by Mark Shilansky, Assistant Professor of Ear Training
So, I’ve spent the last almost 20 years spending my teaching income (I teach sometimes at University of NH, and I taught for a few years at the University of Southern Maine) on my creative career. I’ve tried to produce records for a variety of artists, write tunes and arrangements for them and support them through the recording process. I’ve played with lots and lots and lots and lots of singers, and that is often fun. There have been peaks and valleys to this playing career of mine… I’d play with someone and we’d go on tour to Japan or play at the Blue Note or I’d work with someone in California and play on a record with them or start subbing with someone more and more… again, lots of great experiences but all temporary. From time to time I’d take some lessons with a Hal Crook or a Charlie Banacos and that would fill in lots of the gaps in my musicianship. But basically my artistic career has stayed at about this same level since about 1993, which isn’t a bad thing, but generally the only time I’m on a gig and I get to stay in my own Hotel room where I am allowed to go pants-less (and not a friend’s couch) is when Berklee sends me on an A&I trip (you should see what it’s like when I try to walk around pants-less in my friends’ living rooms… I am rarely invited back).
So, whatever, I don’t think you should feel sorry for me, but this is how the story goes. In a fantastic bit of luck, I bumped into Scott DeOgburn about 5 years ago, when he had just received word that some fantastic Berklee pianist could not do the Berklee in Umbria trip, and he asked ME to do it, and I did it for 5 years, and that was super, super fun, and don’t believe anyone who complains about it (OK, it is about 120 fahrenheit every day, but that’s really the only negative… an easy teaching schedule, GREAT food for the most part, enthusiastic talented students, beautiful country and people), and the LAST year I did it, I brought my wife along (who also teaches here… Kathleen Flynn… one of the best singers you’re gonna hear… when people find out we’re married they’re like, “Really? But she’s so awesome!” and then they figure I must be sort of alright if I’m with her) and we got to Italy early and stayed in some Air B&B’s and saw Rome and Assisi and similar places, and during an amazing dinner one night I said, “You know, I’m going to try and get my Doctorate.” Whatever I thought was going to happen with this career of mine has not happened yet, and it might, who knows, a 46 year old pianist/singer who does not dance particularly well and whose musical tastes stopped developing around when auto-tune was invented could become the next Bruno Mars who can play the piano like Brad Mehldau (or I used to say that Joe Lovano and Sting were going to call me to tour at the same time and I’d have to shuttle between the gigs on a private plane), but this is where we are. Again, I’m not really blaming anyone for this. There are times I could have practiced harder, promo packages I could have sent out, tunes I could have learned.