An Interview With Gilson Schachnik
What is your name and current position?
Gilson Schachnik. Associate Professor, Berklee College of Music (Ear Training Department).
How did you hear about the Taubman work?
I heard about it from Danilo Perez, with whom I was taking a few lessons at one time.
What is your reason for studying?
Constant discomfort when playing; tendinitis; severe technical limitations (speed, articulation, sound).
What results have you experienced with Taubman teachers?
Since I started doing this work with Bob Durso, a faculty member of the former Taubman Institute, I have completely eliminated the symptoms of discomfort and, for the first time, I have been able to play works from the classical repertoire.
What is the Taubman work’s impact on playing jazz?
It changed completely the way I play and the level of confidence I have when performing.
Maybe as important as eliminating the symptoms of discomfort was how this method changed the way I practice.
Before, I had no strategy whatsoever to solve each technical problem in a piece of music I was working on. I basically kept trying to play the whole piece over and over, hoping that would “magically” solve the problems. That created a constant feeling of frustration (because I never could play the piece) and of being overwhelmed (trying to play huge chunks of music to “finish” the piece).
The result of this dysfunctional way of practicing is that one can never perform any music and one starts to believe that a lack of talent is the reason for the inadequacy, which increases the level of frustration.
For me, the most important feature of the Taubman work is that it offers very specific and detailed solutions for each individual technical problem. Nowadays I feel I can practice a couple of bars in a day and still feel that I accomplished a lot, because I actually did solve a problem and that will allow me to play the whole piece the way I’d want to hear it played.
What you can now do in your playing that you could not do before?
I can execute fast passages with articulation and without fatigue. I’ve been studying classical pieces that I had never dreamed I could possibly try to play one day. I learned how to play chords, which is a huge part of jazz playing, and used to cause a lot of discomfort in my playing.
As whole, I feel that, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to truly be able to express myself at the instrument.
Can you name something tangible that you have accomplished since starting to study the Taubman work?
As a freelance jazz musician, I rely almost completely on the way I perform to continue to be called for gigs.
In other words, if I perform well, the musicians I’m playing with as well as the other musicians that might be in the audience, will hire me and recommend me to other people. Conversely, if I perform poorly, I reduce enormously the chances of getting other gigs.
One can see the obvious anxiety this situation would inflict on anyone.
I find more and more that the only way a performing musician can cope with this level of stress is to have a solid technique background the he/she can depend on consistently.
I feel that since I started the Taubman work, not only that amount of work I have been called for, but also the level of musicians I started playing with, changed dramatically.