masterclasses archive


Thursday, 2/5/15 at 7 PM
Composing for the electric guitar with Steve Mackey, Scott Johnson, Ben Monder, Joel Harrison
Saturday, 2/7/15 at 1 PM
Incorporating techniques from India and Middle East into jazz guitar playing w/Fuscyzinski, Prasanna and Gyan Riley
Sunday, 2/8/15 at 12 PM
Accompanying singers, and incorporating blues, country, and funk into your jazz playing: Doug Wamble, Adam Levy and Joel Harrison

Master Class Details:

Masterclass 1: Thursday, 2/5/15 at 7 PM

Three singular, world-renowned composers will discuss new approaches to writing for the electric guitar through the prism of their own work. Their wisdom will transcend genre, bringing in ideas and techniques from the worlds of jazz, classical, rock, blues, and experimental music. There will be a Q and A, and plenty of time to address specific issues, according to audience feedback. Moderated by Joel Harrison.

Teacher Bios

Steve Mackey
Steven Mackey is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar, in rock bands based in northern California.  He blazed a trail in the 1980’s and 90’s by including the electric guitar and vernacular music influence in his concert music. He regularly performs his own work, including two electric guitar concertos and numerous solo and chamber works. He is also active as an improvising musician and performs with his band Big Farm.

Mackey has been honored by numerous awards including a Grammy, several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Friedheim award and many others. He has been the composer-in-residence at major music festivals, including Tanglewood, Aspen and the Holland Festival. Mackey is currently Professor of Music and chair of the Department of Music at Princeton University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1985.  Helping to shape the next generation of composers and musicians, he teaches composition, theory, twentieth century music, improvisation, and a variety of special topics.

Ben Monder
A musician in the New York area for 30 years, Ben Monder has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, George Garzone, Paul Motian, Guillermo Klein, and Maria Schneider. He has conducted clinics and workshops around the world, and served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory from 2002-2005. He was also the recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2014. Ben continues to perform original music internationally with his own quartet, trio, and in an ongoing duo project with vocalist Theo Bleckmann. He has appeared on over 130 CDs as a sideman, and has released 5 as a leader: Hydra (Sunnyside, 2013), Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005), Excavation (Arabesque, 2000), Dust (Arabesque, 1997), and Flux (Songlines,1995).

Scott Johnson
Composer Scott Johnson has been a pioneering voice in the new relationship being forged between the classical tradition and the popular culture that surrounds it.  Since the early 1980’s, he has played an influential role in the trend towards incorporating rock-derived instrumentation into traditionally scored compositions, and the use of taped, sampled and MIDI-controlled electronic elements within instrumental ensembles.  His music has been heard in performances by the Kronos Quartet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Bang On A Can All-Stars. Johnson’s scores generally mix acoustic and electric/electronic instruments, and he has premiered most of his electric guitar writing himself. Awards include a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and a Koussevitsky commission.  Johnson has also lectured at leading conservatories and universities, including San Francisco and Peabody Conservatories, Senzaku Ongaku Daigaku, New York University, The Manhattan School of Music, and Yale.

Masterclass 2: Saturday, 2/7/15 at 1 PM

Three master players will offer practical wisdom on how to expand your vocabulary using instrumental and compositional techniques garnered from the centuries’ old wisdom of the East. A vast subject, to be sure, but this class will get you started on incorporating sounds that will enrich your musicianship for years to come. There will be a Q and A, and plenty of time to address specific issues, according to audience feedback. Moderated by Joel Harrison.

Teacher Bios

In a world studded with brilliant guitarists, ‘Prasanna plays like nobody on the planet’ according to one Jazz critic. As a guitarist and composer, Prasanna’s prolific body or work is as diverse as it is integrated. This includes over eleven Carnatic albums, Collaborative CDs ‘Tirtha’ with Vijay Iyer and Nitin Mitta, ‘Raga Bop Trio’ with Steve Smith and saxophonist George Brooks, the Carnatic/Rock Jimi Hendrix tribute album ‘Electric Ganesha Land.’

With an engineering degree in Naval Architecture from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, he went on to pursue his passion for music and graduated Magna-Cum-Laude with an honors degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston. A passionate teacher, educator and entrepreneur, Prasanna founded Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in 2009 and also served as its President for close to 5 years before moving on.

Dave Fiuczynski
Combining his ongoing interests in microtonality, jazz harmony, ethnic folk melodies and groove, guitar visionary and Berklee College of Music educator David “Fuze” Fiuczynski has arrived at the global crossroads on Planet MicroJam, his audacious and mesmerizing debut on RareNoiseRecords. Drawing on the influence of classical composers and microtonal pioneers  Fuze adds in his own unique flavors, inherent sense of groove and improvisational daring on fretless electric guitar on this cutting edge release that takes his Planet MicroJam® concept to the next frontier.

Not only has he mastered a vocabulary of notes that fall between the cracks, he’s also melding those elements in a Western improv/groove context. “I’m trying to be the Gauguin of fusion,” says Fuze, who is currently director of the Microtonal Groove Institute at the Berklee College of Music. “I very much think in colors. That’s a big thing for me. I want to create music that sounds like a Gauguin painting… an extremely colorful mix of Eastern and Western elements. And for me, the music on this new record is that.

Gyan Riley
Gyan Riley spent his first 15 years of guitar playing living in the Bay Area, touring as a classical soloist and in various ensembles, including performances with Zakir Hussain, Michael Manring, Mike Marshall, Dawn Upshaw, the San Francisco Symphony, the Falla Guitar Trio, the World Guitar Ensemble and his father, the composer/pianist/vocalist Terry Riley.  Along the way, he completed various compositional projects, including those commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the American Composers Forum, and the New York Guitar Festival.  Gyan’s diverse work now focuses on his own compositions, improvisation, and contemporary classical repertoire.

Recent performance highlights include Carnegie Hall, London’s Barbican Theatre, the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival, the Big Ears Festival, Moogfest, and soloing with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra at Kimmel Center. Current touring ensemble projects include the duo Probosci with Timba Harris (violin), a trio with Iva Bittová (voice, violin) and Evan Ziporyn (clarinets) called Eviyan, and the electric guitar quartet Dither.  Gyan has four solo CD titles and several other ensemble/collaborative appearances, most recently recording for the Tzadik Records label in New York.

Masterclass 3: Sunday, 2/8/15 at 12 PM

Two of the greatest “compers” on the scene will give a hands on demonstration on  making other people sound good with you backing them up. They’ll spotlight practical methods to make your chordal work supportive, interesting, and grooving. The class will also address an issue that vexes many players. How does a master improviser “bring it all together”, allowing multiple strands of American music to blend into a personal style? There will be a Q and A, and plenty of time to address specific issues, according to audience feedback. Moderated by Joel Harrison

Doug Wamble
Memphis, native Doug Wamble has appeared on bandstands and recordings with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Norah Jones, Steven Bernstein, Courtney Love, Madeleine Peyroux, and Cassandra Wilson,.Doug was making a name for himself in the jazz world and beyond when he was signed to Branford Marsalis’ label, Marsalis Music/Rounder Records. Doug released two critically acclaimed records Country Libations and Bluestate, and decided a change was in order.

Focusing on being a singer/songwriter was never something Wamble had considered, but upon delving into this new direction, he found that something resonated with him. “I had self-identified as a jazz musician for so long that it was strange at first to put that aesthetic aside and refocus my energies into the craft of songwriting. The future holds a full plate with a full spectrum of projects for Doug this year. A new duo project with acclaimed percussionist Mino Cinelu, performances at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, in Europe with New Orleans piano master Henry Butler, and all over the globe with Morgan James to promote Hunter.

Adam Levy
Adam Levy ( is best known for his tenure in Norah Jones’ Handsome Band (2001–2007), though his diverse career has also included music making with Joey Baron’s Killer Joey, Tracy Chapman, Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant, and Rosanne Cash, Sex Mob, and Ani DiFranco.

Working with Norah Jones was just one experience in a string of elite gigs for Levy. A few years prior he had met Tracy Chapman, who invited him to play on her mid-’90s masterpiece, New Beginning. Levy’s guitar earns the limelight in the bluesy “Give Me One Reason,” which won Best Rock Song at the 1997 Grammy Awards. Levy is also a respected writer and educator, with the instructional courses Play the Right Stuff (book/DVD), 50 Low-Down Rhythms (DVD/online course), and Rhythm Makeover (DVD/online course) to his credit, as well as numerous articles for Guitar PlayerFretboard Journal, and other top guitar magazines.

Joel Harrison
Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Washington D.C. native Joel Harrison has long been recognized as a highly gifted guitarist, composer, arranger, vocalist and songwriter. A survey of Harrison’s body of work would be a bit like spinning a globe and stumbling on regions with names like Duke Ellington, Hendrix, The Beatles, John Mclaughlin, and Charles Ives. Wielding a focused lens and an ever-increasing courage to take risks with his art, Harrison has quickly blossomed from mentorships with Joan Tower, Ali Akbar Khan and Charlie Banacos into one of the most respected artists of his generation.

The combination of formal Western classical notation with improvised music fromn jazz, African, and Eastern traditions may be perceived by some as experimental; however, Joel Harrison’s music directly challenges this philosophical model. In fact, Harrison proposes that in the very near future we may come to see many more musicians emerging with equal proficiency and fortitude on both ends of the equatorial and cultural divide, and in deference to a musical climate defined by a directive that averts any social or cultural barrier in its midst.
 A quote from the spoken poetry of Oliver Lake, from a Joel Harrison project, touches on this astutely: “It’s best just to create it and play it. Put all my music on the same plate!”