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Monday November 28, 2016

From The Trove

Terri Lyne Carrington
By: Sharon Pendana

It’s the third day of October and professor of percussion, Terri Lyne Carrington has the rapt attention of graduate students at her alma mater, the Berklee College of Music in Boston where she is now Zildjian Chair in Jazz Performance at Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Her impressive skills and accomplishments, compassion for the students and passion for the music, make hers among the most sought-after courses at the school. “For me, it’s always a dialogue,” she begins the seminar-style Forum class. “You can jump in, I’m just sharing some ideas.” Ideas that free fall, seemingly disparate, on a circuitous path to an interconnected whole greater than a discussion of music; a distillation of essential truth. She riffs on everything from the marvel of the mycorrhizal network of plant communication to Marvel’s Luke Cage and his motto “always forward.” From interspecies compassion and a cow’s attempt to thwart an honor-killing in India to anecdotes about her mentors and tidbits from the jazz masters.

She shares a valuable lesson from legendary saxophonist and composer, Wayne Shorter that forced her to look within. In her early twenties, she completed several European tours with him. “Back then, four-star hotels in Europe could be sketchy,” she says. Having heard her multiple complaints about her hotel accommodations, Shorter said, “You need to challenge your complaining nature.” She hadn’t viewed herself as a complainer and his observation “really changed me,” she says. She realized the value in “accepting your environment instead of letting these things outside of you, affect you.” Excepting, of course, untenable instances of danger or injustice. “I started looking at things differently and I became a better person because I challenged this one part.”

She encouraged the students to “use this year not only to become better musicians, but also just to become better people. Who you are as a musician is who you are as a person and vice-versa.” To study at Berklee at the graduate level they already have to be good players, so what now? “Now the issue is what’s going to set you apart from somebody else? What is it about you, about your music that makes the listener care? I challenge you to really think about your purpose. You want to be someone who is striving to make a change. Use your artistry to speak on things, to challenge things, to make people think.”

“All these things make you a better musician,” she continues. “When you think progressively, you keep widening your space, fighting boundaries. When you hear somebody amazing and they can play one note and you can hear their whole life in that note, that’s because you hear not just their life, but the tradition and beyond. You hear all these years of practice. You hear all these years of long tones. You hear all the years of rudiments, all in a single note. That’s what you’re striving for right? So that’s the level—hit one note that makes somebody stand at attention. You can capsulize a whole world in the sound of one note, and that’s very special.”

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