Master Drummer Ralph Peterson Gives Students Professional Experience on New Recording
Ralph Peterson works with students
At Berklee College of Music, master drummer Ralph Peterson is giving students first-hand professional experience with his Gen-Next Big Band. Ralph Peterson, a jazz icon and drum legend who played with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers for several years, has been teaching at Berklee College of Music for over 15 years. Over the course of his rich teaching career, Peterson has consistently afforded students with unique professional opportunities. The Gen-Next Big Band is Peterson’s latest offering and is comprised of Berklee’s brightest young musicians. The 20-piece ensemble will release “I Remember Bu”, a professional live recording (recorded at Boston’s iconic Scullers Jazz Club last year) featuring jazz legend Donald Harrison, this October. To mark the occasion, the band will return to Scullers for another exciting performance. “Back in 1983, Art Blakey called me to perform with the Jazz Messengers at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. That concert was transformative in my life and now I have the opportunity to come full circle and extend that experience to these young musicians here,” said Peterson.
While a musician of Peterson’s stature could have had his pick of a number of available and willing professional musicians, he chose to populate his big band with students instead. “The students at Berklee are amazing,” said Peterson. “Their commitment, allegiance, integrity, seeking spirit, and yes, even their naïveté’ inspires me to share as much of the wisdom, experience, hope and joy that I have been lucky enough to experience in my career.” To prepare for the live recording, students rehearsed for four hours, eight consecutive weekends and for an additional two hours each week. In many cases, students chose to rehearse outside the classroom in an effort to “get it right”.
Student Jas Kayser
Represented in the Gen-Next Big Band are myriad ethnicities, ages and cultural backgrounds, thus proving that music is indeed a universal language. Milena Casado Fauquet, a 20-year-old trumpeter from Spain and member of the group, said that while coming to the United States as an international student was a challenge, her experiences working with the big band helped to make her feel more welcomed and part of a family.
For most, if not all the students in the band, this was their first experience recording a professional album that is to be commercially available. “The most memorable experience with the band was the few hours we spent together before our show at Scullers last fall. You could feel in the air that everyone was so excited to share this music, which we care deeply about,” said Performance major Brandon Lin.
Working with Peterson has also been invaluable for the students. “We are so lucky to work with someone like Ralph Peterson,” said 22-year-old drummer Jas Kayser. “As one of his students, I have been so grateful for his generosity and commitment to passing the music through to the next generation and keeping the legacy of Art Blakey alive.” Senior Robert Vega-Dowda agrees. “I have grown an astronomical amount since I started working with Ralph. He is definitely one of my biggest sources of inspiration for the growth that is necessary to truly find who you are as an artist,” he said.
Though he keeps a busy touring schedule and will be releasing a second recording in October (“Inward Venture: Live at the Side Door” with his critically acclaimed all-star group Aggregate Prime), Peterson loves teaching and has no plans of slowing down any time soon. “Seeing and feeling their “light” turn on when they tackle a difficult passage or happily show up for sectionals is my favorite part of teaching,” he said. “Teaching for me is a duty.” Through teaching, Peterson said, he can pass on his knowledge (from direct, iconic jazz sources like Art Blakey and Betty Carter), to the next generation.
Ralph Peterson and the Gen-Next Big Band will be releasing “I Remember Bu” worldwide on October 4.