Take Five with Rob Saffer of the Creative Music Foundation

Creative Music Foundation BY

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In this installment of Take Five we hear from Executive Director Rob Saffer of the Creative Music Foundation, an organization founded in 1971 by Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman. CMS has brought together leading innovators in the jazz and world music communities through their CMS workshops.

About the Creative Music Studio Fall Workshop:
Composer/multi-instrumentalist and Creative Music Studio alumnus Peter Apfelbaum, master percussionist/educator Billy Martin, and composer/saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa will join CMS Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the Creative Music Studio Fall 2015 Workshop Intensive, October 5-9, at the ear-inspiring Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. CMS's Fall 2015 Workshop features a format designed to create ample opportunities for participants and Guiding Artists to interact directly, both formally and informally. This workshop, during the height of the autumn colors, features one Guiding Artist working with participants in two workshops each day. As in the past, there will be daily CMS Basic Practice (body movement, breath work, rhythm and vocal training), as well as 90 minutes each day with Karl Berger leading orchestra of improvisers. Additional Guiding Artists, such as bassist Ken Filiano and vocalist Jen Shyu, among others, will be on hand to work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily.

CMS Workshop Open to All:
Open to all instrumentalists, vocalists and even non-musicians. Anyone can register via the Creative Music Foundation website, even until the day before the workshop starts on October 5. And, due to a successful fundraising drive, generous scholarship discounts are available—just contact CMS to find out.

What's it like to attend CMS?
CMS Workshops feature four days of intensive workshops, master classes, intimate concerts and informal jam sessions that inspire active listening, personal expression, improvisation and musical exploration. Musicians on any instrument, including voice, are welcome, as are non-musicians. Adults who played music earlier in their lives can benefit from this lifelong learning opportunity that offers participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from and play with music masters, and to simply spend time with them in an informal, personal setting. The non-traditional atmosphere of the Creative Music Studio Workshop encourages participants to experiment, push beyond limits, genres and categories, to take risks, and to develop their own deeply personal musical expression. "CMS has always been about musical sharing across cultures," said Karl Berger. "This workshop delivers on that promise. We're excited to learn more about Indian Carnatic music from Rudresh, and are blessed to be joined by Billy, an extraordinary drummer who is equally as committed to education. And, of course Peter, is the consummate CMS artist, originally coming to CMS as a teenager in the 1970s."

CMS Workshop Guiding Artists in 2013 and 2104 included: Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Henry Threadgill Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Apfelbaum, Tony Malaby, Cyro Baptista, Marilyn Crispell, Steven Bernstein, Jason Kao Hwang, Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Steve Gorn , Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Thomas Buckner, Judi Silvano, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Ken Filiano, Badal Roy, Omar Tamez, and John Menegon, in addition to Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso. Steven Bernstein, Amir ElSaffar and Warren Smith were Guiding Artists for CMS's Spring 2015 Workshop. Registration is still open.

What People Say About CMS Workshops...
Here are a few testimonials from recent CMS Workshop attendees: "When I returned from the workshop I picked up my instrument and was blown away by the change in my mental and physical approach to playing. I was no longer afraid to play, no longer in doubt of the truth and power of my own inner music," said a CMS Spring Workshop participant. "I found my playing was reborn. I had gained a refreshed view of sound and rhythm. My hearing was more attuned and my mind was, too." Another recent workshop participant said, "CMS offers a welcoming, supportive and validating environment in which to be reborn, musically and spiritually. I came away with a new excitement for the appreciation, practice and performance of music. No longer was I overwhelmed by a seemingly insurmountable task of mastering music; now I could make music with joy and confidence." And more: "It's a chance to nurture one's musical self, and be thoughtfully guided to touch on key aspects of music making skills -additive rhythm, body, voice, and instrumental skills. It's an opportunity to focus on playing with other sophisticated musicians who appreciate music as an endless exploration." "I feel like I've been given the key to a special language shared by a few select musicians and artists in the world. I will always remember and use this special gift whenever possible. Thank you!"

The CMS teaching approach:
CMS Workshops are immersive experiences. Yet there is no feeling of competition, just remarkable support from the Guiding Artists and other attendees. The goal is to help people develop their own sound, their own musical personality. This approach has been pioneered at CMS for over 40 years when The Creative Music Foundation was founded in 1971 by musicians Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman. Its initial advisory board, comprised of legends from all aspects of music, the arts and philosophy, included composer John Cage, conductor/musician Gil Evans, philosopher/educator Buckminster Fuller, composer George Russell, and composer/conductor Gunther Schuller. Their goal was to establish a nonprofit organization focused on improvisation and musical cross-pollination that complemented musicians' academic studies, a place where music as a universal language could be explored and expanded.

The Creative Music Foundation facilitates the experience and expression of our deep connection with the transforming, liberating and healing energies of music, a universal language that we all share and is as essential to our humanity as the air we breathe. CMF does this by providing creative space where musicians from different backgrounds and traditions explore together, share and pass on their most personal musical expression and understanding, emphasizing keen awareness, focused practice, listening and communication. CMF pursues its mission through workshops, residencies, coaching, concert performances, recordings and archival projects in the USA and around the world.

Your dream band:
A CMS dream band always includes musicians from many ends of the musical spectrum -jazz, classical and world music -finding a common musical language. This fall workshop will feature guiding artists Berger, Apfelbaum, Mahanthappa, Martin, Sertso, Shyu, Filiano and others in unique combinations never before heard. Similarly, CMS is about to release the second 3-CD set from its archive of rare recordings that include gems from Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Collin Walcott and many others. The first CD set called Best of 2014 by Cadence and Jazz Times, and received rave reviews all over the world, which can be read here.

Our best experience:
Our best experience is when we receive feedback from workshop participants such as: "CMS workshops are rare and treasured events. I'm not aware of any other opportunity for a musician (or other artist) to meet, work and live with and learn from such an array of creative, generous people. At each CMS workshop I've attended, I've come away inspired to delve more deeply into a couple of areas to which I conclude I haven't been paying the proper amount of attention—this time it was polyrhythms and Marilyn Crispell's compositional strategies, but next time I'm sure it'll be something different. Participation in the workshops has enhanced my confidence and willingness to trust myself; it's extremely rewarding to take chances and try new things with such talented, supportive musicians, and to be able to communicate and connect on such a deep level." "This is a workshop for musicians of all backgrounds to come together and make music that exists solely in the moment. It's a chance for a musician to free themselves from the bonds of musical style and just play, while keeping their voices fully intact." "Workshop content was brilliant, visceral, challenging if you wanted it to be, worldly and very interesting." "The conversation is stimulating. The atmosphere is great and the people are friendly. It's an opportunity to be heard, but also be a part of something bigger than oneself."

Favorite venue:
CMS Workshops take place at the stunningly gorgeous Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY, just outside of CMS's Woodstock home. Workshops are held in a gorgeous, rustic barn and evening performances are in the Roadhouse, a wonderful, rural, intimate venue with fantastic sound. It holds less than one hundred people, affording everyone a "living room" experience.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
We're obviously partial to CMS Archive Selections Vol. 1 and the soon-to-be-relased Vol. 2. And so were the critics. Read the reviews are here. CD Sets are available for sale on via Innova Recordings' website, Amazon or via iTunes as well as directly on the CMF website.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
CMS is creating a safe and nourishing environment away from the stresses of everyday life to allow musicians and non-musicians to immerse themselves fully in all aspects of music: listening, playing, innovating, and finding one's own personal sound, voice and style.

Did you know...
The Creative Music Foundation was founded in 1971 by musicians Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman. Its initial advisory board, comprised of legends from all aspects of music, the arts and philosophy, included composer John Cage, conductor/musician Gil Evans, philosopher/educator Buckminster Fuller, composer George Russell, and composer/conductorGunther Schuller. Their goal was to establish a nonprofit organization focused on improvisation and musical cross-pollination that complemented musicians' academic studies, a place where music as a universal language could be explored and expanded. For most of its 44 years, CMF's main program was the Creative Music Studio, a physical location in Woodstock, NY where musicians from all over the world lived, played, interacted with each other and created a body of music broad and deep. Based on a 45-acre campus with multiple residences, workshop rooms and performance halls, hundreds of Guiding Artists, including several MacArthur 'Genius' Fellow Award winners (George Lewis, John Zorn, Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden) lived, played and shared musical wisdom with thousands of participants. Over 550 concerts were recorded and are currently being digitized as part of the CMS Archive Project. The CMS Archive is being housed at Columbia University's Library and the best pieces are being included in the CD compilations mentioned above.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Today, there are more great musicians than ever graduating from music schools and conservatories. While many of them are extremely talented and knowledgeable, they have not had the time or the space to truly find their own sound, their own artistry. That's where CMS comes in, as a type of complement to the traditional education these musicians have received. Additionally, CMS workshops are great for fans of the music, helping them get inside the mind and heart of the music and musicians they love, and to further develop their ear and attuning to music. Registration is still open.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Musicians are realizing that all music is just music—that style and genres are meaningless. "Any person in today's music scene knows that rock, classical, folk and jazz are all yesterday's titles," declared Creative Music Foundation co-founder Ornette Coleman. "I feel that the music world is getting closer to being a singular expression, one with endless musical stories of mankind." Musicians also need space and time to create and become the artists they want to be. Being constantly on the run, making financial ends meet, creates a situation not conducive to artistic growth. CMS Workshops seek to fill this void.

What is in the near future?
October 5-9, 2015: CMS Fall Workshop 2015
October 15, 2015: CMS Archive Selection Series Vol 2 released.
June 6-10, 2016 CMS Spring Workshop 2016 with MeShell NdegeOcello, Adam Rudolph, Hassan Hakmoun, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and others
September 26-30, 2016: CMS Fall Workshop 2016 with Milford Graves, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and others. Many Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra performances and other workshops throughout the year.

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