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For jazz players, especially, this is the most effective way of learning. The most famous example of the apprenticeship system is [drummer and composer] Art Blakey’s band from the ’50s and ’60s. If you really wanted to go to school, you would get in to play with Blakey, and he’d show you how to play, how to write, how to arrange—how to do everything. Martin Kersels: When I first came to teach here [in 1996], I already had known a lot of CalArts people from the ’80s, and I was thinking, “Well, that’s really not me. That’s not how I learned or did things.” But then I realized that we didn’t have to do things the way they were done before. The art program itself wanted to keep moving ahead, be current and contemporary, not just looking back, stuck in the past. Back then [in the ’90s], for instance, there was no real internet. Today, the internet has completely changed the way we gather information; it’s changed us. A bfa-1 [first-year undergraduate] student can see things that, before, it would’ve taken a lot of effort to see—like, say, [Ed Ruscha’s 1967 artist book] Royal Road Test, or some obscure piece. Now it’s all easily available, at every student’s fingertips, and so it falls to us to help contextualize this huge amount of information. To the students, it can sometimes seem like “equalized” information, whether it’s Ed Ruscha or someone’s Facebook account. Part of what we do today is to respond to this overload, not raising Ruscha above the Facebook page, but talking about how all of the pieces are related within a broader spectrum of information. David Roitstein: In most school situations, you rehearse for three months for just one performance; that’s totally academic. You would never do music that way in the world; you couldn’t pay somebody for three months to rehearse for one performance. Musicians don’t work like that. They’ll rehearse once or twice for a gig. And so our students, within the apprenticeship set-up, are expected to rise to the occasion with very little rehearsal time—to manifest all their preparation and experience in any one situation. The students see we can do that, and they have to do it as well. “Okay, let’s put the parts on the stand. Let’s go.” And the frequency

of the performances and recording opportunities—the quantity—really matters, because of the continuity, and there’s no substitute for continuity. Otherwise, having only one performance each semester is definitely a “creativity killer.” Because you’re likely to say, “I’ve got this one big-deal opportunity, everything’s riding on it, and I can’t afford to take any chances.” Whereas at CalArts, you’d say, “I have another performance tomorrow, another one the day after, and another next week, and I can take some chances and see how it works out.” Martin Kersels: I went to a university and, while the film school was nearby, I mostly hung out in my building. Here my building is the whole place, everything going on all at once, with students from different schools in one big pot. There are immediate examples of other types of work being produced right next door. And the students do get to hang together, party together, and eventually some wind up working together, and even if not literally working together, they talk about what they’re doing with an artist who has a totally different experience, in different medium, and they gain from that. So it’s super-valuable. But it’s not a structured liberal arts college environment with enforced collaboration. What happens here happens naturally—like putting neutrinos in a box and shaking it up. You can’t predict what happens, and that’s the beauty of it. David Roitstein: Our work in the Jazz Program is by nature collaborative. As part of the curriculum, we let the students put their own bands together by request; they decide what they want to do and who they want to do it with. We follow their requests in almost every case, with our guidance, of course. There are plenty of official interschool projects, but I find some of the most interesting collaborations come from the interaction, on a daily basis, among the students from the different schools. It’s musicians making original music for an

Profile for California Institute of the Arts

CalArts Magazine #12  

CalArts Magazine #12

CalArts Magazine #12  

CalArts Magazine #12

Profile for calarts