A New Face - Make Mine an OliRockberger Please- with Zero Cheese!
My other first major influence was Pat Metheny who I saw in London at age 14 with the Pat Metheny Group. Metheny for me is at the very pinnacle of creating music which is deeply melodic, harmonically rich, and at the same time accessible to a large audience- everything I hope my music to be. All of these artists continue to be major influences for me today and always will be.
AAJ: And now?
OR: I think it's very important that as a musician you remain open to influences. If you want to keep evolving as an artist, then you need to keep actively seeking out inspiration. When I started Berklee in '99, I was introduced through friends to Gospel/Soul/R&B and was listening to (to name a few) Take 6, Kirk Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. I also discovered Michael MacDonald, Bruce Hornsby, D'Angelo, an English artist called Lewis Taylor and saxophonist Kenny Garett who is one of favorite improvisers. Most recently I have discovered a love for Peter Gabriel, George Duke and Brian McKnight. I got the opportunity whilst at Berklee to perform synths alongside R&B/gospel pianist/singer/songwriter Frank McComb and he has also become a major recent influence for me.
AAJ: What musical experiences in England precipitated your attendance at Berklee? It seems you already had some notoriety in England before going off to music school. How'd that happen?
OR: In my senior year of high school, I was in my own trio and we entered a competition called Music For Youth. We ended up winning the award for Outstanding Ensemble and I won "The New Composition Award" and "The Roland Piano Award." Our prize was to perform at Royal Albert Hall as part of "The School Proms." Performing at the Royal Albert Hall would be amazing at any age, but we were 18 years old! It was a life changing experience for us. I was interviewed by the "Times" in a series entitled "Great British Hopes" and so there was a little buzz at the time- but nothing major. It' only now that my profile is starting to increase in the UK as result of my band's recent performance at the Brecon Jazz Festival.
AAJ: Why did you pick Berklee? Was your time there your most intense growth period as a musician? If not, what was?
OR: Berklee has a terrific reputation in Europe as being the finest schools of contemporary music in the world. I received a scholarship to the 5-Week Summer Performance Program at age 17 and thought it was an amazing school. I auditioned in Barcelona in December '97 for a scholarship to the undergraduate program and discovered two weeks later that I had received a full tuition scholarship to attend. I cried in amazement and disbelief when I heard the news. Receiving that award is my most significant moment in music so far and is something I regard as one of my greatest successes.