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 news and working backward: I've recently begun a jazz and
interview show on our local Pawling public station, WPWL, 107.3.FM. "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, or anything else that comes up. It's relaxed, fun and
informative. 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, and Jay Leonhart. The show is booked into April of 2019 as
more musicians get wind of it. The free publicity is priceless, since the show airs
live, then repeats on the station (and its Website) four more times, and is also
archived on mixcloud. I'm delighted to offer this opportunity to support the music
and the people who make it, as I have happily done for decades by writing for free.
NOTE: Any musician interested in being a guest should contact me through AAJ.
I'm also 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, paying special attention to how creativity works with jazz
musicians. The book describes how the myth began with a misunderstanding of
Plato and traveled through the centuries to now, where is a vague public notion
that it's been "scientifically" proved. Hogwash!
Despite being a self-published book, with no academic affiliation or publisher PR
machine or even any social media, news about The Insanity Hoax reached the Van
Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In the summer of 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). I'm also tickled to report that "Hoax" has been
a textbook at both Temple University and the Royal College of Music, in London.
I've gotten some swell reviews and done several NPR interviews, author lectures
and podcasts. There was even a moment on the HuffPo Live, which tickled me
before I understood that they will interview virtually any breathing entity about
Best of all, I was invited to contribute to a psych textbook from Cambridge
University Press: "Creativity and Mental Illness" (2014). Out of 17 international
experts on the subject, it seems I'm almost the only one who doesn't believe that
people need to be really crazy to be really creative. In fact, the summary chapter
states "we have to agreed with Schlesinger that the myth has been seriously
oversold." And according to the editor of this definitive text, largely because of my
writings (not just the book), the tide has turned in the field of psychology, which no
longer takes the myth seriously. Huzzah!
Another central passion is helping underfamous artists get the attention they
deserve. 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 worked with Brazilian guitarist/vocalist
Paulinho Garcia to produce "Beautiful Love." More are in the works.
And now, 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
I've published numerous book reviews and invited ramblings about psychology,
education, and general cultural idiocy for The Baltimore Sun, back when it had a
real opinion and books section. 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 I'm a senior
reviewer and creator of two columns: Shrinktunes and Nite & Disk. I also have a
column on The Creativity Post 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
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.
- My picks keep changing as my ears keep growing. It's getting harder to find hats.