The Word is Getting Out!

Jazz Mentors

Volume 116, No. 7July, 2016

Todd Bryant Weeks and Bettina Covo
All photos in this article by Walter Karling

All photos in this article by Walter Karling

The word is getting out! The Jazz Mentors series rolled out its third installment, as legendary bassist Ron Carter, pianists Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap and composer-conductor Maria Schneider took questions at Local 802 from an engaged audience of jazz performers, many of whom were students from area music schools.

That audience has been growing steadily since the launch of the series in March, and musicians agree that these discussions fill a need in the community, as there is a often dearth of available information as to how to get started as a performer, and more specifically, how to handle the business side of a career in jazz.

“Jazz Mentors provides the invaluable experience of hearing the perspectives of some of the greatest living jazz musicians/composers and having the opportunity to interact with them in a relaxed and comfortable environment,” remarked saxophonist Bobby Katz, a recent graduate of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Music. “I felt as if the artists truly cared about the younger generation,” said Katz, “and I felt inspired as a result of it. I look forward to attending more Jazz Mentors events.”

Each of the panelists brought their own perspectives to the freewheeling discussion, which covered topics as diverse as musical preparedness, proper attire, dealing with fees and the hiring of publicists – to issues of intellectual property and copyright infringement.

Todd Weeks, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Maria Schneider, Ron Carter and Local 802 Recording VP Andy Schwartz.

Todd Weeks, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Maria Schneider, Ron Carter and Local 802 Recording VP Andy Schwartz.

Renee Rosnes started her musical career as a classical pianist. It was her school band director who introduced her to jazz and it’s been a love affair ever since. She made a very cogent point during the event, “We’re always learning. Even the great saxophonist James Moody, at the age of 80, continued to listen and learn from everyone he played with. That’s important to remember.”

Her husband, pianist Bill Charlap, recounted his first meeting with drummer Lenny White when Charlap was still in high school. White’s pearly words still speak volumes today, “I asked him,” said Charlap, ‘How do I break into the business and will I have opportunities?’ Lenny in his full length fur coat and porkpie hat replied ‘Yes, you’re going to have opportunities. You just have to be ready for them.’” Charlap also encouraged the audience to be well groomed on gigs, to “dress for success, on and off the bandstand.” Later on, Charlap talked about perseverance, telling the students in the audience, “You have to bowl a lot of times before you hit even one pin.”

Composer Maria Schneider, who has been at the forefront of the struggle to secure copyright protections for artists, spoke eloquently about the need for musicians to recognize when their intellectual property is being exploited by large entities such as YouTube, Pandora and Spotify. “You should be the one to decide if something is good for you, not somebody else. You need to be your own business person,” said Schneider.

Schneider described the exploitation of musicians by YouTube as comparable to an illness: “Munchhausen by proxy,” she calls it. “After destroying the business and ignoring ownership and copyrights, now these same exploitative organizations suddenly want to pick up the pieces from the mess they made and help you produce and promote your product at a cost to you,” she said. The audience expressed enthusiastic support.

Clockwise from top left: Maria Schneider, Bill Charlap, Ron Carter and Renee Rosnes

Clockwise from top left: Maria Schneider, Bill Charlap, Ron Carter and Renee Rosnes

Ron Carter, who has been working in the jazz and music education fields for over 50 years, offered some pithy advice to a younger generation: “Learn how to quantize your worth. It’s difficult to always know how to price yourself on the musical market, but it’s an important factor going forward.” He encouraged the students in the audience to maintain professional standards: “There are great players who don’t get hired simply because they don’t behave well – they are late for the downbeat, or they want to take over the band. It’s just as important to show up on time, be ready to play and to be able to work well with others.”

Local 802 member Chris Cherney was on hand. He is a conductor and composer who has worked with Duke Ellington, among others. This was his first Jazz Mentors event and he had only positive things to say about it: “It was wonderful. Musicians young and old asking questions of and getting advice from some of the greatest figures of our time in such a relaxed and informal setting. I look forward to the upcoming programs.”

The Jazz Mentors series connects up-and-coming musicians with some of New York City’s premier artists to discuss the business of jazz. The series, which is co-sponsored by Local 802 and the Council for Living Music, is offered for free and is open to the public. The next Jazz Mentors event is scheduled for Monday, July 25 at 5 p.m.