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The Learning Process: Personal Discoveries, Reflections & Philosphies


Whether it was a matter of fate or pure happenstance, my musical journey legitimately began on a drive away from home at the age of 21, on the way to the University of California, Davis.  The noted University had just awarded to me a full scholarship to attend and major in Electrical Engineering, with a minor in Mathematics.  I had to that point completed three years of undergraduate coursework at a community college located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Medanos College.  I was required to run the full gamut of required lower-division coursework for engineering, including three full semesters of calculus, physics courses based on these calculus courses, and the standard required courses in the Liberal Arts areas.  

Copious amounts of hours were spent studying this material, most memorably studying for the physics finals that lasted eight hours on a Saturday.  All the while, I had continued to participate and study music both at the college and on a private basis with a noted jazz trombone teacher. 

Music to that point was my great escape from the constant studying and cognitive toll of the mathematics and physics courses.  My good friends were all music majors.  Little did I know that I was inevitably steering myself upon a career in music.

Musicianship & Development

Undergraduate Studies

Scholarship in hand and en route to UC Davis in my small blue Hyundai Excel, John Coltrane’s “Crescent” suddenly came on the radio and struck me like a ton of bricks.  I realized that I could not possibly be serious about life as an electrical engineer.  Music had consumed me in my studies, became a part of me.  I made the figurative and literal U-Turn right there on the Rio Vista Highway and pointed my vehicle right towards California State University, Hayward.

Cal State Hayward (CSUH) had a vaunted music program that I had always had a profound interest in.  They had a renown faculty and an energized student base.  The day after the big “U-Turn”, I was accepted directly into CSUH on the merits of my extensive mathematics and physics background.  I was accepted as a Music major and my scholarship as a student of music began.

It was a whole new world for me, being an official music major.  I was able to divert the thousands of hours I spent on mathematics on physics purely on my instrument and on learning the theories and constructions of Western Music theory.  Right off the bat, what engaged me and drew me into the pedagogy of my instructors was their enthusiasm about the concepts and me newfound freedom of being able to study music exclusively.

Dr. Frank LaRoccaThese instructors started off each lecture with tangible demonstrations of the concepts or small historical anecdotes to draw the student in.  For example, a great instructor I studied with for 7th semester music theory was Dr. Frank LaRocca at California State Hayward (now East Bay).  He came in one day with a story about Debussy and how musical classicists debunked his innovative sketches as “madness” and as “undisciplined”.  The lesson proceeded to show us the genius of his compositions for solo piano.

How is that one is able to recall this very specific lesson 16 years after its initial deliverance?  Core knowledge and enthusiasm about the subject at hand.  These two concepts are key to my own musical pedagogy.  I strongly believe that the instructor must not only have a requisite understanding about the content to be delivered to the student, but must also demonstrate further understanding, replete with historical and modern context.  Enthusiastically, Dr. LaRocca delivered the lesson on Debussy with a historical perspective.  He then demonstrated Debussy’s ingenious use of functional harmony and understatement in a modern setting as part of his own compositions.  This created an engaging and relevant musical lesson.  More importantly, it created a musical experience that was never to be forgotten by the learner.

I was fortunate enough during my undergraduate years of study to have similar lessons and lectures which were equally memorable.  Needless to say, educators and pedagogues of this level weren’t ubiquitous during these formative years.  More to the point, instructors who did not demonstrate a core knowledge and enthusiasm about the subject matter had their lessons promptly dismissed as less important and subsequently forgotten, whether consciously or unconsciously.  I decided that when I was to get to the level where I myself was an educator, I would always bring a core understanding and excitement to the table when delivering any lesson.  I still carry this very important lesson with me when delivering my current music teachings.

Graduate Studies

NEA Jazz Master Dave LiebmanGraduate school at the Manhattan School of Music in New York brought a similar dichotomy of its instructors and the lectures or lessons or they delivered.  One could even argue that it is more evident at the graduate level as it can more easily be determined which teachers are there genuinely to teach or to solely earn the wage that is attached to the teaching.  The teachers whose lessons are still a part of my musical identity are those teachers who cared deeply about pedagogy and were true advocates of their arts.  Greats like David Liebman and the amazing educator Garry Dial gave lessons and lectures that are still remembered to this day in verbatim.

How did these teachers do it?  By demonstrated core knowledge, enthusiasm and the time honored tradition of active and engaged instruction.  Mr. Dial disseminated the material, whether it was his own specific apparatus of learning pentatonic scales or understanding the concepts of bebop scales and the usage of passing or chord tones.  He had a deep understanding of the material and made a specific, individual system for learning the material.  This system of instruction had a profound influence on me and would influence my own concepts on delivering material to students.  Having an individual and unique system of teaching subject matter is invaluable to both student and instructor.  For the student, this system is able to penetrate the learning apparatus and burrow itself into long-term memory. For the instructor, it allows them to demonstrate an individual and unique system of delivering the material and allows them to develop their own specific voice and system of teaching, much like the jazz improvisor produces their own system for musical expression and delivery via improvisation.


Eddie PalmieriThe most important lessons I’ve received musically and pedagogically were the lessons that were taught via the time-honored tradition of apprenticeship.  My first early apprentice was the great afro-cuban pianist Eddie Palmieri.  There can be no stronger lesson taught then one under trial by fire, as it was every time I appeared on the stage with the noted (NEA Jazz) master.  I was periodically given looks of disgust and disbelief, looks of “why aren’t you playing this” or “why and the hell are you playing that”.  As a young, impressionable and ambitious 24 year trombonist, these experiences were scorched into my musical being and psyche.  I would go to the hotel after my performances with head held low, wondering just what I did wrong.  In the hotel room, it was hours of watching the ceiling in bed, wondering just what could I have done better during the previous show.

For the learner of music, there are no more impressionable music experiences than these.  The next time a particular musical situation arises in a concert, the student will immediately react in the way that is needed based on these experiences.  When I am on stage today, my responses to different musical situations are automatic based on those experiences.  These experiences place apprenticeship on a platform which, in my opinion, has no pedagogical equal. 

Professional Teaching

Inner City Schools

My first experiences teaching professionally en route to the development of my musical philosophy were in the inner city schools of New York (a vocation I would later return to).  Working in tandem with the Midori Foundation, the Coalition/Landmark school in Midtown Manhattan offered students an afterschool program to learn traditional music basics; theory, band ensemble and private lessons.

It was within this setting that I learned the value of customization of a lesson plan to tailor to the specific student whom I was teaching.  These kids had short attention spans and, in some cases, a learning disability which warranted an Individualized Education Plan.  I would tailor the lesson plans of my students for the day to their specific personalities, warranting marked results in their engagement and overall learning.  In the ensemble setting, I transcribed and customized a popular tune of that year, Outkast’s “I Like The Way You Move” so that the beginning-level instrumentalists could perform it.  They loved the effort and in turn showed greater engagement in their learning of the material.  The public performances were a rousing success, and were a lasting memory to me on just how effective customization of teaching for students can be.

Colleges and Universities

California State University, East BayTeaching in colleges in universities in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area offered yet another teaching experience that was highly influential.  I was brought on as an adjunct at the University of Washington, Los Medanos College (Pittsburg, CA) and California State University, Hayward to teach Popular Music in American History courses in a lecture format.

These courses warranted a great deal of preparation as I was now presenting material in lecture format to 30-40 college and university students.  As teachers at this level can readily attest to, a teacher must always be “on the ball” when disseminating material to students at this level.  They are easily distracted and constantly waiting for the teacher to issue wrong information - they want to prove that at this level they themselves have knowledge that they wish to impart on teacher, by way of proving them wrong. 

As with any lecture course, a healthy portion of prep before the lecture was always the most successful solution.  I also found that student engagement was at its highest levels when I utilized group teaching, online resources, social media, music and movie screenings.  Students could put a face or a tangible experience to the people and things connected to the material.  They yielded higher test scores and were more apt to remain enrolled in the class.

Development of Musical Philosophy

Real world musical experiences, customization of student lesson plans, development of high levels of student engagement, and the time-honored tradition of apprenticeship have all contributed to the development of my musical philosophy, which I present here in 4 parts:

1.  Real World Experiences Must be Propagated in the Classroom

The student must come into touch with real world musical simulations or actual experiences as soon as possible.  Thrusting the student into this environment will make them think objectively about creative solutions to the problem at hand and what is requisite to the musical moment.  This cultivates a system of meta-learning on the student’s behalf.

2. New Music Education for a New Time

New pedagogical methods reflecting today’s culture and technology must be implemented to keep the student engaged in the content.  More specifically, new technologies such as Web 2.0, social media, Youtube, etc. must all be implemented so that the student deems the content being presented as being relevant.

C24 Pro Tools Mixing Station at Harlem School of Urban Music3. Teaching Music of the Now

Students must be able to learn in an environment in which music that is relevant to them is being presented.  For example, hip-hop can be broken down in a study of musical form, harmony, and melody.  The student’s musical concept and expectation has instantly been improved by using this method of pedagogy.

4. Effective Pedagogical Concepts

Students must be actively engaged in order to readily assimilate material.  My specific method of teaching, which I prescribe to my current faculty at Harlem School of Urban Music, underlines the concepts of interacting/asking questions to teach musical lessons, learning by doing, “induced discovery” of concepts (which tend to be more readily retained), and strategic parings and groupings of students to encourage a specific outcome.

Full Circle: Designing and Founding the Harlem School of Music 

I have been fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to found an inner-city program which utilizes all of these key pedagogical concepts.  In 2010, I began the Harlem School of Urban Music, a program which boasts a first-of-its-kind curriculum in the US by teaching two key concepts utilized in modern music making, production and songwriting, by way of music theory.

Students enter the program on Mondays learning traditional music theory utilizing modern Web 2.0 programs such as Auralia to strengthen ear training and core musical theory concepts including, notes, scales, chords, rhythms, and song form.  On Tuesdays, they are thrust into the studio where they learn song sequencing and production on modern music production stations.

The key to the program is that the student has to call upon their knowledge of music theory in order to sequence a song in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).  Conversely, these music production stations featuring the DAWs help internalize key musical theory concepts.

Anthony Lee improvises new rhymes @ HSUMTo emphasize the real world experience, I routinely bring in prominent world-class musicians residing in the NYC metro area to share their own musical experiences with the students.  These musicians also record in our modern Pro Tools studio with the students assisting, thus making the student and integral part of the production process and leaving the student with an unforgettable experience.


My experiences as a musician and as a pedagogue have benefitted tremendously in developing a signature style of teaching.  Beginning my teaching in the inner-city school, giving lectures college and university, and developing my own program with my specific curriculum implemented has readily demonstrated to me the effectiveness of my pedagogical strategy.  Additionally, I have been able to witness how effective my philosophy has been when wielded by faculty at the Harlem School, and how the faculty has naturally taken to this specific teaching style.

HSUM Faculty Victor Rodriguez instructs the Thursday Engineering/Production classThe end result is that students garner a great excitement about music in general and develop better retention when it comes to key musical concepts.  These key concepts are in turn passed onto future students and colleagues as they march onward down the path of our current musical legacy and create their own, well-informed brand of music.


July '12 News: EP "75" Tour and HSUM debut CD

Dear *|FNAME|*,

I’m here in sweltering New York getting packed for what promises to be a special tour celebrating the great Eddie Palmieri’s 75th birthday. For my West Coast friends in the Bay Area - please take some of this sun off our hands!

Trying to keep this one short - I’ve got a lot to do before that bird heads for Barcelona on Thursday! Many things going on: the aforementioned tour, Harlem School of Music’s debut CD “Directions 2012” which hits this September and I will FINALLY be headed into the studio next month to begin recording my next album! Very excited about that last one...more to come.

HSUM Debut CD, EP "75" European Tour w/Eddie Palmieri, Webstore Sale

Harlem School of Urban Music “Directions 2012” Debut CD

The students at the Harlem School of Music took this project to a whole new level this year. They programmed, arranged, recorded and mixed a brand new CD featuring original music! The CD will be entitled Directions 2012 and will be available via digital download and hardcopy in September.

This Fall, the school will be expanding to both afterschool and daytime formats, becoming a part of the official curriculum for the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem NY!



"EP 75" European Tour w/EDDIE PALMIERI

EddiePalmieriI’m thrilled to joining the great maestro of Afro-Latin music for his European Tour celebrating his 75th Birthday and a lifetime of performing this magical music. Here’s to you Eddie! And here are the dates:

July 20th -Auditori Palau de Congressos - Peniscola (Castello) Spain
July 21th - Poble Espanyol - Barcelona, Spain tickets
July 24th - New Morning - Paris, France tickets
July 26th - Muelle Alfonso XII - Cadiz, Spain
July 27th - Haus der Kulturen - Berlin, Germany tickets
July 28th - Plages du Mourillon - Toulon, France
July 29th - Outlet - Serravalle, Italy

Sheet Music Webstore - Featured Selectiondb9 Two Shades of Nude

Tell Me a Bedtime Story - as featured on Doug Beavers 9 “Two Shades of Nude” - rearranged for Big Band

Listen to the track

Sample the Score

Sale - $50 buy



For all the latest info, visit

press room
sheet music






SHO Vienna, Luxembourg & Southern US


Feb '12 Newsletter

Hi there - I hope you’re having a great start to 2012 as we move now into February.

I’ve been hard at work writing writing writing (!) and spending a lot of time on Pro Tools as a couple of releases I’m producing are well on their way to be completed. These releases will get more of the spotlight in forthcoming newsletters - one happens to be my own next release which I’m very, very (very!) excited about. (I just finished scoring a harp. Yay harp!) Stay tuned.

Every year around this time I usually do a little retrospective on the previous year’s events. I find this process to be very enlightening and helpful to refocusing my efforts for the coming year. It’s almost like doing a tax return on your year’s calendar or journal....probably not the best analogy but the process works for me! You'll find the link below.

There’s also plenty of GOODIES below - scroll to the bottom to find a link to an entire glossary of latin music terms. Stuff like plena and guaguanco and moñas and coros. Really useful stuff! You’ll also find a link to my NEW “webstore”, which is basically a catalog of music and charts that I’ve accrued during my years of performing and arranging for all of these amazing artists. If you're an educator, I would highly recommend checking out some of these jazz, latin jazz, and salsa charts for your students. You’ll find the prices highly competitive.

Ok - enough blah blah. I hope you enjoy some of this content and I’ll be right back at ya soon.

As always - thanks for reading!

Upcoming Tour Dates, New Sheet Music Store, Year in Review 2011, Conjunto Rovira @ Cafe Cocomo SF, Glossary of Latin Terms


Feb 10-12 E Family feat. Pete, Peter Michael & Juan Escovedo- Yoshi's San Francisco, CA tickets

Feb 17 Spanish Harlem Orchestra, La Granada, Alhambra CA tickets

Feb 18 Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Ventura CA tickets

Feb 23-26 E Family feat. Pete, Peter Michael & Juan Escovedo - Jazz Alley, Seattle WA tickets

March 1 "Direct from NYC" Doug Beavers y Su Conjunto Rovira - Cafe Cocomo SF tickets


March 2012 Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Europe & US Tour

3/11 Luxemborg, LUXEMBORG tickets

3/14, 15 Wein, AUSTRIA tickets

3/17 Rialto Theatre, Georgia State University, Atlanta GA tickets

3/18 Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville TN tickets

Full Itinerary

DB.COM SHEET EddiePalmierimusic webstorE - NOW OPEN!

I’ve made available my complete catalog of 156 arrangements, orchestrations and transcriptions that I’ve completed through the years with artists like Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Conrad Herwig, Mingus Big Band & more!  

Also, you’ll find my 3 recordings with accompanying sheet music for each track on those albums.  Folks have been ordering in earnest for their schools - what does your school wanna play? We can easily orchestrate any of them for your school.

All orders processed easily via Paypal, within the business day.





YEAR IN REVIEW 2011EddiePalmieri

New schools, chance elevator meetings with legends, and a Nor 'easter in October.   Includes videos of my performances with Spanish Harlem Orchestra during our Euro Tour '11 and with Eddie Palmieri in Medellín, Colombia.





Show just added! Doug Beavers y su Conjunto Rovira will return to the Bay Area for this one very special show.

We'll be featuring the great Karl Perrazo (Carlos Santana) on percussion and also the amazing Courture Dance Alliance which will be creating special choreography to the music of Conjunto Rovira.

Cafe Cocomo. March 1st. It's on.




glossary of latin termsEddiePalmieri

My good friend trumpeter Pete Nater came across this wonderful glossary of Latin Terms.From guaguanco to plena to "El Barrio" this is great stuff that you'll want revisit again and again. Enjoy.

go to the Glossary now



For all the latest info, visit

press room
sheet music





Year in Review 2011


Harelm School of Urban Music Pro Recording StudioWinter 2011 saw my first winter in New York after being away for 5 years - it seemed that New York had something brutal in store..the worst winter that New York had ever seen in terms of snowfall.  Every weekend it was “well folks, another 27 inches of snow will drop on Jersey City” an so on and so forth.  Braving the elements, however, my Harlem School of Urban Music and Recording Arts gained some real traction when we got the pro recording studio set up.

February gave me the opportunity to escape from Old Man Winter’s wrath, fleeing the city for a couple of stints with Pete Escovedo & Sheila E. at Yoshi’s San Francisco and Jazz Alley, Seattle.  While in Seattle, I got to join my good friend Thomas Marriott for a joint gig of ours at Tula’s and a concert with Michael Feinstein at Seattle’s beautiful Benaroya Hall.

March gave further respite from the historical winter in NY, allowing me to join Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra for a gig in Los Cabos, Mexico, of all places.  My Conjunto Rovira band was also asked to headline the 2nd annual San Francisco Salsa Festival.

Back at the Harlem School of Urban Music, we auditioned and recruited our very first student class and began running classes in music theory, production and recording.  The Harlem School Live! series also got underway and we were able to bring world-class NYC musicians into the facility to rehearse, record, and work with the students: 


They say things really change in Spring, and that held especially true for me in April.  I found myself single after six years of a relationship, four of them while being engaged.  This naturally really made me think about my life, goals and direction in a purely introspective way.  Even at this writing I can’t help but think about what a different path I am currently on.  This is a good thing.

Late April gave me the opportunity to record on Richie Viruet’s Blue Clave All Stars DVD.  Here’s a link to one of the tunes on which I’m featured.

With May arrived better weather and some more action on the music scene.  I was able to perform with Spanish Harlem Orchestra at Erie, PA and in Harlem NYC for the annual Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival.  On the 28th, I rejoined Eddie Palmieri La Perfecta II for a gig at Jacksonville Jazz Festival.  After the awesome gig, I found myself on an elevator with two people whom you might know:

Eddie Palmieri & Herbie Hancock - I'll never forget this moment!


June 2011 saw the arrival of the Summer touring season in full swing.  In my view the Puerto Rican Parade in NYC as the non-official start to this touring season, and I was able to perform on a float with “El Loco” Willie Alvarez for 2011’s version of the parade.  My memory of this parade is somewhat fuzzy - but that which I do remember was great fun!

June also saw the end of the first official semester at Harlem School of Urban Music.  I was extremely proud of what the students accomplished and all of the work they put in.  In collaboration with the video team at HSUM, we were able to put together this short EPK for the school:

From the school, it was back on the plane for more touring.  I joined Sheila E. for her gig at The Hague Jazz Festival in Amsterdam on the 18th  and then immediately flew back to Chicago, where I joined SHO for a gig in that great city’s Puerto Rican day celebration on the 19th.  I also appeared with SHO at the Toronto Jazz Festival and then Eddie Palmieri La Perfecta II played for the hometown crowd at BB King’s, NYC in Times Square.

It was more of the same in July where I played with the Pete, Sheila, and the E Family at the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival (meeting some great friends in the process - like this legend and at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, CA (south of San Jose).  A week later, we did our summer stint at Yoshi’s Oakland.

It was at this point that I was notified that I was a full-fledged member of Spanish Harlem Orchestra and that I would be joining them for their Euro Tour 2011, which ended up being a blast and an experience.  Here’s the schedule from that tour and accompanying video from some of our gigs:


7/28 SHO Vence, France

7/30 Rotterdam

7/31 Paris

8/4 Marciac

8/5 Corsica

8/7 Berlin

In August I got to fly back to my “homeland”, the SF Bay Area and perform with my ensembles.  A highlight was definitely my band’s appearance at San Jose Jazz Festival featuring Wayne Wallace and Abel Figueroa in a 3 trombone front line.  Here’s video from that performance:


 Fall 2011

September was full speed ahead as well, and I was able to join Eddie Palmieri La Perfecta II for some historic gigs in Medellin & Barranquilla, Colombia.  Here’s some video from those amazing concerts:

Spanish Harlem Orchestra also toured the West Coast towards the later half of the month, and I was able to spend my birthday with them on stage at La Granada in Los Angeles.  Here’s SHO’s itinerary from that tour:

9/21 SHO LA

9/22 SHO LA Granada

9/23 SHO San Jose Cultural Arts Center

9/24 SHO Albuquerque NM

9/25 SHO San Antonio TX

October saw the pace notch down a step, but it wasn’t without an exciting trip to St. Petersburg, Russia with SHO.  Some places we never dream of going when we are young, but as it were I found myself with a ticket on Aeroflot to Moscow.  We transferred on to St. Petersburg for an amazing gig at the St. Petersburg Salsa Festival with some wonderful people.

The end of October threw a total screwball - a full fledged Nor’ Easter on the 29th.  The same day that SHO was to leave for Boston for a concert that evening.  Half the band was diverted on to Amtrak and we arrived in Boston 30 minutes before the showtime.  “But I thought you said you wanted to be a musician.”, said Mother.

Trying to hustle back to Penn Station NYC to catch Boston train!

November finally slowed down and allowed me to focus on the Harlem School and on composing my next recording.  One gig that was a total treat was performing with Terese Geneco and Shaynee Rainbolt at Yoshi’s Oakland CA for a tribute show for the legendary arranger Russ Garcia.  Russ was supposed to be there but he had to stay back in New Zealand due to doctor’s orders.  Terese and Shaynee skyped him in on video and we were able to play his arrangements for him and for the audience live.  Sadly, Russ passed a mere week later.  Some gigs you never forget.

2011 ended with a bang with a stint at Yoshi’s San Francisco with Eddie Palmieri and a show in Folsom CA (close to Sacramento).  Besides having a great time, I learned some definitive lessons from these particular shows.

A day after it was a rush up to Eastern Canada for tour with Spanish Harlem’s “Salsa Navidad” show, where we performed in St. Catherines, Kingston, and Toronto.  The Toronto show in particular was special with an amazing venue in the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall.

Finally, 2011 winded down and I was fortunate enough to be able to vacation with my family in Maui HI.  It made me realize the time you spend relaxing and seeing the world is just as important as the time you spend hustling and working.  They are truly yin and yang.