Season 1 Episode 1 – Patrice Rushen (Musician/Artist/Educator)
Hello everyone and welcome to the MusiqNote podcast where we’ll be exploring all the different occupations and careers linked to the art of music I’m your host Lory Lee-Ann.
In this episode we’ll be talking to my friend and legendary artist Patrice Rushen most of you know her from hit songs like “Forget me Nots” and “Remind Me” but her musical catalog contains so much more and her groundbreaking achievements are to say the least impressive. Listen as we talk to her about her musical journey music education and the future of music.
Hello Patrice Rushen and welcome to the MusiqNote podcast.
Hey how are you?
I’m doing great how are you doing?
I’m doing great how are you doing doing great! Great to be with you.
Well thank you so much for being here! We know each other for a very long time and I’m very happy and I’m very honored to have you as my first guest on his podcast. I mean who’d better to kick things off with right? Especially when I look at your musical journey you have such a diverse and impressive career. You’ve been called a producer, a music director, a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and the list goes on, but how would you best describe your profession?
Music for me involves all of those things that you mentioned and I think each of those job titles enhances my ability to do the other. What I mean is I think I’m a good composer because I’ve been a good player on other peoples projects as a side person. I’ve learned a lot and I bring those different experiences to everything that I do, while there are different hats or different jobs they are very related and it gives me an opportunity to just enjoy music from so many different prospectives.
You started classical piano training at a very young age. When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in music? Did you have a specific occupation in mind?
I first started playing music, because my parents were very involved in in our lives, in noticing things about their kids that they could enhance and help to support. When it became obvious that I had some musical ability they were like “OK this is great what do we do?” Both my parents worked in so I was in a nursery school for a while and the teacher there was very musical and knew about a program that did just that. Support young kids who seemed to be gifted in music and give them a chance to take music lessons. I was involved in those lessons and as you said by the age of 5 started playing the piano, but I was doing it for the enjoyment at first and then you know you get to be about 12 and you realize that you wanna be just like everybody else. None of your other friends have to practice before they go outside and have to take these lessons. So I really sort of rejected for a little bit the idea of music being fun. Because the practicing, especially playing the piano, you play alone. It just didn’t seem fun anymore. I did have very wise parents and they suggested “Well why don’t you do something where you can play with other people?” and I learn to play the flute and I was able to play in the orchestra and the band at my school. We had an orchestra and band as part of our education then even in public school. It renewed my idea about music and gave me a different perspective because suddenly I’m involved as a part of something. I’m playing with others and that collaboration, sitting and listening right in the middle of the orchestra was a tremendous boost to my piano playing and my awareness of music. It sort of rekindled that fire about to music, but still I had not figured out what I wanted to do. It really wasn’t until high school that I started being able to actually see the possibilities for what I wanted to do. We were introduced to music in terms of not just one way of being able to be a musician. We were introduced to people who played in the studio, people who were professors and teachers we were introduced to arranging and arrangers and orchestrator’s and of course jazz musicians who would come to town to play. We were introduced to that way of life. We would also go and watch the LA Phil. We saw that the idea of music and musicianship could look like a lot of different things and that’s when I was able to kind of see myself lean in a little bit more towards the writing especially for Film & Television. That’s what I wanted to do, but I kept playing the whole time.
Do you think that not only your interest but also your curiosity helped develop your skills to explore all those different areas?
Yes I I think I was also very motivated because of my peer-group. We were all very motivated to be our best selves, we pushed each other. We would talk to each other about the music.
We would share musical ideas. We would talk about practicing, about trying to meet certain kind of goals and that was really a big help. It was not only of what I was learning from music teachers and mentors from that perspective, but it was also very important the peer to peer learning.
The feeling of community of us working towards certain kinds of goals together and holding each other accountable.
So networking is a big part of the process?
It’s a huge part. At first that networking looks like sharing common information. Learning from one another, observing one another’s process. It looks like that at first but that morphs into a certain kind of understanding and trust and ability to ask of another something that you need them to do. Knowing they are going to come to the table ready. Ready to perform, willing to give to the music. Willing to help you get done what needs to get done because there’s a commonality and a common understanding about each role that everyones plays in making a project happen.
Did you ever experienced any difficulties during your professional life because you were one of the few women in the music business at the time?
I don’t think I had too many experiences where being female stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. I think at first, especially coming up high school and college, the more important thing was the music itself. Who could bring a certain technique and identity and feeling to the music. So I was actually from my peers who were primarily male playing music, particularly playing jazz, they were very protective of me actually. It was a very easy way at a very volatile time in one’s development where you are very vulnerable while you are trying to learn to do something new. Experimenting a little bit with how to make it happen and you’re in your teens or your late teens and you know emotionally you’re dealing with that roller coaster. There is a lot going on but to have the respect and the protection of my peers created a very healthy framework for me to focus on the music. Now………..maybe behind my back there were other things being done or said but the way I was treated was actually with kindness and with respect and almost like: “This is our little sister you don’t mess with her” type of thing.
That’s a good thing. When you have all these skills and knowledge, how did you promote yourself so you would get noticed and people would hire you for certain projects?
At first I was kinda proactive and if I needed to do some things like when I was in school. I would just put people together and we would play at parties and dances, things like that. I learned what it meant be in a leadership position of also creating opportunities. As a professional later on you need an agent or you need a manager to help you do some of those kinds of things on a larger scale. Ironically at that time I started then being able to see the female difference in terms of treatment. I wasn’t treated badly, but also it was the kind of situation where you just notice how people do not expect that much. They don’t expect from you to ask too many questions, they don’t expect from you to know very much, they don’t expect form you to be that inquisitive about stuff. You just show up and play or sing honey”. Those were the kind of things that I as I begin to move on towards in the professional ranks where I knew that there were some real discrepancies and biased as far as females and particularly female instrumentalist. But to your question in terms of how did you promote or whatever like that I didn’t worry about it too much. I think we’re living in a time now where people are trying to get all of these things together at the same time. They try to earn how to do something, but they’re also trying to promote themselves and feel like that those two things have to happen simultaneously. It was different back in the day and it’s a good thing that was, because you learn to do something well first. ,So that you actually have something to market something to stand on that allows people to see your offering as something special, unique, studied or presented with a certain kind of heart and humility. It comes out of the hard work that it takes to do anything well. If you try to get together at the same time that you want thousands of eyes watching you, that’s a different situation and one that I don’t know that I would have been comfortable with.
During your musical journey you became the first female music director for big shows like the Emmy awards, the Grammy awards the NAACP awards, just to name a couple. You were not only the first female music director at that time, but you were also the first female music director of color. How did you get into those shows?
It was always something that I wanted to do. I wanted to be on television, in television involved in the music for variety shows and series and things like that. I didn’t have a pathway and didn’t know exactly that was going to happen. What I learned along the way is that sometimes when you set your sight on a certain target you’re guided towards different activities. Hopefully they give you the tools to be able to just put one step in front of the other. Keep going towards the thing that you want to do. And in this case it was years. It took a long time, but I had made some records and developed a certain fanbase and one of those fans when he got ready to do his very first movie was looking for a composer. Since it was his first movie he did not necessarily know who the composers were so he went to the different agencies to look at these names of people and tried to find somebody who he felt could be recommended to do the music fo his movie.
That directors name was Robert Thownsend and he was doing movie called “Hollywood Shuffle”. When he went to the different film agents and he didn’t recognize any names, I had just prior to him going to look, I had signed with an agency as a composer. When he went to the particular agency and saw the names I’m the name that he recognized. He recognized it because he was a fan of the music. Of the music that I had been doing, it had nothing to do with film, it was the stuff that you heard on the radio. The dance music. And he said I want to use her and of course to the surprise of the agent. They were like what? They didn’t know me really or anything they just had me on their roster. So that was the first opportunity that I had to do that movie It’s a cult movie sort of now, one of those ones that was a big pivot moment for so many young black comedians and people that we identified with today, because of many of those were his friends that he put in the movie. I was able to do the music. Well this movie came out did really well and he got offered 5 comedy specials on HBO. He needed a music director to do these 5 shows which were like variety shows and he said can you do that? Ofcourse I can, so I did those five and then other directors and producers watch those shows and said oh, so they noticed who was doing the music, who’s doing this, with doing that and I got a call to do the Image awards after that, which I did for 13 years straight. From that, during that time somebody said well could you do the Emmy’s? From that well could you do the Grammy’s? So each thing helped the other things. Each thing prepared me for the next one that came along and I was just trying to do work. I love the work I love being able to work with my peers and employee some of them meet new people of like minds who appreciated what I brought the table in terms of leadership and also arranging and things like this. Use the different kinds of skills that I had developed over the years. It was great and it wasn’t until way after that it was called to my attention when they said; You know you’re the first woman to do this? or You know you’re the first woman of color to do that? or You’re the only person of color to do this? It wasn’t until after that I realized the impact that your work can have on other people and appreciating that makes me very humble. So many people have told me over the years that it was because they saw me do something that hey felt like they could. do that too.
Exactly, cause that’s something that I wanted to ask, if you were aware at that time of the importance? I mean you are a big part of music history I you look back at the fact that you were the first female and first female of color to do all those types of things. Don’t you think it deserves more attention and more recognition? It is a pretty big deal when you look back at it.
Well, looking back at it now I would say: ”Yeah”. People needing to be made aware of it in terms of it being that kind of contribution, I think would be important so that we don’t have to keep looking back wondering. It is interesting because, I know that there’s been enough time that has passed now for those kinds of things maybe not to be overlooked. It’s not like I need the pat on the back or anything like that. It is interesting that when you go places where there’s supposed to be chronicling a certain kind of development of something and something that is that important, especially now with the raised consciousness about how people see themselves and what the contributions have been. There are places where I would have expected to have seen, you know, my name listed.
Yes, me too.
We hope that people continue to try to ask questions and when they do that it keeps coming up over and over again. If people didn’t realize they go: “Oh OK”.
Having all this knowledge and experience, what was the best lesson learned when you look at your career right now?
Oh that’s a very good question. There have been a few, quite a few lessons, but I will say the main ones over the course of my career the main one has been to learn to be….. patient.
A hard one. Everything is not gonna happen at once and there is only so much that over which you have control. Second lesson: So the things over which you have a control, make sure you got that together. Make sure you are super ready for the opportunity should something come up, to be able to nail it, to be able to do a good job, to be able to make a difference and be efficient and all of those things. The third big lesson is that you’ll always have that little voice in the back of your head that tells you, you can do something, but there’s always the other one that says you can’t do that or that won’t work. There’s always the two sides that are competing with one another and artists in particular hear both of those voices at the same volume. What you have to learn to do is push one of them more forward and let the other one go to the background and not find reasons and excuses to not try. It’s hard and sometimes you’ll start and it doesn’t work out exactly like you had planned. You fail and you say: Ok that’s it, but in those failures or in those times that it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned are the building blocks to the next lesson towards the success of it working. So to learn to appreciate that if you can imagine it there’s probably a way to get it going and the hardest thing is to start. If you start, if you can just make yourself start, it will reveal all of the next steps. That’s so much easier said than done, but I think those are primary lessons that have come out of years and years of starting and stopping and going and not going, retreating and then saying no I’m just gonna go for it and just do it. I’ve experienced each of those levels.
When you look back at everything are there any regrets that you have?
No. I’m very very fortunate that even the things that represent a certain kind of downward slope or dark period were actually the build up to the next level. So rather than look at it from the standpoint of something going down, look at it from the standpoint from the energy you need to push things to the next level. So, no there’s nothing that I would say that I regret. I really have a charmed life and I had a lot of support from other people. The other thing that is important in doing what I’m doing, in continuing to learn, cause I’m learning every day still, is to pass that knowledge or those experiences on to other people, because people did that for me. That’s what helped to keep me on a path towards a certain type of success .
That’s the next thing I want to talk to you about which is music education. I mean every year I meet up with you in this beautiful city of Valencia located in Spain. Besides being an artist you’re also an educator and the reason we meet in Valencia is because you are the ambassador of artistry and education at the Berkeley College of Music. They have a beautiful location in Spain, but you are also the chair of the popular music program at USC Thornton school of music which is located in California I had the honor and privilege to visit both schools and I attended the classes that you teach. What I noticed is not only the love that you have for music, but also the passion and the joy you have of passing on that knowledge to your students. They love hearing you talk and they are always intrigued by your stories and a lot of them are always disappointed when class is over because there’s still so much information that you could share with them.
I think it also has to do with the fact that you have lived the life of a musician and it shows that in this case that the experience comes in handy. What are your thoughts on that? Did it make teaching easier for you?
For me it’s been the most important asset that I have. Have the good fortune to be involved with those two music programs each one of them bringing a great deal of value to the kinds of experiences that I’ve had as a practitioner of these skills. I’m not just talking from the standpoint of the theory about what it is, but I’m also talking from the standpoint of a practitioner who has applied those actions and theories and knowledge out there in the world and been able to receive a certain amount of feedback on what works the best and what kind of skills and what kind of multiple musical experiences there are out there for people. The bottom line is what you find out is that most of our music schools and art schools the bottom line for most of the students is they want to do something in their lives that allows them to continue to be creative. If they can learn certain kinds of skills there’s lots of ways to be creative and to contribute. So the idea of playing presents a larger idea of collaboration, teamwork. The idea of taking your lesson is to be able to usually bring the best of yourself into a collective, into a group and be able to help that group shine. The idea of learning what it means to create music, learn about songwriting, learn about composition even if you never do it. It allows you to appreciate when somebody does present you with a great song, a great lyrics, a great title. It gives you the sense that what you do is a part of a larger picture and you want to bring your best self to that larger picture. Sometimes in that process you also learn about things that you would not have known about yourself. So I’ve seen it over and over and over again where person comes and they are a bass player, that’s what they do, that’s what they know, that’s the platform that they start with. If they are allowed and encouraged to use the platform of their bass playing to learn how to contribute in other ways to the music, you can look up and have somebody who finds out that they’re good producer. Who finds out that they’re actually a good songwriter, or who finds out that they’re actually a good arranger, have good leadership. Even if they decide I don’t wanna do any of that I want to just play bass, their bass playing changes for the better because they see it in the context of what other people need. They just don’t show up to any gig as just the bass player, now they show up aware of what’s happening and how they serve the music in what it is that they’re doing. So I like to say that the individuals emerge out of a collective activity and so do the marketable skills that allow people to learn different things. Figure out how they learn things and music allows them to do that and then be able to use the fact that they learn how they learn to be able to do anything they want to do. So many people can contribute to music in so many ways and I know we talk about it all the time as there are all of these different vocations, you know that you’ll be exploring in your future podcasts, that people never thought of that all are part of being creative a and all a part of being able to serve the music that they love.
Yes, cause that’s one of those things, getting the right and useful information is very important, cause we only focus on the stuff that’s right there in front of us while there’s a whole bunch of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. What are the best resources that not only helped you along the way, but also helps your students become aware of the options there are in music?
The students are learning to pay attention to all of the ways things are put together. The best way to learn something, I think for alot of people, is to identify and say Ok this works…why?.. Pull it apart and see what it’s made of. So when we are learning material, learning repertoire in our performance classes it’s not just picking random songs. There are lessons inside of certain song that allow you to be able to experiment with how things are put together. You take that information and that language has building blocks to inform how you do your own thing or how you can contribute to someone else’s thing. Same situation when you’re in a band and things have to be set up. Who is that? Who’s setting stuff up? What has to be thought of in advance so I can just walk in here and plug-in and go. Somebody had to set this stuff up on the stage have an idea of all of the spacing and what needed to happen, what kind of things are needed, organize that time so that everything is up and ready to go. That’s a job, it’s a professional job. It takes the form of being a technician which we use to call roadies or takes the form of a tour manager who oversees all of that, production manager, stage managers. People who are involved in lighting , sound technicians, people who make sure that each instrumentalist on the stage gets what they need, set-designers, who built the stage? You know there’s so many different things to consider and no matter what you do those skills are transferable. Not just for music, but for also stage plays, theater, broadcast, television, movies a lot of those skills are transferable so when you begin to look at how things are done and you pay attention to those kinds of things it opens the door for you to find ways to take your your interest and find ways to be able to be marketable. So that the thing you love the most you are able to do it. I got friends who are very capable players, but didn’t want to do that and one of them is a very successful sound engineer for film and television. Well yeah, he can mix music and dialogue and sound effects, because for him it’s all frequencies, it’s all music. He’s won awards and all kinds of stuff and I met him when he was working at a music store. So see, you never know.
You just mentioned that there are lessons inside of certain songs. I think it confirms that music history is a very important aspect, because in a way it forces you to look back. What are your thoughts about the important role that music history plays and how it can influence the sounds or songs of the future musicians out there?
Well I guess it kind of depends on exactly what the person wants to do, but if the person is going to be a performer or writer or something like that, even if they are going to be a producer, I think you got to go back far enough to be able to understand that it didn’t just start with YOU. There’s a lot of things that build up to where it is now and the reason that you wanna know and have a little bit of command of that trajectory is to understand that if you are going to be part of that lineage is what the responsibility is in terms of holding on to certain kinds of things for there to be the expansion of certain traditions. I’m always disappointed if I see that a student really is talented and really wants to know and only has done a certain amount of the work relative to what they think is good and current right now without having to look back and see what got us here. It usually makes their music very superficial and they limit themselves. So I think that just like anything else, I can’t think of anything that you do where you just step up and start doing it. You need to know some technique, you need to know where it’s coming from, you need to know what has happened before, you need to know how people met the challenges when the music was popular in their days. That kind of information feeds the contribution that you are able to make with your own music or your own recordings or your own production. How far should you go back? If you don’t go back at least this far look who you’ll miss. If you don’t go back 30 years you will miss Michael Jackson. If you don’t go back 50 years, you can miss the Beatles, you can miss James Brown, you would miss Sly Stone, you would miss Bob Dylan. You would miss a lot if we don’t go back further than that. You’ll miss Big Mama Thornton. You’ll miss Chuck Berry, you’ll miss Jackie Wilson. There’s a continuum that happens and we are just talking about popular music right now, just that. You know the jazz tradition, oh my goodness. You know, in other words there’s all of these things where even if it’s not about a deep deep deep dive it is about enough of a dive to understand that there’s something that built and led to a movement, that led to another movement, that led to another movement, that led to you. So to know that is also to take on a certain possibility about what the music really is and it’s power. I think looking back does also provide you with a certain respect for what it is that you wanna do not just, yeah it’s fun, but it’s hard work too.
Is there any advise that you received during your career that you now share with your own students?
Yeah, I think the best piece of advice I received was from Quincy Jones. I didn’t understand when he told me, but I do now. We used to play a lot of high school competitions, battle of the bands and you know the adjudicators, the judges, where typically people who were from the educational community and the professional community in Los Angeles of which Quincy Jones was one of those people. He saw us in quite a few contests and at one of them he pulled me to the side and said I want to talk to you for a second. He said: What do you want to do? I said, Sir I want to write and I wanna write charts and do television and stuff like that. So he told me 2 things. One, he said well, you have to be really, really good. Ok I got that. And you want to diversify. You want to find out about everything you can about all the areas that affect the thing that you wanna do. You wanna know how those other things work and participate. Try to learn as much as you can about those other related situations as they affect the thing you want to do the most. And you know I’m 15 years old and I’m just hanging on every word and I say OK. But years and years later I got that. I got that it was important to pay attention in those ways that did allow for you to be curious enough and committed enough to what you want to do. That you would want to know all of the different kinds of things that touch of come into focus for what you wanna do by paying attention to some of these other areas and in so doing it gives you a much different perspective than just going down one narrow path, blindly without thinking that that path is affected by other things.
So what do you think is the biggest misconception about working in music?
The biggest misconception about working in music is that it doesn’t take any work at all. See the better we do it the more fun we look like we have, the easier it looks. The better you are at it the more it just seems to flow. The better you are at it, the more engaged and honest and open your communication is and that’s what touches people and reaches people. You’re good at it because you spend the time doing the work. You’re good at it because you put in those 10,000 hours that it takes to master something. You put those in and more. You’re good at it because you’re continuing to study, you know you’re not finished. You know there’s a lot of things that you , for every 10 things you learn there are 10 more ways. If you good at it you’re excited about it and that excitement and that care and wanting others to be able to feel that is something that you giveaway practically. Because you know the great feeling behind watching somebody do something really well is priceless. So yeah the misconception is that there’s not gonna be times when it doesn’t go well, the misconception is there’s not gonna be work that’s involved. The things that you know how to do are gonna take time to develop in certain kinds of skills and it doesn’t happen al at once. It does happen if you put in the time and your talent and your skill, your commitment, your being able to submit sometimes to the idea that this is bigger than you. All of these things come into play in trying to develop into a good musician.
OK so now let’s talk a bit about the future of music. I mean music has been changing throughout the years when you look at technology, but the same goes for music education and especially when you look at the state of the world right now with the pandemic going on. You always told me that music is service, but what do you think the effect will be on the future of your job not only as a musician but also as an educator. How difficult will it be to maintain that quality?
Like everybody else during the pandemic since we haven’t been down this road in our live times before. We don’t necessarily know what that means on the other side of it. I always feel like civilizations looking back on what we have is a certain kind of reference point that is usually identified through the culture and identify through art. Because art sometimes offers a mirror to what is happening right now. A mirror to what’s going on as well as it offers the possibilities for what could happen in terms of the future. So I will say that I don’t think music is going away and I think if anything, it has made people appreciate more the power of music. A lot of people use music to sooth their discomfort right now with their favorite songs or listening to a lot of music, because it helps them sorta take their mind immediately off of what is right in front of them. It has that kind of restorative power. I think that those of us who are blessed to be able to have music in our lives and play music. Man, it’s made us so conscious of how much we miss sharing and playing together. That hasn’t stopped the show or the music from happening. You can record easier now than ever. You can share files. There are ways in which you can make music, so the music making doesn’t have to stop, but the music experience is one that I think we began to take for granted, was not born out of recordings, but is born out of the witnessing of people playing together. Those moments, that dialogue, that unspoken feeling that happens that gets transferred onto an audience and then the audience transferred it back and that there’s a community and communal activity when you go to a concert. It is not just one way. it’s all coming off the stage to the audience. It’s 2 ways. It’s coming off the stage to an audience which gives you a certain kind of gratification which allows you to push even more towards wanting to bring everybody into the joy of that moment. It doesn’t matter if you talk in a small club with a trio or quartet or a stadium. That act of watching people play and interact that’s one of the most important parts of what we do as musicians. So I don’t think we take that for granted and I think the audience won’t take it for granted. Their standards are going to go up in terms of what they will except because time is precious and if I pay my money and I want to take my time to watch you’re offering of the evening or offering of the day you need to be coming with it. You need to be doing something that is yeah, making me feel something. And this little box that we find ourselves in front of, the computer screen is very unforgiving. If you don’t have something that is really speaking to someone pass the dimensions of this box then you got nothing. So that means there’s gonna be a lot of people who typically have had, maybe a lot of support in terms of bells and whistle’s and smoke and lighting and all of these other kinds of things. They are going to find themselves having to say what do I really know, how to do, where my contribution is not dependent on those things in terms of me being able to offer my music or offer my representation of my art. There are somethings that are going to come out of this thing what I think is going to elevate that awareness for both the musicians and the audience.
Yes, cause at the moment the pandemic is having a huge impact on the cultural sector and we see a lot of venues closing and people are getting insecure about performing and all of that. Besides that music has always been seen as a hobby and not so much as a profession. What would your advice be for those who are having doubts to take to take that leap towards the music business?
Well if anything this gives an opportunity to young musicians and artists to really look beyond just the thing that they do. We talked earlier in the interview about whatever you do singers, songwriter, bass player, guitar player, whatever… that that’s a platform to start. It’s a platform to use, to enter into this world that has all of these other components that are transferable skills. This is just your entry point. A way to get in. A way to start doing it. But you’re right with the pandemic and with so many different kinds of venues closing and things kind of being on indefinite holding pattern it gives you a chance to be able to experiment. So a lot of people who would have never gotten a microphone and an interface, they’re getting one. So that they learn how to use it to be able to communicate with others and to be able to use and get their music or their messages out there a little bit further. Never thought you’d wanna need or know how to use GarageBand, Logic or ProTools or something like that. It’s a great time to see what that is all about. You may find that in doing that, especially as musicians, people need you to put drums on a particular song or really would love to have violin on this particular piece. Well if you could say; send me the file I’ll put something on it and send it back to you. That’s a lot different from saying well I can’t participate at all, cause I don’t even know what to do. We’re all learning something about certain other related skills, we don’t have to do it for a living, but we’re learning about it. So the pandemic is kind of forcing, what I was just talking about and if there were no schools that could support what it means to be in an organized collective of people, trying to learn something then I would say OK everybody. And it was like that for awhile, everybody just do the best you can. But it is different, there are places to go. There are schools, there are collectives, there are clubs, there are the kinds of activities that you can do with people of like mind that can keep you in that attitude of making progress. In that mode of feeling a certain kind of movement which continues to inspire you to practice every day or write or listen or watch a movie or documentary that keeps reminding you of why you are doing this, because you love it. There is something about it that keeps drawing you in to do it better and better. Hang in there.
Well that’s good advice. As a segment of the show I have 5 random questions for you and the first being If you weren’t in the music business what would you be doing right now?
Wow if I wasn’t in the music business I imagine that I would still be gravitating towards something creative. So the hobbies that I have, I like to cook, so maybe a chef.
Well, I know you can cook really well.
Your all time favourite song or music piece?
Whew, this is tough. All-time favorite song or music piece, boy, that is so hard because I love so many different kinds of music that it is hard to kind of pin it down. Oh man…
Is there a genre of music you prefer more than the other?
No. I love so many different types, that’s the problem and it used to be a liability for me and I didn’t understand it. You know where people were like, well you have to decide. No you don’t. I don’t think so you can like a lot of stuff and they can be really different from one another.
The qualification for me in terms of being able to have it on the list of things that I just love is just that there’s a certain feeling that you get when you hear or see something done really well and you keep going back to it. Every time you go back you discover something else about it.
It is what you hear when you’ve heard it 10 times, but it’s also what you hear when you heard it 10.000 times. That’s the litmus test for me. I have that with certain classical composers as much as I would have that with Jazz as much as I would have that with Rock or Blues, Latin music you know. So that question for me is really hard.
Yeah! What is something people don’t know about you?
That be easier for you to answer that me. What is something you’ve noticed people don’t know about me
That you speak French very well.
Oh, well I’m getting there. Merci. I’ve been working on if for awhile. I always wanted to speak another language and I always found French really beautiful, kind of like music and so I’ve been working on that for awhile.
Name someone you would really like to work with in the future. Is there anyone on your list you haven’t worked with yet? Or you want to work with again?
Yeah, there are a lot of people that I may have come in contact with, but we never really delved into a project or something like that and I love to. Stevie Wonder is one of those people. I’ve known him for a very long time, I’ve been an enormous fan for a long time and we have worked together in context of television in specials and things like that and we know each other.
But we never done a project, so that’s one person.
When you look back at everything that you’ve done what do you believe your purpose in life is?
It’s only within the last 10-15 years that I could even begin to address a question like that. Because it was about that time that I’ve had a lot of wonderful experiences, doing a lot of different things that I wanted to do. Those opportunities continued to happen and it’s like what am I suppose to do with all of this. There was just something about it that was like, and I’m not complaining by any means I’m feeling very blessed and very happy but, you go OK is that it?
I will continue to do this type of thing, but where does this lead and where does this go?
And that question and not knowing where all of these wonderful opportunities in all of the privileged playing experiences and musical experiences and people that I’ve met and places that I have been. All of this kind of wonderful knowledge, what was I suppose to do with that. It couldn’t be just for me. It had to be like: OK this leads to……? So when I started teaching, when I got back into the fold of education, but this time on the basis of a different perspective. One that allowed for a reboot a re-evaluation, a reframing of what being a successful musician can look like and that within an education situation that became the platform to be able to do this reframing in such a way that people could intentionally use it as a jumping off point for vocation, work. meaningful work. And skills and the sense of skills. Then I realize that wow, this is why. This is why I was giving all these different things because I can talk about them in the first person. I can talk about it from the standpoint of having been there or witnessed it or seen it or know about it or something like this and so my purpose takes on that of being not just a musician but also a motivator. A motivator for people to be able to look deeper and see what’s right in front of them. Ask themselves the hard questions and ask some of the most simple questions which are the hardest like; Why? Why are you doing this? One of the hardest questions ever. Search for that why and you’ll find out how to do something and what to do. In that moment and in those times that’s what keeps you moving forward. So my purpose continues to grow and to morph into making music, into sharing what I’ve learned into learning and then into motivating people to go for it.
Well I know you are a great motivator for sure and you’re a great influencer as well. Thank you so much, cause this has been a very interesting conversation and there’s still so much more to talk about so hereby I’m inviting you back for a future appearance.
I love it. I love it. Thank you.
There are still so many things we can discuss so thank you again for being the first guest on the MusiqNote podcast and I’ll see you very soon again thank you so much Patrice.
Thank you so much. Peace!