Why this dog looks a little sad . . .

Photo of adorable dog courtesy of Bob Sneider

 

The reason? This handsome dog will be missing owner Bob Sneider, the hardest-working jazz guitarist during The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.  He (Bob) hosts jam sessions every night with his Trio, among other things.  I caught up with Bob on the interwebs.

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With the Jazz Festival here again, this must be a crazy and fulfilling time for you.  How do you prepare for those late night jam sessions?

 There is no preparing for the jam sessions. Years of practicing and developing a repertoire of several hundred songs and flexibility to play them in other keys / tempos helps. Physically, I am a gym rat. I go to the gym every day during the fest. Swim and cardio vascular stuff. That helps with endurance. Being mentally alert and thinking about planning the sets and working the list of sitters-in is key. I do not drink at all — just water and coffee.

The educational workshops for teens are such a good idea.  What’s a basic piece of advice you might give a kid walking into a jam session for the first time?

 The best advice is advice that my teacher once gave to a young Chick Corea in Cambridge, MA. Learn a few tunes really well (know the melody, chord changes, form). Don’t try to solo too long. Listen to the rhythm section feeding you the groove and the chords. Play to express — not impress.

You’ve been teaching for a long time, at Eastman since 1997.  You’re also a dad.  Do you teach your own kids?

I do not teach my own kids. They have amazing public school teachers in Brighton plus they take lessons at the Eastman Community Music School. I help with rhythms, articulations, scales as needed. They are brass players Ben - trombone and Emily - French horn. Occasionally I help with jazz improvisation theory, solo ideas for Ben. Also, I assist in making certain that his lesson plans are being attended to — without being a warden. Letting them have self-discovery and making personal strides is more meaningful. However, when solo fest is looming 10 days away and rhythms, articulations etc. are not ship-shape I try to be a ‘teaching assistant’…sometimes it’s met with ‘go away!’ and sometimes it’s genuinely appreciated.

My dad was my band teacher, and I remember feeling so much guilt for not wanting to practice.  Now that I’m a parent, I’ve had to stop myself from pushing my own teens too much.  What’s challenging for you as a musical parent?

Kind of a continuation of answer #3: The most challenging thing for a music parent that is a music teacher is letting go of the teacher title. Being a genuine supporter and alleviator of stress is more critical than micro-managing your kid’s NYSSMA solo or audition piece. However, helping when it’s needed is still being a good parent. The toughest part — when your child steps in the room for an audition….not pressing your ear through the door. 

What’s the difference between being a music teacher and a musical parent? 

 This is a segue from answer  #4….For the music parent that is a Music Teacher, the nervousness that you feel is inexplicable. You want your child only to have positive experiences. As a teacher — I meet with my students and witness their growth every week. They enter competitions and take auditions and I feel 100% confidence in their effort (they kick butt and make me look good!). I guess the emotional side of not wanting your kid to take some lumps is the biggest difference. Recently, Ben had a great audition and will be in The Hochstein Philharmonia next year. I enjoy each role immensely. It’s great when my kids want to play with me — especially when they ask. Being a guitarist, I can be an accompanist — more of a helper than a coach. Motivating your students requires a very different tone than encouraging your children. I am constantly learning. My wife is always reminding me to praise the kids more for doing well in practice. I must admit turning off the teacher is a hard thing to do.

Does your family see you much during the jazz festival? When do you sleep?

 I see my family during the Fest…a little bit less for sure. I love when they attend my shows. Early sets will make that easier this year: playing with Nancy Kelly, Such Sweet Thunder, Carl Atkins, a guest spot with the Webster Schroeder HS Jazz band and a library gig with Mike Melito. The toughest days are the first few weekdays. Gotta get up early to get kids to school. Sometimes my mother-in-law comes over and lets me sleep in. Ben will sit in with me at the Jam again. He will play with the ECMS Jr Jazz Band on the Gibbs Stage. The nuttiest day is the day after the fest ends….it’s the first day of our Eastman Jazz Camp.

 
Before joining the Eastman faculty in late 1997, Sneider toured for several years with two-time Grammy Award winner Chuck Mangione. He’s made many fine recordings (see more here) and with the Bob Sneider Trio hosts the now-legendary jam sessions every night
during the jazz festival from 10:30 p.m. at the Rochester Plaza State Street Bar and Grill.  ~ Brenda