos, figuring out how you're going to blend with everyone else. That's improv, that's being in the moment. So I try to inspire the students that when you're learning this skill of reading, becoming literate so to speak, is a plus to everything. Your composing, of course your playing, your learning experience. I mean looking at something and being able to hear it, just looking at it in the book for example because I approach it in three ways. You as a performer, you as an observer of the language and you as the instrument. In otherwords solfeggio and those are all things that help you become strong. And also using it in your improv. FB: Wow that's pretty complex network of inter relations there. JD: Right. You know because a lot of times people say, oh well what's his face, he never read blabidy blah, my hero. Yeah that's true, but you know, it helps. In fact I'm sure that player, whoever that name may have been, would have love to been able to have that ability. And may have had there point in their career that maybe they weren't able to do a particular gig because of this or because of that. So I'm a big fan of just becoming literate with the language as a composer and as a player. FB: As a young guy in Brooklyn with a little bit of chops, you took some lessons and then soon went into the service? JD: Right, I had a second career as a commercial artist. I studied commercial art for a couple of years. I was drafted back in May of 66, went into the army and my military occupational standing was illustrator which was good because I spent a lot of my time illustrating. And then in the second half of my army experience I got into the music end of things. Thanks to my reading. When I was in the far East during the Vietnam War, I was able to take some auditions and get into this little bit of a USO situation so I was able to perform for the troops, travel around a little bit more than I would have being stuck on, I was on Okinawa. So I got to move around the rest of the far East you know, performing. So that was another great help for me for my reading and for my career too. And then from the army I came pretty much back. Did some commercial art on Madison Aveneue, had a nice gig there, but then decided to come to Berklee with the GI money because you get veterans money for education. So I came here and that's how I got started at Berklee.