Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Week With Chick Corea: Part 5 -- Day 1 -- Arrival

Table Of Contents
A Week With Chick Corea: Part 5
Chick’s first ever 5-day Master Workshop with John Patitucci (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums) held at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, MA from August 27 - 31, 2012

Day 1 -- Arrival

Monday, August 27, 2012

I met Fernando and Scott for breakfast at the Super 8. We should have skipped that and headed straight the The Cranwell, because when we arrived at resort to register, there was a mouth-watering breakfast buffet that left the mediocre offering at the Super 8 in the dust. But alas, we were too full to eat a second breakfast. Tolkien’s hobbits would have been disappointed in us.

Arrival and Check-In

We drove first to Olmstead Manor around 9:00am to check-in to our rooms but neither my room nor Scott’s room was ready yet. Fernando offered to let us store our bags temporarily in his room, so we drove to Beecher’s Cottage where we were all staying and dropped off our bags. We caught a glimpse someone who looked an awful lot like Chick’s long time audio engineer Bernie Kirsh as he was leaving his room, walking down the hallway and exiting the building. Was it Bernie? We weren’t quite sure. Turns out it was since we later saw a whole lot of him during the course of the workshop that week.

Scott Erichsen showed Fernando and me some of his braille music. It was quite fascinating to see Chick’s music converted to braille -- Scott had paid something like $250 to have some of the charts Chick sent in advance converted to braille so he didn’t have to learn everything by ear. Then it was time to head to the Mansion and register for the workshop. Let’s get this week started!

Braille version of Chick’s arrangement of The Song Is You

The Mansion at The Cranwell Resort where our workshop sessions and meals took place

The Mansion at The Cranwell Resort where our workshop sessions and meals took place

The Mansion at The Cranwell Resort where our workshop sessions and meals took place

Registration Materials

When we arrived at the Mansion, we were met at the registration table by Allyson McFerren. We were each handed a bag of goodies including a brand new pair of Yamaha headphones to use with our keyboards in our rooms. Turns out that Yamaha had donated enough keyboards to allow everyone to have a keyboard to practice on in their room if they so desired *without* having to lug the gear back and forth between the mansion and the cottage (which would have been a bit of a pain given the distance and lack of elevators -- stairs only!). And they even had the hotel staff deliver the keyboards straight to our rooms! Is that cool or what?

The bag of registration materials also included a lanyard to identify each of us as an official workshop attendee along with a copy of Chick’s book “A Work In Progress...On Being A Musician”. I already happened to own a copy of that book. I had purchased it when it was first released it 10 years ago or so. It has many useful concepts and ideas in it and I had even brought my copy with me and re-read it cover-to-cover on the airplane. So in some ways, I guess I was more prepared for this workshop than I thought I would be. 

We were also handed a folder with a workshop schedule, some manuscript paper, and the following bits of information including the recording policy, Chick’s proposed discussion topics or curriculum for the workshop, and a tentative schedule for the workshop subject to change.

Chick Corea Summer Music Workshop

Recording Policy

Dear Workshop Participants,

We are currently living in an age where cell phones, cameras, and recording devices are everywhere. In order for this week to be successful and musically enriching for everyone, it is important to be respectful of Chick, John, and Antonio, as well as your fellow participants. We therefore respectfully request that during class time, rehearsals, and performances no cell phones, cameras, or recording devices are brought into the event space. In addition, in order to preserve the uniqueness and exclusivity of the event, we ask that participants do not record and post videos online or elsewhere.

In addition to numerous photo opportunities, you will also receive a recording of the final student concert, as well as a short keepsake video courtesy of Chick Corea Productions. So again, please leave all phone and recording devices outside. Participants that are found utilizing these devices in a disruptive or distracting way may be asked to leave the workshop activities.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding and help in making this an unforgettable week for all involved.

Kind Regards,

Chick Corea Productions

14 Aug 2012
Chick Corea Music School - Subjects


  • From nothing
  • Game maker
  • Getting the idea down
    • Devices
    • Recording
    • Sketch
    • Lead sheet / Score
  • Instrumentation
    • Blend
    • Purpose
    • Ranges / timbres / clefs

Scoring & Orchestration

  • Purpose
  • Layout
  • Filling in the score
  • Devices (Logic & Sibelius)

Playing the piano

  • Purpose
  • Which piano or keyboard
  • Techniques - sound, touch
  • Mirror image
  • 88 drums

How To Practice

  • Purpose
  • Gradients
  • Understanding terms
  • Always practice in tempo -- flow

Playing in a band

  • Purpose / game
  • Communication / each player’s communication lines
  • Monitors / P.A. and sound
  • Rehearsing

Communication vs. Technique

  • Definitions
  • Balance between the two
  • Why is communication more important
  • What is technical rendition

Stage presence

  • Communication to the audience
  • Confront the space
  • Stage fright
  • Manners

Time / rhythm

  • Purpose
  • How does it fit with melody and harmony
  • Metronomes and clicks
  • Rapport with the audience
  • Groove and feel

The Music business

  • Purpose / the artist and the business
  • Principles / ethics
  • Music as a business / exchange and money
  • Organization / managers, agents, promoters

Artistic Integrity

  • Why “Think for yourself?”
  • Inflow / outflow
  • What is the correct way?
  • Vision and the imagination

Music Education

  • Purpose - definition
  • Criticism and evaluation
  • How to study
  • Primary and secondary information
  • Theory and application

NOTE: I have dozens of pages of handwritten notes still remaining to type up and expand upon with added verbiage before my memories completely fade. I'm slowly working on it (except the day job and family life keeps interrupting!). While Chick presented a great list of subjects in the course outline above, he didn't cover everything on that list in depth during the workshop and things were a little disorganized, loose, and free form. His teaching style involved improvising his lessons on the spot. That's what you get from a jazz musician, I guess. So I would have liked to have him cover more of the topics in depth, but he ran out of time and devoted more time to Q&A plus student performances took three days instead of the originally planned one day. Definitely room for improvement in the structure and format of the workshop, but I took what I could get! On the other hand, he was constantly readjusting what he presented based on how things were going during the workshop and he worked hard to try to tailor the workshop to the specific needs of the students who were present. Anyway, hopefully the rest of my notes will be posted in this blog over the next few days. 

However, Chick does cover many of those topics in more depth in his book available for purchase on his web site (no longer available for purchase). I now have two copies of it since I already owned one for the last 10 years and got a second copy at the workshop as part of the course materials. I haven't decided it I want to hang on two both copies for some reason or not -- might be nice to keep a spare just in case I lose one somehow. It's an easy quick read -- more conceptual than technical. Stuff I learned at the workshop helped fill in some of the additional details or shed more light on the thinking behind things in the book by seeing some of the concepts demonstrated in real life.

See http://chickcoreamusicworkshops.com/one-on-one/ for an online workshop that may include an updated copy of this book. 

You might be able to view a copy here (though I'm not sure if this is a legal copy):

Click over image to enlarge

A Work In Progress...On Being a Musician Chick Corea

Price: $20.00
Order / Order
E-mail to a friend | Add To Wish List
Original Description from Chick's old web site (no longer available):
Here's the item all of Chick's fans have been waiting for! A book that goes over how Chick creates music, his unique view of a piano, what are the most important aspects to focus on when learning music vs. when you're performing to an audience and much, much more! It also talks about Chick's personal policies as a musician which helped him achieve his enduring success. This volume is the first in a series which will cover all the questions you have been asking him for years! Get your copy now!


According to the schedule, orientation was supposed to start at 11:00am but things were a bit behind getting stuff set up in the ballroom and Chick’s piano was just getting delivered and still needed to be tuned. Prior to orientation, we stuck our heads into the ballroom and met Bill Rooney, Chick’s manager, as well as Bernie Kirsh, Chick’s audio engineer, and Dan Muse, Chick’s web designer and production management assistant among many other hats. No sign of Chick or Antonio yet, but we did see Antonio’s drum kit partially set up and we met John Patitucci as he was just arriving and getting his acoustic and electric bass rigs set up, talking over technical details with Bernie.

As an aside, I was astounded when I said “hi” to Dan Muse, he immediately knew my name without any reminder. I asked him how he remembered by name and he said something like, “Well we just met last year.” Yeah, well that was a brief meeting many months ago in September 2011 back in Oregon at an RTF IV show. What an amazing memory! Well, to be fair, I had stayed in occasional e-mail contact with him since then, but still, I don’t know how he remembered me out of all the many Chick Corea fans I’m sure he interacted with over the last few months.

Bernie Kirsh

Bill Rooney and Dan Muse

Since things were delayed, they pushed back the start of orientation, conducted the orientation outside on the terrace patio instead of in the ballroom, and then gave us an extended lunch to allow more time for the audio gear and instruments to get setup and ready to go for us. Prior to the start of orientation, I found myself sitting at a table with four Australians including Scott Erichsen. One of the Australians had even brought Vegamite ™ with him! Elsewhere at other tables, there were three people from Brazil including Fernando Giuffrida as well as another wonderful piano player and composer named Debora Gurgel along with her husband Carlos.

Check out this great Brazilian music by Dani Gurgel, Thiago Rabello, and Debora Gurgel. I met Dani, Thiago, and Debora at the Chick Corea workshop. Debora attended the workshop with me all week. I met Dani and Thiago on the last night of the workshop when they arrived from Brazil to start short US tour with Debora. Wish I'd had a chance to go see them in Seattle but I didn’t have any vacation (or funds) left when I got back home from the workshop.

Dá Licença (Debora Gurgel|Dani Gurgel|Thiago Rabello), of "Nosso".

See Debora’s website for more info: http://www.deboragurgel.com.br/

There was another keyboard player from Toronto named Neil Shankman there who I’d met the night before at Tanglewood and exchanged some e-mail and Facebook messages with prior to the start of the workshop. Neil had actually flown with his Minimoog Voyager analog synthesizer *without* a flight case, just using lots of bubble wrap inside of a soft case and checking it on the plane as FRAGILE! Yikes! It made it in one piece though. He was hoping to ask Chick to show him how to program it to get Chick’s classic lead synth sounds.

Check out this video where Chick talks about using Moog analog synthesizers on the RTF IV tour:

Orientation itself was just a brief welcome by Allyson McFerren followed by a schedule overview by Tom Dempsey, a guitarist who originally contracted with NGW and was hired by CCP (Chick Corea Productions) for this workshop to help with logistics. I think there was a brief introduction of Bill Rooney (Chick’s manager) and Dan Muse (Chick’s web designer and production assistant, among other duties). We were given other details by the Cranwell staff such as meal times (7:00am - 10:30am for breakfast, 12:00 noon for lunch, 6:00pm for dinner) as well as Fitness Center hours (6:30am - 9:30pm). Jam sessions would be in the mornings downstairs below the ballroom in the Berkshire and Lennox rooms. Chick’s sessions would start each day after lunch at 1:00pm.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike, enjoying this blog immensely, thanks for doing such a good job and putting in all the time to tell others about your experiences.

    Hey I'd buy your other Chick book if you decide to sell it. I checked on the website and Amazon, there are only new books. I only buy used books. So you'd be doing me a favor by selling it, I'd even take your first book, you can have the new one. Let me know. madaline@madduran.com And thanks!