Philosophy of Teaching – it is important to teach to the appropriate level of the student; essentially what the student needs, not what the teacher prefers to teach. Within that narrower scope, a balanced and greater context should also be established to foster a continual expansion of the learning process. Clear concepts are important for greater understanding. Ultimately it is best for the student to have a comprehensive knowledge and ability. Artistry and free expression are important but so are craft and discipline. Any creative process requires imagination and certainly courage. So it is important for the teacher not to intimidate the student. Knowledge instills confidence and confidence replaces fear.
On Composition – original music should be sincere. The composer should have a distinct point of view and be able to capture it, regardless of style or aspects of simplicity or complexity. Comparisons to relative “greatness” (especially for the student) can be subjective. Students should embrace multiple styles and disciplines that will evolve into a sincere individual identity of self-expression. Production and accomplishment, not innovation, is most important in the beginning pursuit of the process.
On Arranging – unlike composition, this activity is usually collaborative which means that the professional arranger ultimately learns how to write on demand. There is usually a specific deadline. The style, instrumentation, and performance time are usually factors that determine the scope of the arranger’s creative work. (See the video interview above – The Art of Jazz Arranging – Richard DeRosa.) The student learns this process through assignment writing as various opportunities present themselves (in or out of school).
On Improvisation – many people believe that only jazz musicians can truly improvise. While it is true that most professional jazz musicians are accomplished in this skill, it is possible for classical (or any other type of) musicians to learn how to do this. In fact, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were improvisers! My book, Concepts for Improvisation (Hal Leonard 1997), was written to help any musician learn this skill. This is why the word JAZZ is omitted from the title. More importantly, this process can be taught in a systematic way via a logical pedagogical approach that any music teacher may utilize to get solid results. Especially with the young student today, where the attention span may be limited, it is crucial to use methods that are simple and effective. Students must meet with success (at some level) as soon as possible. With specific techniques, the teacher can control the learning environment by creating a fail-safe musical path that the student can readily engage in and enjoy.
“Rich DeRosa has taught me so much in my studies at UNT. He has the rare combination of being a world-class performer, arranger, and educator. What he brings to the classroom is a combination of top-flight real world experience and the ability to break down complex ideas into layman’s terms. He is a true master of the craft.
During my time at UNT, I had the honor of publishing a big band piece called Honeybee with Bob Curnow at Sierra Music. Rich helped guide me through the process of composing and orchestrating the piece and also provided critical career advice as I approached this valuable opportunity. Rich has cultivated an environment in which students have these stepping stones that lead to long-term career opportunities.“
Aaron Hedenstrom (DMA student at UNT – jazz composition, awards recipient from BMI, ASCAP, JEN and DownBeat)