Saturday, January 25, 2014

BASSANOVAS ~ an Interview with Pat Klobas

Pat Klobas - Double Bass Master & Educator

Years ago, when we went looking for a private instructor willing to teach both Classical and Jazz String Bass lessons, we really hit the jackpot with Pat Klobas.  Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's quite a tall order.  We had three pretty high-level recommendations for him, and those recommendations would be our golden ticket.  Klobas is Lecturer of Jazz and Classical Double Bass Studies at California State University East Bay, a very busy performer and composer, and my middle-school and early high-school musicians were just starting to get serious.  I can truly say that Pat offers as much bonhomie and community as he does esoteric knowledge of the largest string instrument.  String Bass is not for the weak.  It is a physically demanding instrument, to be sure.  People don't realize but serious bassists have to give up fingerprints for their art (years of grinding on thick wire-wrapped strings, blisters, blood and layers of callus upon callus...).  It requires 150 pounds per square inch of pressure on any string for a successful clear note.  In addition, while sections of a jazz big band play and rest, the bassist is going non-stop, backing soloists, then breaking into a solo of their own.  And, many jazz charts are quite long, in excess of 10 minutes.  Because of my proximity to this instrument and its mastery, I read his interview with a certain appreciation.  In Pat's words...
1.  How do you find a balance between imposing your own ideas over the student’s creativity? 

I think of myself as a guide that instructs students with a musical appetite, to express themselves through music on the double bass.  I am an expert on my instrument with years of training and performing experience.  Anyone with this background has developed ways to accomplish their objectives in a way that makes sense, at least to them.  This of course, doesn’t mean they can instruct another person.  To be a successful instructor, one needs to have a logical approach to their topic that they can convey with clarity and a willing participant.  An instructor assumes the student is open to suggestions and will follow them as part of the path to solving problems associated with a given objective.  The concept of imposing (“to force others”) one's ideas is not the point.  Force should not be involved in any way.  The ideas of an instructor are gifts to a student whom can follow or not, depending on their receptivity and willingness to trust the instructor.  
It is often said that music is a language.   I believe this to be true.  Getting to the creative part of language whether speaking or writing would be similar to the steps to musical expression except for a major obstacle.   The musicians chosen instrument.  The ability to obtain facility on an instrument is part of a musicians life’s work.  The mastering of the chosen instrument will play a crucial role in the ability to express ones thoughts through music.  Limited abilities will produce limited complexity of thought.  At the same time simplicity can have just as much meaning as complexity.  This will be where the human personality will show its colors.  This is where the instructor plays a role that the young student rarely has, technical advice.  Creativity is alive in every step of the process.  The teacher or guide offers direction but only the student can literally teach themselves.  Therefore the student must translate the meaning of the directions to application.  Keep in mind that all artists are life long students.  There is more than one way to do almost anything.  As an instructor I try to show the student the quickest and most efficient ways to accomplish solving problems that may block a person's path to self-expression.  

2. A recent publication, Guitar Zero, claims: Practice + Parent Support = Musical Achievement.
Assuming parent support includes lessons or school classes, do you see this statement as accurate?

My first thought is confidence [is also required].  In addition I would say, due to the complexity of the tasks associated with playing music well, without expert instruction a student could practice hours a day with little results.  A good instructor has economical ways to problem solving that saves immense amounts of time and no one has time to waste.

3. What is your approach to teaching a student a process as intangible and personal as improvisation?

I believe a most fundamental approach is one that Miles Davis described as the steps he uses in his musical approach.  “Imitation-Assimilation-Innovation."  

Imitate the instructor.  Imitate an artist on a recording.  Imitate written music.  Imitate a poet, a painting…anything.  

Assimilate by dissecting musical ideas and their components.  Assimilate ideas of a writer or painter in the same way. 

Innovate.   Don’t think about all the technical stuff you learned by imitation and assimilation, just play!  Experiment.  Be clear of intent and honest about ideas.  Leave the junk out.  Practice.
4. What qualities have you seen in students that seem to predict future success in music?

What is success?  I’m sure it is different for everyone.  Maybe accomplishing one’s goals is a way to talk about success.  Having spent eight years in music school and reflecting on the experiences I’ve enjoyed with my colleagues over the years I will quote what John Patitucci told me about this topic.  He believes that a strong, focused and directed work ethic was the key component to his achievements.  I went to school with John and he worked his tail off.  He was 18 at the time.  He had seemingly unlimited positive energy.  Always friendly and supportive of the other music students but would only talk to you for a quick minute.  Then he was off in the practice room.  Always the same, chat for a minute then back to the practice room.  I remember him saying “I want to play with Chick Corea”.  I’m thinking uh-huh, right.  Well he didn’t even know Chick at that time but sure enough a few short years later he was an original member of Chick’s Electric Band!  

It was the same with my friend and colleague principal flutist of the San Francisco Opera, Julie McKinsey, first to hit the practice room in the morning and last to leave at night.  Both of these incredible musicians had the work ethic but also the human respect and warmth with their colleagues that gave their music that extra sensitivity.  

Pat Klobas Bio

Buy CD
Pat Klobas-Double Bass

Pat Klobas is one of the busiest bassists in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He grew up in Portland OregonAfter high school Pat moved to San Francisco to go to music school and join the music scene there.   His talent as an accomplished accompanist in any field of music has opened the doors to many exciting and challenging musical experiences.   The desire to have his own band led him to the formation of the Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble.  The team of Klobas and Tommy Kesecker who write and arrange jazz inspired music has been well received by listeners- #32 on  ‘All About Jazz’s’ national play list;musicians-Joe Locke, Richard Davis and Mike Marshall all singing praises and reviewers; Jazz Review writer Mark Gallo writing about KKEnsembles first cd ‘No Gravity’ as “a wholly riveting and engaging 10-song delight”.

These are some of Pat Klobas’s professional experiences that have accumulated over the yearsPat has had the great pleasure of performing with singers Michael Feinstein and his Quintet and big bandRosemary Clooney, Shirley Jones, Jackie Ryan, Kristin Chenoweth, Idena Menzel, Paula West, Christine Ebersole,Madeline Eastman, Bobbe Norris and Elaine Stritch.  In the instrumental jazz and world music arena Pat has enjoyed working with Zakir Hussain, Jessica Williams, Greg Osby, Bruce Forman, Scott Hamilton,Pete Escovedo, Jeremy Cohen and Quartet San Francisco, Turtle Island String Quartet, Scottish fiddlers-Alasdair Fraser and Athena Tergis, guitarists -Peppino D’Agustino and Danny Carnahan.  Pat hasenjoyed working with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Further on a current project called First Fusion and  Weir’s band Rat Dog. Pat was invited to be a featured jazz bassist with the San Francisco Symphony’s opening season gala featuring opera star Jessye Norman performing Duke Ellington’s music and has performed numerous times in the rhythm section of the San Francisco Symphony Pop’s Orchestra.  As a classical bassist Pat has performed with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet, The Three Tenors, Skywalker Symphony, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and is acting Assistant Double Bass with the Marin Symphony.

Shorenstein/Nederlander  ‘Best of Broadway’ performances include the Tony Award winning production of ‘Porgy and Bess’, ‘The Producers’, with Martin Short and Jason Alexander, ‘Fosse’, ‘Kiss Me Kate’with drummer Marty Morell, ‘Any Thing Goes”, ‘42nd Street’ and the world premier of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’.

Pat is an active teacher of jazz and classical double bass in the bay area.   His studio includes the position of Lecturer of Jazz and Classical Double Bass at California State University East Bay as well as his own private teaching studio.   He is an original faculty member of the Golden Gate Bass Camp and co-leader of the Northern California Bass Club (NCBC) with Ed Williams and Barry Green.  As a NCBC officer Pat has presented bass clinics with jazz legends Christian McBride, John Pattitucci, Rufus Reid, John Clayton, Robert Hurst, Brian Bromberg and Buster Williams.

Pat’s bass work includes many movie and TV soundtracks with the Skywalker Symphony as well as recordings with Linda Ronstadt, Randy Newman, Turtle Island String Quartet, Standard Deviation, San Francisco Chamber Jazz Quartet and the Grammy nominated ‘Star Wars Trilogy’ with John Williams.
Perhaps Pat’s proudest achievement is that of his original music and arrangements with Tommy Kesecker and the Klobas/ Kesecker Ensemble and their two cd’s the critically acclaimed cd ‘No Gravity’ with specialguest Zakir Hussain and the just released Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble cd ‘Moment’s Notice’.

Pat Klobas graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelors of Music degree and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a Masters of Music degree.  He currently resides in Oakland California. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Applying to College, Music-style

Applying to College, Music-style

“There is a practical reason for music education: it teaches people to think, to solve problems, to take risks, to think independently, to be an entrepreneur and innovator. The virtues of music education are the virtues of free enterprise in general and of a high tech, knowledge based society in particular: flexibility, adaptability, inventiveness, even playfulness."                                         ~ William E. LaMothe, C.E.O., Xerox Company

My eldest son is a senior in high-school, currently applying for college and planning on majoring in music, jazz and/or classical.  Many people have asked me what that is like and I have to admit, though I only know the about the parts that require my help (money & rides), I can say that it in no way resembles my experience of applying for college within the University of California system in the 1980s.  I ended up at UC San Diego, my first choice, studying Applied Mathematics & Scientific Programming and minoring in Classical Studies (Greek & Roman Studies) and Music Theory & Performance.  I am very happy I was able to study music throughout college, an absolute blessing of experience, including technical application.  Though I share his passion for the subject, it does not help with the application process.  His father studied Political Science at Michigan State University, so again, no help there.  He is blazing a fresh trail, all his own, my [admittedly weak] hopes for a legacy dashed.

As he made his way through the process, I became interested in understanding the specific content and being able to answer my friends' questions more thoroughly.  After the December 1 due date, when I realized its extent, I decided to write about the process.  Though I say 'application,' the reality
 is, when you apply to study music at a college, university or conservatory, you are actually producing two packages submitted to two different places.  You must complete the classic application (
including the usual essays, transcripts, and SAT scores, though until recently most conservatories did not ask for SAT scores or take GPA into much consideration) and what's called a 'Pre-Screen Video Application,' a request for audition, a live audition.  The Pre-Screen package is lengthy: for most schools, it includes a resume, repertoire, and sets of videos you must produce.  The resume is an artistic, educational and professional list of accomplishments; some music students have been playing professionally, for pay, for years.  The repertoire is the list of compositions you have mastered.  Different colleges ask for different recordings but for the sake of simplicity, I'd like to reference the material from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) as it is especially well-prepared and is an example that is similar to approximately 95% of colleges with music programs.  Slightly different, Berklee College of Music in Boston, eschews the essay portion for a lengthy telephone interview, prior to the audition.  The one school that stands out as unique, not surprisingly, is The Juilliard School.  In addition to a lengthy and very specific list of required tunes, Juilliard demands proficiency in English; in fact, one of the letters of recommendation must come from a Language Arts-type teacher.  Though many schools now offer the option of re-using the video you submitted for your Pre-Screen, in lieu of a live audition, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, is now offering the option to create a new video for that purpose.  Pre-screen applications are due at USC on December 1 and if you are invited to audition, you must appear on campus in Los Angeles at a specified time and place, in January.   Juilliard does classical auditions in New York City in March; at the time of this writing (1.15.14), no date was available for Jazz Studies candidates.  None of the schools are coordinated in terms of audition times and places and students can expect to miss some school.  We have heard of students flying all over the country for as many as 17 auditions!  While this is excellent experience, it is well worth any family's time to visit campuses, take tours and most importantly, request a private lesson with faculty prior to the application process.  Most schools will happily accomodate a 30-60 minute lesson, during which you may ask questions and get important feedback on your current level and goals.  I was told multiple times to start looking at schools early and I was glad we did.  Logan took his first lesson at USC as a high-school sophomore and it was an intensely good experience; in addition to the private meeting, he was invited to sit in with one of the big bands and attend courses in theory.  USC generously allows prospective students to shadow a current student during their school day, including a trip to the cafeteria (their food service card includes a certain amount of 'host' dollars).   All of this truly helped Logan zero in on his wants and needs in a future college. 

We have been fortunate in the San Francisco Bay Area to attend College Information Nights at our extra-curricular music education venues, like the home of the SFJAZZ All-Stars, the new SFJAZZ Center and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra housed at Davies Symphony Hall (see, THE PARENT PART).  These presentations are typcially headed by the Directors of Admission, and sometimes include master classes taught by faculty and/or performances by student groups.  Again, USC leads the pack with their willingness to communicate and their superior marketing materials (they have created an impressive  poster-sized diagram matching scores of music-based careers with the associated education path, recommending classes and options for cross-study).  At the most recent meeting at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, one interesting comment made by USC Thornton School of Music Director of Admission, P.J. Woolston, was about creating the videos.  Assuming reasonable audio quality, USC recommends keeping it simple.  They do not want students to feel pressured to put a lot of money into this process.  They need to see your technique and hear you play, but recognize it is recorded and that they will hear you live at the subsequent audition.  I was glad to hear it, because video recording with a need for fine audio is a learning process all its own.  It also requires specialized equipment: a computer with video editing software and broadband internet, a video camera and microphone, and a sound-proofed room, and musicians (minimum rhythm section: string bass, drums, piano).   

There is no doubt that students may require some assistance in video recording.  Families choose to attack this in several different ways; I will describe the three main paths that I have seen.  First, there are those who choose to invest.  They buy the finest equipment, rent time in a music studio with a professional recording engineer and hire professional musicians (generally, for a good half-day, about 6 hours, assuming the initial cuts were successful and do not require re-recording).  Professional musicians in the Bay Area typically ask for a minimum of $100/hour + meals for this type of service, but pricing varies.  Similarly, studio space rates vary greatly as do producer rates.  These students also tend to have 'professional grade' instruments ($$$$$).  Often these parents are also full participants in the student's recording and application.  Second, the middle ground is the most common: students organize groups and studio time so they can share resources.  For example, the piano player and the bass player each play on the drummer's audition and then (s)he plays on theirs.  These can be long days that are challenging to put together, but they make the most of available resources.  Some schools (like the Jazzschool in Berkeley) offer free studio space to students; some studios offer reduced rates on certain days and times.  The students usually do their own recording in this case using a video camera or computer and do the video-editing at home.  The third option is for the student to play with pre-recorded accompaniment, but this is not viewed as optimal.  There are many applicants for these major schools, therefore it is very competitive and people see video production quite differently, as evidenced by the wealth of varying online video auditions out there (one student, taking his advice to 'keep it simple' to heart, asked the USC Director of Admission if he could video his performance wearing pajamas).  We've seen bedrooms with blankets as makeshift soundproofing, kids playing in swank recording studios and baby-faced musicians leading professional, aged bands.  Beyond the cost issues, it's difficult to decide which is the preferred method.  Taking the advice to keep it simple is enticing, but with so many 'professionally-enhanced' sessions out there to compete with, each family must consider carefully.  My son is independent, the decisions all his with literally no help from me, except as noted above (money & rides).  He elected to go the middle route, sharing resources and organizing everything with his friends.  My opinion is that these student-staffed bands produce the most authentic recordings, the most clear reflection of their sound and their ability to work with peers.  

So much of this has to do with parenting styles.  There are many ways to do something right, so as I describe my experiences, please understand that I am not judging one method as more correct.  As parenting styles differ, so do children.  Much of what transpires is based on need, and no one knows need like a parent.  A virtuoso pianist may have mad stage-fright or an accomplished soloist may be challenged by working with different bands and their associated personalities.  Some musicians feel more comfortable within the backing of a large-scale Big Band (20 or so musicians) while some revel in the solo feature aspect of a smaller Combo.  I have heard of parents in the music industry writing cadenzas for their child to use in place of a solo (which by definition in Jazz, should be unique and 'in the moment' for every performance of a tune) as well as parents writing portions of their student's applications.  I have also heard educators express distaste for the situation wherein students "have it too easy" in terms of what is perceived as excessive parental support (this is quite interesting, given the recent publication, Guitar Zero, in which neurologist & author, Gary Marcus, identifies parental support as the most important indicator for musical success, after practice.  See: practice makes perfect, but if no one's perfect, why practice?).  Indeed, we have heard more than a few times of students who were able to record multiple times, until they achieved their best work, won the audition, but then showed up playing at a level obviously lower than their video would suggest.  That is a stressful situation for anyone.  Considering all of this, my feeling is that some well-meant effort could be a disservice to the student, who will have to stand on their own at the end of the day.  Though I meant that last metaphorically, I can't think of a closer comparison than an evening performance onstage.  Playing devil's advocate, in the context of a talented student beginning to solo with a band, a pre-written solo could bolster their confidence and experience of successful soloing, leading them to independence in that regard.  Educator extrordinaire, Dann Zinn's step-by-step method to learning improvisation is all about mastering different patterns, like the classic 2-5-1, and arranging them in real time, within the context of the tune and the bandmates' interpretations so it feels comfortable and becomes somewhat automatic (see, The SINGULAR Dann Zinn).  It's intensely difficult, even on your best day.  It's all about the child, and the parent, and exquisite, back to the application.

For the purposes of comparison, the information regarding application for the Bachelor of Arts major 
entitled "Jazz Studies" at The Thornton School of Music at USC, prints out in one full page.  The corresponding major, "Jazz Studies" at The Juilliard School of Music is twice as long, offers much less personal choice, and is known to be one of the most challenging audition processes currently in play (no pun intended...perhaps in a later post, I'll include some of the great audition stories we've heard).  There are specific selections called out for each instrument or voice.  Those interested in reading about requirements for different instruments or voice will find them at the college websites; the sites referenced in this article are listed in the subsequent bibliography.   Listed below is a summarized list of requirements at USC and Juilliard for the Application, the Pre-Screen Video Audition and the Live Audition.  I have edited out any previously explained information and all technical submission information and will cover only String Bass for brevity and straight comparison. Bear in mind, most students produce several of these types of applications, 5 - 10 on average.

USC Thornton School of Music 
Application & Pre-screen Recording Requirements:
<> Standard Application with academic transcripts & SAT scores
<> Resume ~ includes musical, professional & academic experience
<> Repertoire List ~ includes works studied and performed; etudes, scale studies, arias, art songs, chamber music and solo pieces are all examples of what could be included in this list
<> Statement of Purpose ~  statement of professional goals & purpose for application to specific program
<> 1 - 3 Letters of Recommendation 
<> 3 - 5 selections of contrasting styles (Blues, Swing, Be Bop...) from the standard jazz  repertoire, including "Au Privave" and "All the Things You Are"
<> String Bassists should play the head, a walking bass line, and a solo for each of the three to  five selections  
<> Four 2-octave major scales: two arco, two pizzicato
<> Four 2-octave minor scales: two arco, two pizzicato

USC Thornton School of Music
Live Audition Requirements:
<> Accompaniment will be provided, bring lead sheets for all prepared tunes
<> Be prepared to demonstrate skills in jazz improvisation & sight-reading (this is music you have not seen before, which you must play on first sight at tempo)
<> Theory Test, 60 minute limit

Juilliard School of Music 

Application & Pre-screen Requirements:
<> Application & Essay (1 - 2 pages, double-spaced, and in a 12 point font)

  • Describe the most challenging obstacle you have had to overcome; discuss its impact, and tell us what you have learned from the experience.
  • Dr. Joseph Polisi, Juilliard’s president, has stated: “. . . [talented young people are] responsible for more than getting the notes right or the words right or the steps right. They have to be missionaries for the arts."  Write about how, as an artist, you intend to advocate for the relevancy of the arts in the twenty-first century.
<> Letter of Recommendation, Artistic 
(addressing the applicant’s talent and accomplishment, the letter should also discuss the following individual characteristics which indicate potential for success in the field:         
1. Perseverance; 2. Dedication; 3. Collegiality; and 4. Leadership)

<> Letter of Recommendation, Academic 
(a letter from a high school academic teacher, preferably in English, history, or other language arts course work, addresses the applicant’s speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension abilities)

<>Applicants must choose one selection from each category in addition to the requirements for their specific instrument

<> Rhythm section instruments (Bass, Drums, should demonstrate the ability to accompany a soloist on one of these selections)

Juilliard  School of Music
Live Audition Requirements:


  1. All compositions must be performed from memory.
  2. The repertoire for the live audition is the same as the pre-screening repertoire.
  3. First round auditions will be approximately 15-20 minutes. Applicants should be prepared to play the audition repertoire from the pre-screening recording. A rhythm section will be provided for the audition where needed.
  4. Callbacks will be scheduled on the same day as the first round. The callback will include:
    1. performing again for the faculty.
    2. a demonstration of applicants’ knowledge of ear training through playing and an aural exam.
    3. a brief personal interview with a member of the Jazz Studies staff.
  5. Applicants should be prepared to stay at The Juilliard School until 10 p.m. on the day of the scheduled audition, in the event that they are called back. Applicants who are not called back may reasonably conclude that they are not under consideration for admission.
Bass applicants are required to perform the melodies of each selection chosen, perform a solo and play bass line accompaniments that are appropriate for these selections (i.e., walking bass line, two feel, groove, etc.).  Accompanists should include piano or guitar, and drums.


  1. Up-Tempo Swing
    1. Moose The Mooche — Charlie Parker (B-flat Major)
    2. Minority — Gigi Gryce (F minor)
  2. Blues
    1. Mr. P.C. — John Coltrane (C minor)
    2. Straight No Chaser — Thelonious Monk (B-flat Major)
  3. Ballad
    1. What’s New — Bob Haggard (C Major)
    2. Soul Eyes — Mal Wadron (E-flat Major)
  4. Selection in 3/4 Time
    1. Simone — Frank Foster (D minor)
    2. A Child Is Born — Thad Jones (B-flat Major)
  5. Grooves
    1. Sack O' Woe — Cannonball Adderley (F Major)
    2. Ceora — Lee Morgan (A-flat Major)
  6. Medium Swing
    1. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To — Cole Porter (C Major)
    2. Dear Old Stockholm — Swedish Folk Song (D minor)

One word: intense.  Just contemplating learning all of it gives me anxiety.  I am in awe of all who try, truly.  It is a very difficult path to choose: a challenging road, requiring all your skill and full attention.  A room with a view and a beautiful soundtrack: your goal, to exit that room and create another, all yours, with a better view and yet more beautiful sound.   

A note on acceptances and scholarships: as spring draws near and the offers come rolling in, parents and students alike need to be aware of the subjective process involved in student selection.  Each year, college programs evolve and change.  One college may offer only one true 'full ride' (4 years of tuition and room & board expenses covered) and if that was awarded to a pianist one year, it may be that they seek to offer it to a different type of instrumentalist the following year.  It may be that the four full rides previously available are now down to two, perhaps one of which must be awarded in-state.  There are also elite bands that evolve as students age and move through the program; they may be looking for alto saxophone one year and a bass trombone the next.  They may be accepting students into the big band your student desires every other year, and as luck would have it (or not have it), it's not your year.  Some colleges form different types of bands each year that rotate with the students' college lifespan, every four years or so.  If this year a new Brass Quartet is being formed and you're a crack lead trumpet, you could be in luck.  It can be tempting to compare one student's outcome to another and that is dangerous business.  There are simply no guarantees.  The best outlook may well be, Que Sera Sera.

"Bachelor of Music (BM) or Bachelor of Arts (BA): Jazz Studies and Jazz Voice."  University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music.  December 17, 2013.<>.

"Bachelor of Music and Diploma Audition Dates, Pre-Screening and Live Audition Repertoire for Fall 2014: Jazz Studies."  The Juilliard School of Music.  December 17, 2013. <>.

"Why Music Matters: Quotes." Mason City Community School District.  January 10, 2014. <>.