Dave Stryker – Sideman Notes Vol. I

This is the first in what will be a series of articles about some of the amazing musicians I work with.

Dave Stryker Photo

Dave Stryker

Guitarist Dave Stryker has built an exceptional career as a performer and band leader by presenting music which grooves hard and emphasizes melody while simultaneously evoking the most virtuosic qualities of jazz. He brings in listeners to our world who might not otherwise listen to this music but at the same time wows and entertains the most serious jazz devotees. His career has blossomed in the last few years because of his music’s exceptional quality and his unwavering work ethic. He has worked with everyone from Jack MacDuff to Kevin Mahogany and through his extended tenure with the great Stanley Turrentine, has performed with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard.
Dave has been so important in my recent musical development and success, I’m writing this post in part to highlight our upcoming gig at Nighttown in Cleveland as well as presenting a public “thank you” to Dave for all his efforts on my behalf.
I first met Dave in about 1984 when I arrived in New York City. He was already off and running on a great career. We played together in some informal settings in and around Brooklyn and I looked up to him as an already established player. We reconnected in Jersey in the early 2000’s through some educational programs, including Jazz Connections and Jazz House Kids. We were also regulars on the Cecil’s Jazz Club scene in West Orange sitting in and performing together in a variety of situations.

When Cecil’s closed in 2012, Dave was proactive about finding another venue and connected me with another local club where I was able to start my weekly jam session. Dave still plays with us on Wednesday nights on the rare occasion that he is in town and available. This session has been a launching point for my musical vision and a meeting place for the great North Jersey musicians. We are currently hosted by SuzyQue’s in West Orange.
Shortly after that, the position of Adjunct Professor of Jazz Saxophone at Montclair State University opened up and Dave was instrumental in recommending me for that position. I’ve just started my 6th year at this wonderful program.
The following year, Dave asked me to help him program music for the album he recorded as a tribute to master saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entitled “Messin’ With Mr. T“. I played many rehearsals and helped with arrangements and copy work. For the date, Dave hired 10 different tenor players to each play one of ten tunes associated with the great Stanley T. To say I was (and still am!) honored to be part of a lineup that included Houston Person, Jimmy Heath, Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Bob Mintzer and Javon Jackson would be a massive understatement.
I continue to play with Dave in a number of settings. He recorded with me last fall for my upcoming release “Song For All of Us” and I play in his group from time to time. Next Friday, October 5th, 2018. We’ll be returning to my hometown club Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, OH. We’ll be joined by the great Ohio musicians, Bobby Floyd on Organ and Reggie Jackson on Drums. We’re going to play some great tunes from Dave’s “8-Track” CDs and other favorites. Hope to see you all there! Click here for tickets. 

Dave Stryker Poster - Click To Buy Tickets

Applying to Music School

Last night I had the immense pleasure of giving my annual college talk at Jazz House Kids. The organization calls this “Jazz House Kids goes to college – part I” and offers it to all of our high school juniors and seniors and their parents. I started doing this about 5 years ago after my son, Julian, with lots of parental assistance, successfully managed his entrance to The Juilliard School. Helping Julian with all of his applications, navigating all the various deadlines, applying for financial aid, and  negotiating for more scholarship than was initially offered, was one of the most stressful endeavors of my life. This being our oldest child, it was our first experience of this entire process and we frankly felt bewildered and overwhelmed by the task. Once we were through this very complex process and had succeeded in achieving our goal I decided to try to pass on our hard won knowledge to the next class of parents, and have done so each year since then.

While my experience as a parent is the most important of my qualifications, I have also helped many other private students and Jazz House participants with their successful applications to Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Berklee, William Paterson, Northwestern, University of Miami, Rutgers, Oberlin Conservatory, and other schools. Additionally, as an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, I have been part of the process of auditioning and recruiting high school students to our program. And yet with all this experience I still don’t hold myself as an “expert” on the topic, but at least I can help parents and prospective students with a list of good questions to ask. Every year, I am asked questions that make me think about the topic in new ways and I’m usually given some useful information from the parents in the audience who have gone through this with an older child.

The general topics covered last night were:

  • Determining which schools are best for you
  • What schools are looking for in a prospective student
  • Developing a college requirement spreadsheet
  • Prescreening audition tapes
  • Live audition preparation and timelines
  • Scholarship and financial aid

Here are some important tips from my workshop:

  • Even the most conscientious, organized, dutiful student needs HELP navigating this process. It’s overwhelming, it requires reminders of multiple deadlines for EACH school. Set up reminders in a calendar app that will keep you on track with all of the dates for submission. If you apply to 8 schools (a recommended number) and they each have 5 due dates to track, that’s 40 dates to remember.
  • Make a spreadsheet. It will have about 10 columns with all the deadlines: deadline for university application, deadline for music school application (yes many schools require separate applications), deadline for pre-screening, submission, deadline for scheduling interview/school visit, financial aid deadline, FAFSA deadline. Additional columns will contain contact info for the admissions department, Director of Jazz Studies, instrumental teacher contact, tune requirements, and more.
  • Don’t take on huge debt. I cannot imagine starting life as a musician with a quarter million dollars of school debt. Go where they give you money.
  • Grades and test scores don’t have a huge influence on your admittance to a music school but may have a huge influence on non-music related funding available at a school. Universities usually have extra scholarships for high academic achievers.
  • All the advice we parents get about the importance of our children having a wide range of extra-curricular experience and community service doesn’t matter to music schools. I have found that these activities only detract from a music school applicants main job in high school – practice!!!
  • The most important thing a student needs to do to get into music school and receive scholarship is to practice. 3 to 4 hours a day minimum and hopefully even more than that when possible.
  • Narrow your pre-screening audition tape tune list to as few as possible to fulfill the requirements of all schools. Use your spreadsheet to figure out which tunes are necessary.
  • Hire young professional musicians to play on your audition tape. I know your friends are the greatest, but intros, endings, and other details are learned well only from EXPERIENCE and are going to be essential to making you sound your best.
  • Hire a producer for your session. Your private teacher or another trusted mentor can help manage how many takes of each tune are necessary and help keep the session flowing.
  • You don’t know what the auditioner is looking for. Play pretty, play soulfully, – you are probably not going to “impress” a college professor but you may turn one off by playing your hottest new lick and sacrificing time or artistic flow to do so.
  • The Financial aid process will kick your butt. It’s like filling out another tax return. Get advice and assistance from your financial advisor and accountant starting now and get all your ducks in a row. This is not the year you can file an extension.
  • Take each application and audition seriously. Even if you really don’t want to go to a particular school – the scholarship they offer you may work as a bargaining chip to get the scholarship you need from your first choice.
  • Scholarships are negotiable.
  • Schools don’t like to offer scholarships to students they think are not going to accept them. When negotiating make it clear to your first choice school that they are your first choice and if you receive the requested scholarship you will commit.
  • Don’t tell a school they are your first choice when they’re not, but you don’t need to advertise that you’ve got another favorite. Once you have accepted an offer from one school, let any other schools know that you are going elsewhere – this releases the other schools from any scholarship money they offered you and they can then offer that money to another student.

 

Radam Schwartz – Two Sides of the Organ Combo

Radam Schwartz - Two Sides of the Organ Combo

Radam Schwartz – Two Sides of the Organ Combo

It was a tremendous joy to record with the great Radam Schwartz for Arabesque records. The result is a fabulous representation of the Hammond B3 Organ, Two Sides of the Organ Combo played by master organist, Radam Schwartz in two settings – “Smooth” (as in “swinging”) and “Groove” (as in “funky”). I appear on the first five tracks of the CD representing the “smooth” side. We play a couple of standards and a few Radam originals. The quartet is exquisite, featuring Brian Carrott on vibes, Andrew Atkinson on drums, yours truly on tenor, and, of course, Radam Schwartz on Hammond B3.

You can purchase the tracks at Amazon, i-Tunes, or Spotify

For those that don’t know, Radam is a stalwart of the Northern New Jersey/New York City jazz scene. He is a huge advocate for the B3 Organ – which is oddly absent from many teaching environments and “jazz education” curriculum. He is a master educator having trained generations of great New Jersey musicians.

More about Radam Schwartz:

Radam Schwartz, Hammond B3 Organist and pianist, has built his reputation over the last 30 years playing with such great musicians as Arthur Prysock, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Al Hibler, David Fathead Newman. He continues to make music today. Radam’s prolific career has led to many successful recordings. His recent recordings as a leader are Organized (1995 was mentioned in the B3 Bible as one of the essential organ records of all time, #28 on the national charts), Conspiracy for Positivity (2005, #15), Magic Tales (2007, #11), Blues Citizens (2009, #9), Songs for the Soul ( 2010, #23)