Jazz greats Eddie Palmieri and Fred Hersch lead master classes

Jazz pianists Eddie Palmieri and Fred Hersch took their turn behind the keyboard on several occasions throughout the fall semester, helming master classes and sharing advice with our student musicians.

In November, Grammy-winning Latin jazz pianist Palmieri, sporting an Rutgers baseball cap, took a turn behind the piano and critiqued student performances. He reminded the students to learn by listening; he even did a little impromptu dance as they listened to a recording together.

Conrad Herwig, area coordinator of Jazz Studies, performed on trombone alongside Palmieri.

“If you can learn to make people sound great--that's the secret Eddie Palmieri has,” Herwig explained to the students gathered in Shindell Choral Hall.

Herwig offered his own advice: slow down.

“With music on this level, you have to learn how to linger,” Herwig said. “There’s a tendency for things to be moving too fast. There’s a tendency to not lie in the moment and let things happen.

“When you linger, it sounds relaxed,” Herwig said. “It sounds like it’s floating.”

In December, the Grammy-nominated Hersch stopped by to perform pieces in a variety of styles, by Joni Mitchell, Thelonius Monk, and Robert Schumann, among others. He paid tribute to Frank Sinatra’s centenary with In the Wee Small Hours.

Hersch, himself a composer, shared a few of his writing techniques, saying that sometimes he challenges himself to write a tune in 45 minutes, using a timer.

“I revise, but I get the guts of it out. The important thing is just to write,” he said, adding that composers must commit themselves to consistently exercising that writing “muscle.”

Like Herwig, Hersch had plenty to say about slowing down.

“I can play fast and loud, but I choose not to,” he said matter-of-factly. “It makes the big places more effective if I have intimate places too.”

And according to Hersch, one can’t become a good musician without spending a fair amount of time being a bad musician--really bad.

“One way you’ll improve is to, frankly, screw up, a lot,” he said. “It’s just about sitting and just messing around. It takes a lot of stumbling around.”

Posted March 2016