PEDRO GIRAUDO JAZZ ORCHESTRA-July 27, 7:30 pm, FREE ADMISSION

JAZZ WEDNESDAYS
@
HARBOR CONSERVATORY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

The Jazz Department of Harbor Conservatory
for the Performing Arts, of Boys & Girls Harbor is pleased to present Jazz
Wednesdays a FREE series of three intimate Guest Artist events showcasing
some of the most dynamic musicians currently on the Jazz scene. The series
exemplifies the broad world vision of Jazz that informs the Harbor
Conservatory’s Jazz Program under the direction of pianist, composer,
bandleader Gustavo Casenave. All events will be presented in Music Studio
B21, in the lower level of the Heckscher Building located on Fifth avenue in
Manhattan between 104th Street and Fifth avenue. Seating is limited and
there are no reservations. Support for the Conservatory’s GUEST ARTIST
Series is made possible with public support from the Music Program of the
New York State Council on the Arts.

*ABOUT THE ARTISTS

PEDRO GIRAUDO JAZZ ORCHESTRA – July 27, 7:30 pm
The amazing and acclaimed composer and bassist Pedro Giraudo, presents his
band, which boasts some of New York’s finest jazz musicians, and has
performed regularly in the most prestigious jazz clubs in the New York City
area, including the Jazz Standard, Birdland, The Jazz Gallery, Blue Note,
Joe’s Pub, as well as abroad. John Murph of Downbeat described Giraudo’s
music as “an opulent listening experience of modern, orchestral jazz,
brimming with passionate improvisations, deliberate contrapuntal melodies
and plush harmonies.” Chip Boaz of Latin Jazz Corner offered this analysis:
“The rich eloquence of Giraudo’s gorgeous artistic expression flows through
the music with an undeniable grace. “Córdoba tells a story of innocence,
discovery, and unbridled emotion, expressed delicately through the colors of
Giraudo’s finely tuned compositions.”

DON’T MISS: August 10, 7:30 pm ADAM CRUZ SEXTET

The Harbor Conservatory Jazz Department under the direction of Gustavo
Casenave is designed to develop skilled performers, composers, and arrangers
in preparation for advanced college level study and future professional
careers. Focusing on all aspects of Jazz education, this program offers an
innovative curriculum, comprised of traditional Jazz studies, enhanced by a
broader world – vision of Jazz and the art of improvisation. Master classes
and concerts by major Jazz artists, are offered in addition to the
arranging, composition, ear training, and performance courses and
opportunities. For more info: gcasenave@theharbor.org

HARBOR CONSERVATORY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, now in its 41st year, was
established by Boys & Girls Harbor and offers pre-professional training in
the disciplines of dance, instrumental music, voice and theater arts to
students ages 4-21.

Boys & Girls Harbor founded in 1937 by Anthony D. Duke, and now under the
direction of Dr. Thomas Howard, serves more than 1,300 children and young
people annually through the Harbor’s Early Childhood Education programs; our
affiliated Harbor Science and Arts Charter School for elementary and
middle-school students; the renowned Harbor Conservatory for the Performing
Arts; after-school and summer enrichment programs; college preparation
services; and counseling and social/emotional services and referrals. To
learn more please visit us on-line at http://www.theharbor.org
or call 212/427-2244 ext. 544.

Director of Jazz Department to play Blue Note Jazz Club

Dear Friends,

Come join Gustavo Casenave, director of the Harbor Conservatory’s Jazz Department, and his trio this Sunday for an afternoon of Jazz and Tango at the world renowned Blue Note Jazz Club.  Brunch is served from 11:30 am until 4:00 pm, with showtimes at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm. $24.50 includes brunch, the show and a drink.  For reservations please call 212/475-8592 or visit www.bluenote.net

To learn more about Gustavo, check out my interview with Mr. Casenave here.

Summer Jazz Program Schedule

Dear Friends,

Registration is now open for our summer Jazz Program!  Under the direction of pianist/composer Gustavo Casenave, the Harbor Conservatory  Jazz Program is designed to develop skilled performers, composers, and arrangers in preparation for advanced college level study and future professional careers.
Focusing on all aspects of Jazz education, this program offers an innovative curriculum, comprised of not only traditional Jazz studies, but a broader world – vision of Jazz and the art of improvisation. Master classes and concerts by major Jazz artists, are offered in addition to the arranging, composition, ear training, and performance courses and opportunities.  The semester runs from July 6th to August 13th.  The schedule is as follows:

Harbor Contemporary Jazz Ensemble –
Mondays:  4:30pm to 6pm (meets as usual)

The All Jazz Ensemble –
Mondays: 6pm to 7:30pm (meets as usual)

Ear Training 1 –
Wednesdays:  4pm to 5pm (different day from before, same time)

Arranging for contemporary Jazz Ensemble –
Wednesdays: 5pm to 6pm (different day from before, same time)

Jazz Composition –
Wednesdays: 6pm to 7pm (different day from before, same time)

Jazz Composition Ensemble –
Wednesdays: 7pm to 8pm (different day from before, same time)

The Harbor Jazz Ensemble –
Tuesdays: 6pm to 8pm (taught by Michika Ishikawa)
(different day from before, same time)

Jazz Private Instruction – (for schedule contact the office)

NOTE:  There will no Jazz Vocal Workshop during the summer semester.

NEW STUDENTS: Please call Gustavo Casenave @ 212/427-2244 Ext. 551 to discuss registering.

RETURNING STUDENTS: Please call the office @ 212/427-2244 Ext. 573 to register.

Ed Morand Interview

Dear Friends,

I recently interviewed adult music student Ed Morand.  From his previous career in musical theater to finding Latin music years later, Ed had some fascinating insight on music, and how it has affected his life.

(D: Daniel, E: Ed)

D: Ed, according to your background you had a brief career in musical theater and dance. Care to elaborate on this?

E: Well what’s funny is I had access to music growing up.  My father was a city music teacher, a choral director, a church organist, and even now he works as a cantor.  So I had music in the house, but I did not get along with my father at the piano.  I grew up singing in church and doing shows in school and such, but the music studies as a discipline–in terms of playing an instrument–didn’t really stick.  I ended up doing shows in school and then going to college for theater. I then took classes and then getting my first paying job with the Dance Theater of Harlem.  That led me into a career in performing and began a wonderful time of my life where my horizons just opened up.  I ended up going into more musical theater eventually because of the opportunities to work, but I have to be honest.  My career wasn’t the most outstanding, but I did get the chance to tour through the states and a little bit in Europe.  It was really a great experience and opened up my mind, seeing the way the different people lived in different areas of the country and abroad as well.  But you know that was a really brief time period, really only a few years.  I soon found that it wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be, but I always found myself gravitating towards the piano in the orchestra pit when I was on tour doing shows.

So what’s funny is that I ended up stopping the dance and performance career, and starting a new career in fitness.  At the time I was just trying to make a living between gigs.  Then it swallowed up my time.   It got to the point where I had no time for anything else in my life.   Now I run a Pilates studio, my own business, full-time—the fact is I could squeeze two full-time jobs into the hours I work.  But right after I stopped performing I really needed to find another outlet of expression for my artistic side. So I started to dabble with this developing interest I had in salsa and mambo.  I had no idea what it was about at the time.  I really didn’t get it.  But I had these illusions based largely on TV series’ I saw as a kid, Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze, some Latin cliché characters in movies.  And I wanted to be part of it; there was something I couldn’t put my finger on, but I found it infectious and contagious.

So I started to take salsa and mambo classes with Eddie Torres, who is considered the salsa king, or the mambo king.  And he had toured with Tito Puente for three years, so the music was really held up in high regard in those classes and in the dance scene.  It was only a matter of years before I wanted to go and study this music, because I knew I had some music background from childhood and never really made it work for myself.  I really felt like all the steps from that journey were amazing, and I made some revelations at each stage.  When I found out about this place, it was an incredible realization that I could study at a relatively low cost, because these lessons would be much more expensive downtown, at some places easily double the cost of what they are here.  I came in here not knowing what kinds of opportunities existed, and what I found was a series of opportunities.  And these were not available to me in the place I grew up at the time I was growing up.  There was the opportunity to really begin to understand rhythm because I started to take conga/music reading classes.  Soon after I started to study piano trying to free myself from my previous hang-ups about what it all meant.  I think I stuck with two classes for a while and the idea was that I wanted to play piano the way you play in a salsa group or a Latin ensemble, and to do that I had to learn my jazz basics.  So I had this great class with Gustavo Casenave, where he started to build this Jazz vocabulary which really called up a lot of my music fundamentals.  At the same time I studied the basics of playing the Conga with Steve Lopez, but more so emphasizing the reading of music rhythms.  So I got to sort of fill in all these things that had kind of been left by the wayside as a kid.   And I’d have to say that as a kid nothing really caught on.  I was at the church in this intimidating, conservative music environment. I knew I liked music and I got a great start having a musical parent in my Dad.  But at the Harbor I got to free up and explore what I think is much more advanced harmony in jazz and then I started to learn rhythm without thinking about it too hard, which is what I thought I was doing all along.

And there were deep issues connected to this; this was a father and son relationship where it was a lot of pressure to be the student of my father.  For some reason…sometimes…we hear stories where this doesn’t always so smoothly as expected, and mine was a perfect example of that.  I’m glad to say now, it’s a little therapeutic because I get to sort of bridge that relationship back and show an appreciation for what my dad was trying to do with me and resume what didn’t quite take at that time.  What’s funny is that as a performing artist in our current culture, in comparison to Europe and other countries where performing arts and artists are subsidized through unemployment and are paid fairly well when they you perform, here in this country you’re sort of an out of work actor,  an out of work dancer.  And knowing I’ve sung, acted and danced my entire life it was kind of put away all the years I was actively working as a performer.  During that time I found that I couldn’t afford to be a performer, and there weren’t opportunities coming up for me.  I mean this is a field where you have to actively make your own opportunities.  So being able to sort of very carefully and very gingerly walk back into the arts in this way, and to feel protected and very sheltered in this environment was amazing.  And what happened was that I said, you know, I love to sing this music, and I’ve dabbled on my own with singing a little bit of Latin music, and I thought since I had a little bit of vocal training in some different languages I would try to sing this stuff.  So I picked up a lesson with David Oquendo, who is a Maestro here, and that was meant to be a Latin vocal class.  But when you study with David you realize he is bringing in this culture of  Cuban Son, boleros and baladas and kind of light popular music with the rumba tradition, the soul tradition, the roots of today’s salsa and much older Cuban “country” music.  That class is like a percussion class, where you’re tapping this and banging that before you get a chance to do any bit of singing because he wants to know that you’ve got the rhythms down, internalized; so you’re getting the roots, the roots and the fundamentals of these Cuban rhythms.  So when you layer all these lessons together it’s amazing.

And what finally happened was it was mentioned to me that there existed a space in the ensemble where I started as a vocalist, and then a piano spot seemed to open up, and in this workshop on Tuesday nights here I get a chance to play the piano.  It’s basically a class in being a completely new start up salsa band, only under the guidance and supervision of two great musical directors like Ramon Rodriguez and David Oquendo.  These guys are both really good at developing students in there own ways because they both have expert eyes and ears for this work.  They see exactly what you need and work to mold you.  They only push you to the degree that you can be pushed, then step back, observe you and then come around from a different angle.  So I’m enormously grateful to them for this opportunity.  Once my lessons turned into playing with this group of people I just felt like it all took off to a new level.  My practice, the discipline I put into the practice, looking to show up prepared for the next class, the next rehearsal with improved material and being able to handle those tricky parts that might have posed a problem on first viewing.  And you know…the group becomes a little family: some of my friends play conga, one of my other friends plays bongo, this other guy plays timbales.  It’s a group and you want to look good in front of your friends and make them look good too.  So we are slowly improving, and we’ve got a hot little group vibe going on and we’re hoping to continue moving forward.  I have to say as a kid I had three years of piano lessons; I was a singer; I could practice for a while; I could put it down; I knew I could always go back to singing.  As a kid I practiced…once a month I think.  And now, you know before beginning this workshop, I was probably practicing at least four days a week for an hour to two hours.  Now that this workshop is happening, there’s so much more motivation to pile on the practice hours, there’s really no limit to what you can strengthen in terms of your rhythmic chops or finger dexterity, or rhythm where I’ll play clave or the drum in practice and sing and work on some of the rhythms.  Although it’s a lot of work and it’s constantly trying to keep all the irons in the fire, it’s endlessly rewarding.  It’s an amazing adventure.  I really feel so indebted to this program, the existence of it, and all the work Ramon has done to keep it together and keep it going.

D: How did you hear about the Harbor Conservatory before you got started here?

E: You know that’s a funny question.  It doesn’t come immediately to mind how I heard about it… I remember wondering whether it was open to everybody, whether you had to be Latino or very young, at least school age, to take lessons.  I remember somebody telling me there were Salsa and dance classes being held here a number of years ago, five or six years ago.  And I knew about the existence of it but I thought it was more of a kids after school community project, I didn’t realize the extensiveness of the program.  Ah you know what!  I just realized those things were all true, but they never really made the connection for me.  What happened was I got very interested in playing and I said “I’ve got to learn to play this music on the piano. I want to play Latin music on the piano and I want to be able to sing and accompany myself.”  And in that instant I basically contacted this woman who wrote the “Salsa Guide Book for Piano and Ensemble” Rebeca Mauleon.  She’s an internationally-renowned pianist and Latin music educator.  I’ve read her books and they’re recommended by many teachers here.  I had found these books on my own and her contact information was there, so I wrote her an email and asked “Who do I study with in New York?”, and she recommended Oscar Hernandez.  Now this took some nerve because I knew about Oscar Hernandez.  He’d worked on The Capeman with Paul Simon, he’d been Ray Barretto’s pianist and arranger for years.  And he’d recently started his own big band, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

So I took a deep breath and found Oscar Hernandez’s contact information online.  I had seen him in shows with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, so I stopped him during a show and found out how to get in touch with him.  So when I did he said, “Go to the Harbor Conservatory, Sonny Bravo teaches there”.  Then once I called the school they told me Sonny Bravo only takes advanced students so Ramon suggested I take lessons with Gustavo Casenave to work on Jazz fundamentals.  So that’s how it all started.  It was literally like finding some famous pianists who were hot players and asking from the source where should I go?  It was very gratifying that it happened; that I had access, I could pick up the phone and talk to somebody who could tell me “yes he teaches here, but his schedules full” and that was really gratifying. What’s great about this school is you’re linked in with the people that do play this music.  I’ll literally go out salsa dancing and I’ll see my piano teacher on the stage, and that’s amazing.  Or I’ll go to a gig that David is playing in, he’ll be playing guitar and singing, Gustavo is always playing out doing his jazz thing.  You’re studying with working musicians who are at the top of their craft.

D: Must be an awesome experience.

E: You know what I think is even more awesome is being an adult student and having access to this.  To get pulled in to this extent as an adult, you feel like your brain works better. You feel like you’re sleeping deeper, you’re living life more fully, you feel like you’re percolating and using all your synapses and your whole brain better because we always hear about how little of it we humans use.  And it really feels like, when they say older folks benefit from taking dance lessons or keeping limber and trying new things, playing sudoku and brain twisters and puzzles; in a sense it feels like when you’re doing this you’re in that mode constantly.  It makes you feel like a little kid.  It is truly a joy.

D: That’s great.  So how has taking lessons here affected your relationship with music?

E: I would say I listen to music a lot more intently.  I can hear things I’ve never heard before.  I would say I bring that enthusiasm to other people in my life, when I recommend music lessons to friends, their kids, or young people I know.  I feel like in the Latin music and dance scene which is a BIG trend right now, that twenty or thirty percent of the people I meet would love to study this music.  In a sense I feel a certain compulsion, a certain desire, to keep this music alive because it is roots music.  I’ve thought for a long time, long before going this direction that Latin music and Latin jazz is the best music in the world.  I had no Latin music growing up. I was in that strict kind of church and classical music environment.  All very square harmonies, with no bounce.  It wasn’t like a soul or a gospel chorus or choir, it was a traditional church choir.  When I say I think Latin music is the best music in the world, it’s the sophistication of the harmonies, combining these U.S. based jazz harmonies with the complexities of these Afro-Cuban rhythms, you’re basically layering all the tradition, all the richness that African and Arabic music has brought us, and when you look at the history you realize all the Eastern stuff including Asian, Persian, and Indian music found their way into this mix through early trade routes like the silk road.  And similar traders carried stringed instruments into North Africa where they inevitably ran into forest African drumming traditions.  Then you have the harmonic stuff that came from some of the same hybrid roots but became what we think of as European music.  Some of which came to be called romantic music and then more contemporary music.  You have all this breadth of rhythmic and choral and melodic and chordal music that is really the best elements of each of those kinds of music brought together.  Harmonic perfection.

D: Great way of putting that.  You mentioned that you play with the ensemble here.  Do you play with anybody else, and do you hope to potentially play gigs with the Harbor Ensemble in the future?

E: Those guys get excited, they talk about it.  The other day one of them told us of a place who wanted to use us as a band.  They asked Ramon about it afterwards and he said that we weren’t quite ready yet, that he wouldn’t want to throw us to the wolves right away.  The guys all have their delusions of grandeur, you have this one guy who’s ready to start this group with one singer, this other singer also suggesting a group of others become another separate group.  Then some of us want to keep this workshop and keep the same personnel and start a group.  Even David said the same thing a few months ago, that we should be a group and start something.  I dunno if we have the glue to make it stick, there’s something to be said for the sense of authority and the sense of trust that David and Ramon instill when they’re there administering that workshop and leading it.  Without our leaders, I don’t know if we’re strong enough.  I write my own songs and would love to start my own group playing original popular music, but they have these new jazz workshops here, a sort of renaissance of the jazz program here where they’re starting new things and having new ensembles, and I hope to get into one of those.  So it’s possible that much like the teachers here, maybe if I’m able to do this Latin workshop, then a Jazz workshop, then I can do my own music once I get my skills up in all those musical disciplines.  That would be the best outcome I can imagine.  It’s most gratifying when you’ve written something yourself and you also perform it. That puts together my singing, my writing, and my playing.  So that’s most definitely on my mind.

D: Cool.  Lastly do you have any advice you’d like to impart to somebody who wants to learn more about the conservatory, and possibly take lessons here?

E: I most certainly do.  I think that sometimes people think it’s a good idea to take lessons with a friend of a friend or a neighborhood person because it’s the economical choice, or it’s nearby.  The classes here are extremely affordable, especially with the high quality of working professionals they have teaching here.  I think it’s fair to say the teachers here go out of their way to serve this community, this institution, this conservatory.  If it was only about money you wouldn’t see the kind of character in the teachers here.  And I am extremely grateful for that.  I do know that in downtown Manhattan you might find these classes going for 3 to five times as much with the same teachers, so it is a big deal that they’re choosing to serve the school, and this community.  I think it is a good idea NOT to take lessons from  a friend of a friend, or a person down the block.  I think it’s a good idea to come here because there is a structure and as I just said the way that things worked for me is I had two classes first, then realized I needed more and different skills, so I took a workshop.  Then once I took a workshop I felt part of a community here, and you start to know this player, and this singer.  And that’s the way to get a true artist to flower.  It’s not just one trait, one discipline; it’s really kind of that music has these different arms, these different wings.  Your skills really hang on your ability to both network socially and as a musician.  So there’s a network of teachers, there’s a network of peers, and there’s a family feel here, which is really, really awesome.  That’s why I recommend this kind of a place, this place specifically, over studying with a friend or neighbor.  So you asked “Do you have any advice?”  This is the advice I’m constantly giving people.  You know, my friend’s son might want to study guitar, another friend’s son might want to study percussion, another friend’s daughter might want to study piano.  I have spoken highly of this place because I believe in it.  I will recommend it time and again, and deep down, I just want everyone to experience for themselves just how special it is.

Conservatory Teacher Featured in Movie at MOMA Tonight!

Here is a message from our Director of External Affairs, Nina Olson:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share the exciting news, that the film “La Cascara” (The Rind) with a score composed by Harbor Conservatory Jazz Director Gustavo Casenave will be shown tonight at the Museum of Modern Art at 8:00 pm.  You can catch another screening at MOMA on November 11th at 4:00 pm.  This wonderful Uruguayan film produced in 2007 by Cali Ameglio won several Film Festival Awards worldwide.
For more information, please check the museum’s link at:

http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/72/460

La Cascara

Gustavo Casenave Interview

Hello friends,

This week I interviewed the new Director of our Jazz Program, Gustavo Casenave.  Mr. Casenave joined the Conservatory’s faculty in 1997 teaching composition and Latin Jazz piano. Over the course of 20 years as an educator, he has lectured and conducted Master Classes and workshops at numerous prestigious institutions.  As a performer, he has played all over the world in a variety of different settings,  presenting his music with his different Tango, Jazz, and Chamber ensembles.  He has worked as Musical Director, Pianist, Composer, Producer and Arranger.  Here is the transcript from our discussion.

(D: Daniel, G: Gustavo)

D: Gustavo, my first question is: I was looking at your bio and I saw that you have traveled and played music all over the world.  So I was wondering how you ended up… here?  How you ended up a teacher at the Conservatory and how you became the director of the jazz program?

G: Well basically, I went to Berklee.  First of all, I’m from Uruguay.  I studied music there; I studied composition, I studied jazz, a little bit of everything. But in Uruguay there are not so many opportunities and I wanted to study more.  So I got a scholarship from the Organization of American States and I went to study at Berklee.  When I graduated from Berklee I said “hey, what do I do now?” So you know how it’s Boston and New York for Jazz?  Like, you go to Boston thinking that will be the place and then when you’re there, you realize that’s not the place.  And I guess I did the same thing many jazz musicians do, I went to Berklee.  When I was looking online for where to go, that was in 1994, it seemed like Berklee was the place, and then once I was there I was saying, “Is this really the place?”  So it turned out New York, there were more opportunities.  So I started mailing every college, University, and everywhere looking just to teach somewhere so I could get a job to move here.  Of course I was touring and playing, but you know as a musician but I wanted a teaching job.  So I sent letters, and there’s a funny story with Robert Blumenthal, who was the jazz director here, my very good friend.  It’s a funny story because you know he got my letter and he was reading that I was a jazz pianist from Uruguay and at the same time he was reading my letter the phone rang.  So he picked up the phone and said “Ah yes, you’re a jazz pianist, you’re from Uruguay, ah you studied at Berklee” and the other guy answered “No” so Rob said “What do you mean? I have your letter”.  “What letter?”  So what happened was at the same moment he was reading my letter a jazz pianist from Uruguay called and his last name was Casenova and my last name is Casenave.  So you know it was a really weird thing, and actually after that Mr. Casenova ended up being my student years later.  And he was a jazz pianist from Uruguay calling at the same time. Rob had never heard of anybody from Uruguay, we are a very, very small country.  Only 3 million people in the whole country.  I guess it was meant to be, I guess he said “Ok I have to call this other guy”.  So he called me, that was late in ’97 and I came here for teaching, took the job, and I’ve been teaching here for 11 years.

D: Wow.  When did it become apparent that you were going to take over the jazz program?

G: Well Ramon offered me the position about three years ago and actually I didn’t take it because I was touring a lot and as a touring musician, with gigs everything I thought it wasn’t the right time to do it.  And now, it is the right time because I expanded my family and I have a four moth old baby, actually she is five months old today.  And you know, things change. I want to start touring less so I can be home, and be more steady here.  It’s really crazy to be a touring musician, it’s crazy.  With my first daughter, she’s six now, I had that experience.  For almost two years I was touring non stop; touring two months, then coming back home for two weeks.  And I was missing a lot of the changes with my daughter, and I had that experience and this time I think it’s time to start settling.  I’m of course glad to keep playing concerts and touring but, not so much.

D: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.  My next question is when did you first start playing music, and when did you realize that was what you wanted to do with your life?

G: I started playing when my father bought the piano when I was 6, and you know we were five kids, I have two brothers and two sisters. The piano arrived and we’re kids so everyone on the piano playing together for the first day.  The second day, we were four playing the piano.  The third day, we were just three of us.  And three weeks later, it was just me… until now.  And yeah, that’s the only thing I ever did in my life, was just play the piano, and teach.  Well, anything related to music, you know.   But that’s how it started, and I decided I was going to spend my life doing music at 13.   When I was 13 I realized “what do I do?” So I started putting my band together, and I started classical piano.  First I started classical piano, and still practice until today.  But when I was 13 I said “Ok this is it for me, I cannot do anything else but play music” and that’s what I did.  You know, playing music, I did a lot of different stuff, like music for movies.  I played all different kinds of music.  I played classical concerts, I played punk music, on electric guitar when I was 13, distortion, heavy metal, reggae, jazz, pop, a little bit of everything.  I think music is one whole thing and yeah you have different styles but… music is the same.

D: Agreed… that’s great.  So, what have you specifically found challenging about being a teacher and working with students of different ages?

G: What do I find challenging? Hmm.  Well I guess in teaching I am very confident, when I teach I know exactly what I want to do, I am very specific.  So I do not find that challenging, not the teaching process because I’ve been teaching for many, many, many years so somehow I’ve found a way to explain to the students and get them to learn.  And the way is very simple; I’m a student myself so I sit on the other side.  I’m a student so I think “how would I want the teacher to explain this to me”?  So I try to give them a very specific way to go, perhaps before it was a little challenging but now it’s become habit and I know how to work towards that.  For me, the most challenging thing is to teach my daughter.  I try that, and it’s almost impossible.  She definitely has to go with another teacher.  Father child is never the same as teacher student.  So that’s the most challenging thing.  And I guess also teaching children, that’s a different story also, and that’s challenging.  It implies a whole other psychological and other skills that I did study at Berkeley, but that’s challenging, not the material itself but to deal with the children, to understand, that’s a different chapter.

D: Are you currently playing with any groups or bands in New York?

G: I’m playing with several groups and of course I have my trio, a jazz trio.  I’m very active in three fields; in jazz with different groups, they call me for sessions or recordings.  But steady, in the jazz group I play is basically with my band, I try to promote my music, it’s very hard to get do that.  I do a lot of solo piano also, I’m going to Puerto Rico now for a week of solo concerts.  And my other big thing that I do is tango.  I play in almost every major tango show that appears in the US because there are not so many tango musicians, so there’s a lot of work with that.  I direct many of the shows and I play as a pianist in Tango Fire, Forever Tango, Eternal Tango, Tango Connection, any kind of tango.  And now I also have a painting tango, that’s a show that I do with my wife who’s a painter and she paints live on stage and we do it with dancers, and I play with my tango ensemble, everything together on one stage.  And we have one big date coming, March 20th of next year at NYU and that’s called “Tango Casenave”.  This relates to my next field, which is composition.  I basically compose jazz tango and contemporary composition.  With this tango ensemble what I do is I write my own tangos, and it’ s tango show of only original music, which is very unusual music nowadays because every tango show is like the jazz standards, you have the tango standards, they always play the same thing.  So I’m trying to change that.  And I do my own music at tango shows, only Tango Casenave.  As a composer, I mainly write in three styles.  I do tangos, I do jazz, and I do contemporary classical music.  And I write string quartets, large ensembles, chamber music, and piano solo music I have a huge book for piano solo music.

D: Always writing eh?

G: Yeah, I’m always writing.  That’s basically what it is.

D: What do you like to do when you aren’t playing music?

G: What do I like to do?  To play with my daughters… and to be with my wife.  Basically the time I’m not thinking about music… no I’m always thinking about music.  It’s very hard you know I try to grab minutes and seconds for thinking of music and trying to develop something from wherever I can.  Even when I go to the bathroom, I take a book or something.  I cannot waste one second.  Oh, and I like surfing.  That’s the other thing I like.  But it’s hard to do, I have to go Long Island, it takes two hours… but I surf all my life.  So that’s one other thing.  Probably the only thing apart from music and my family that I really enjoy.  When I go on tour in Puerto Rico, I surf the whole day, and I play the whole night.  Not a bad combination eh?

D: Not bad at all.  Last question: any parting words you have for our readers?

G: Any last words? Yes. My last words are that there is a new program here at the Harbor.  There are some courses that were not taught here before.  A whole new program that I put together that was not here before; ensembles, arranging and composition courses, and that’s a new thing here, and they have to really take advantage of this.  The courses are at a very low cost of $15 per class, per time you come, and that’s really something new.  I think it will be really great.  There will be new ensembles, and I want to use this opportunity to explain the program.  Basically, the new stuff, there will continue to be ensembles like there were before, but now there are also different kinds of ensembles.  We have a student composition ensemble which is basically a writing course where we do compositions for each student, and the complementary course for this would be an ensemble where we perform the stuff that we create in the writing course.  Meaning a student comes here, writes something, goes to the ensemble and actually plays, we do a recording and listen to see how it actually works.  There are different styles, different levels, beginner, intermediate, advanced.  We offer it with different types of jazz also.  We also have a new course, introduction to tango, which is probably the first course offered anywhere, in any music school, where we teach tango formally.  So we are probably the first one’s to teach a writing course, with performance, teaching tango.  In composition, there will be a big band also.  The main thing is the opportunity to be in a jazz environment but also get together with the other departments, like Latin and classical music.  So when they come here they get a little bit of everything.  And even if they are only jazz musicians they can get in touch with people and start playing with people in the Latin programs and you start getting that mix.  And at the end jazz is for improvisation and this is obviously the jazz department, but I’d call it the jazz and improvisation department because what we study mostly is not only the jazz style; I focus on jazz because it gives us the freedom to improvise and to create your own voice even with the different  fusions of jazz with different cultures, with Latin, with Arabic, with any kind of jazz.  Really, if you check in jazz there are so many people from different parts of the world and you take elements from that and create this kind of world music that’s related to jazz.  So I think the focus of this program is more towards that, it’s more open.  It has all the traditional jazz studies but not only that.  It offers that fusion with all the cultures.  And it gives real opportunity to international students or anyone from different parts of the world to come with something of their own and learn the tools of improvisation so they can get something on their own with their own voice.  So that’s my vision of where to take the jazz department.

GUSTAVO CASENAVE BW

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