7 May, 2018
Professor Cat Hope, Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music chatted with Festival Artist and fellow academic Terri Lyne Carrington on Leadership in Music ahead of Terri Lyne's residency at Monash University this year.
Cat Hope:What role have mentors played in your career?
Terri Lyne Carrington: Mentors are extremely important to me and always have been. I am starting a new initiative at Berklee for young women and mentoring is an essential element of it. I also feel that men need to mentor young women, and women need to mentor young men, so it is not just women mentoring women. Without mentoring, starting with my Dad, my career would not be where it is.
L-R: Sonny Carrington, Terri Lyne Carrington, B.B. King
CH: Its great to someone leading from the drumkit, as you do in your ensemble. What are some of the highlights of doing this?
TLC: Leading from drums is natural because drummers lead the music whether they are the official leader of the band or not. Your band is only a good as your drummer. So in a sense I often feel like I am in a leadership role even as a side person.
CH: You've played alongside some of the greats. How has that shaped your own music?
TLC: I have learned from the best and have taken their insight to heart. I quote the masters I have worked with ll the time. Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette. And as far as how I hear music - it has shaped that just as strongly. I try to hear Herbie voicings on the piano when I write songs. I try to hear Wayne melodies. It is impossible not to reach as high as what I have been haring for so long, but I try to do it with my own voice as well.
CH: What was the catalyst to move into recording and producing your own music, over being a side woman?
TLC: When you learn from so many great leaders, there comes a point when you make he decision to either keep supporting their vision or using what you have learned to shape your own vision, which is what I chose to do. That is how the music continues to develop. It is a natural process. My creative energy is stronger than ever and I owe it to all the time I spent inside the music with many masters.
CH: What are the challenges of being a leader in music - both from a practice band perspective, but also an academic, cultural one?
TLC: Of course the economic part can be challenging as you have the full responsibility, so it takes good management skills. I self manage currently and have been for most of my career. Though now it is feeling like I just don’t have the time to do it anymore. But also you have to create and support your own narrative, in tandem with your belief system. So you are constantly putting yourself on the line. It can be a lot more stressful than being a side person. But also a lot more rewarding too.
CH: You have a concept of the 'inner drummer in everyone'. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
TLC: Drums, drummer and drumming as a metaphor. Being in rhythm with the universe is important. Being in rhythm with each other as part of the human race is important. Drums support others, as we do in life. Drums are integral to most band settings and I just see the level of compassion and selflessness and power you have to have a s a drummer, correlating with what you have to have to be a successful and decent human being.
CH: You have spoken about being open to different styles of music - what does that bring to your practice as a drummer and a band leader?
TLC: Just being open period is important to being a great musician. Most musicians I know like various styles of music and that often comes out in their playing and composing. And now with so much independent music out there and less labels telling artist what to do, we see more this merger of styles. I think it is a very fertile and exciting time in jazz.
CH: As a Professor at Berklee, you must come into contact with some aspiring, upcoming musicians. What is your advice to young women starting out in their studies?
TLC: I’d like to see more young women playing jazz and have started some initiatives at Berklee toward this goal. Women need to feel that it is their music and men need to be more welcoming to the young women that want to play it. This is also where mentoring will be helpful because it is am apprentice art form. But I am happy to say that I see more and more women every year in all parts of the world, sounding great and invested in this music, claiming it, and helping to create a more balanced, more equitable environment for everyone.
Terri Lyne Carrington is the Artist in Residence at Monash University for the 2018 Festival and will be working with students from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music in Monash University Jazz Futures featuring Terri Lyne Carrington on Tuesday 5 June at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Terri Lyne will also be performing four clubs shows at the Festival with her latest project Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science at The Jazzlab on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 June.