Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.
Starting with the latest and working backward: in the fall of 2017, I began hosting
a jazz and interview show on our local Pawling public station, WPWL, 107.3.FM, aka
pawlingpublicradio.org. Broadcast live on Wednesdays at 7-8 p.m. EST, "Dr. J's Jazz
Emporium" is one hour, live, focusing on one guest at a time: we play his/her music
and talk about it. It's relaxed, fun and informative, and repeats four times after its
live recording: the next two Thursdays at 11 a.m., and the next two Sundays at 9:30
a.m. It's also archived on Mixcloud at the WPWL site.
Guests so far have included: Gene Bertoncini, Chris Brubeck, David Finck, Bill Mays,
Sean Smith, Paulinho Garcia, Kim Nazarian, John Clayton, Peter Eldridge, Taylor
Eigsti, Jay Leonhart, Lorraine Feather, Lynn Seaton, Marlena Shaw, uber-publicist
Ann Braithwaite, Jacky Ryan; Paul Meyers; uber-critic and author of "The Playboy
Guide to Jazz," Neil Tesser; David Budway and Ken Needleman (who run Maureen's
Jazz Cellar and the Jazzmasters series at Sarah's Wine Bar, respectively); Sean Smith
representing The Humanity Quartet (composed of Smith, Joel Frahm, Peter
Bernstein and Leon Parker); Ted Rosenthal, and Eliane Elias.
"Dr J's Jazz Emporium" is booked into the fall of 2019. Already scheduled: Wycliffe
Gordon, Lukas Rande, Martin Wind, Darmon Meader, Maucha Adnet, Leslie Pintchik,
Terell Stafford, Susan Pereira, Todd Strait, Mike Metheny, Don Braden and Paquito
d'Rivera. There are also some solo shows in the works, like a tribute to Marilyn
and Alan Bergman, and explorations of gypsy jazz and "third stream" music.
I'm in the midst of updating my 2012 book, "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the Myth
of the Mad Genius." A rare breed of serious scholarship and humor, "Hoax"
examines the toxic notion that great creativity must be linked to some kind of
mental disorder. The myth began with a misunderstanding of Plato and traveled
through the centuries to today, where there's a vague public notion that it's been
"scientifically" proved. Hogwash!
Despite being self-published, with no academic affiliation, agent, mainstream PR
machine, or any social media whatsoever, news about The Insanity Hoax somehow
reached the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In 2016 they invited me to join a
group of 30 experts who were to determine whether Vincent was "crazy"—and if so,
what kind. So they flew me over there for the meeting, which was fascinating (the
final consensus: no, he wasn't). My brief, invited speech to the public is even on
YouTube (search Schlesinger and Amsterdam). "Hoax" has also been a textbook at
both Temple University and the Royal College of Music, in London.
I was also invited to contribute a chapter to a psych textbook on "Creativity and
Mental Illness" (Cambridge U Press, 2014). Out of 17 international experts, I seem
to be the only one who doesn't believe that people need to be crazy to be creative.
As the book's summary states, "we have to agreed with Schlesinger that the myth
has been seriously oversold." And now the editor tells me that the field of
psychology is finally turning away from the myth. HUZZAH!
For more, including a free pdf download of my much-quoted 2009 journal article
on the subject, please visit theinsanityhoax.com.
Another central passion is helping musicians (why else write for AAJ for free?). In
2011, I co-executive-produced the CD "Trust" for the Sean Smith Quartet [superb
bassist/composer Sean, with John Hart (guitar), John Ellis (sax), and Russ Meissner
(drums).] In 2014, I helped the fine Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Paulinho Garcia
produce "Beautiful Love," which turned out to be his best-selling album.
And now (if you're still reading!), the backstory—i.e., some things I've done and
been: earned a PhD in psychology from NYU, toiled as therapist, school shrink,
crisis counselor, university professor, and college administrator. Authored a
biography of Humphrey Bogart (Metro Books) and the psychology chapter for
Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook (Garland Press) called "Psychology, Evil, and
Sweeney Todd, or Don't I Know You, Mister?"
Back when it had a real opinion and book page, The Baltimore Sun paid me for
many book reviews and invited ramblings about psychology, education, and general
cultural idiocy. I am/have been a writer, consultant, and/or editorial board member
for a number of psychology journals, including the Journal of Creative Behavior. I
was also the humor columnist for "Topia," a glossy national magazine about artists
that lasted three whole years before going belly-up.
Other work has appeared in The American Psychologist, The National
Psychologist, The Counseling Psychologist, The British Journal of Psychiatry, the
Journal of Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, The Psychology of Aesthetics,
Creativity and the Arts, The Skeptical Inquirer, and the Journal of Polymorphous
Perversity (no kidding - my article called "Free the DSM IV" was even re-published
in "More Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality" (Brunner/Mazel).
My music writing has been in the All Music Guide, The Jazz Institute of Chicago,
The Sondheim Review, The Jazzletter, jazz.com, the Encyclopedia of American
Studies, and of course the best of all: Allaboutjazz.com, where since 2002 I've been
reviewing music and creating two columns: Shrinktunes and Nite & Disk. I have
another column on CreativityPost.com called "The mad genius and other follies."
I do liner notes as well, but selectively, in line with my policy of never doing bad
or even blah reviews; if I don't genuinely love a CD, I just won't cover it. Let
someone else pour negative ink on somebody's dream. Artists whose CDs I've
"linered" include Don Friedman, Shelly Berg, and Frank Vignola.
Finally, I'm also a musician. Trained as a classical pianist, not a bad folk guitarist
in my hippie days, I spent many years doing avocational jazz singing and
drumming -- even got paid for singing and playing djembe at a wedding. For
three years, I was the "chick singer" in the JS Fourtet, until I disbanded it.
I also love traveling, gardening, long walks on winter beaches -- oops, wrong site!
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2018-02-06
I love jazz because when it's done right, there is no music more personal, joyful and engaging.
I was first exposed to jazz by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto in 1963-4.
My House Concert Story
Hosted two house concerts with Gene Bertoncini playing solo. My house is small, and far from so-called "civilization," so the guest
lists only had about 14 people each. But they were chosen well: they were mesmerized by his playing, and enjoyed his jokes (!) and
warm, relaxed personality. It was catered by the local Italian deli. Not a pretentious afternoon; very family-like.