By Tyler Fox
Is it just me, or does it seem like fewer and fewer people pursue the arts, namely music, in higher education? Despite what your focus is, you hear the horror stories about the brutal job market and struggling musicians just not being able to survive. And with the recent success of Whiplash showing a VERY, VERY small part of that intense formal training, I am sure fewer and fewer people are sitting there wanting to pay to have J.K. Simmons throw a chair at their head and scream in their face (I mean, I want that but I’m kind of weird).
Well, when you think about it, these so-called horror stories of those struggling to find a job in the real world come with any career. It’s tough out there, but it still just feels like it is tougher with music. That may be because we don’t talk about the success stories, like Joe Goehle. Goehle wasn’t scared of the potential struggle, he embraced it and has become a successful professional musician living in New York City.
Goehle, like many of us, began playing music in concert band early in school. While most of us peter out over the years (I played baritone sax through the end of high school), Joe didn’t. He decided to go on to earn his Bachelor of Music from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. And that wasn’t enough. After graduation Goehle decided to move to New York City and take on his Masters of Music at New York University in Jazz Studies. On top of that, Joe has worked with acclaimed jazz and improv musicians to further his craft.
Along with constantly performing and teaching, Goehle has began work on a project that focuses on his passions and curiosities. Cerebral People is an in-depth study, via performance, of improvisation techniques and how the music and people involved are affected. Joe is currently working on a recording for this project and has future plans that we discuss later in this piece. Stay tuned for news on Joe and Cerebral People at his website.You decided to pursue a career performing and teaching music, focusing on bass, but when did you start playing and what was your first instrument?
Unlike many musicians, I did not really come to start playing instruments at an early age. My first experience performing on an instrument was when I was about 9 years old when I picked up trombone in the school band. Trombone was the instrument that everyone played in my family, so it felt like a “rite of passage.”
When did you decide that you wanted to follow this career path?
Music was always something that came naturally to me and I participated in a number of honor bands and extracurricular programs as a young child and teenager. When I was in 10th grade I was fortunate enough to perform in a youth wind ensemble comprised of some of the best student musicians across New York State. We performed a band arrangement of the wonderful choral piece “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen and it was incredible. The feeling was indescribable. I have been and continue to chase that feeling in everything I do musically. It is something that motivated me to continue studying and working hard.
You attended the Carne School of Music at SUNY Potsdam then finished your collegiate career getting your masters at NYU. What made you choose these two schools? What was it like making the transition from a remote Northern New York college town with limited opportunities to living in New York City, where music is just about everywhere?
I chose Crane because I wanted to become an educator and Crane is one of the best schools for Music Education in the country. While there, I was also exposed to so many experiences that truly shaped my musical understanding. As one of the only improvising bass players at the school, I was given many opportunities that I would have otherwise missed.
I had always wanted to try living in New York City and NYU offered me the perfect opportunity to “try it out” while still being in a safe environment. I was challenged from the start, as the musicians in New York are some of the best from around the world. I took every gig I was offered and tried to absorb something from every performance.
The difference between these two places is immense and there were good and bad parts about both. I think that being in a small scene first helped build my musical confidence, which in turn helped with my success in New York. All music is related, in small towns and big cities. I cherish my times in both places.You are originally from the Western New York region. I have to assume that the music scene there is far different than in New York City. Could you talk a little bit about the differences, or similarities, of the scenes in WNY and NYC?
I actually think the scenes are pretty similar, only different in size. Buffalo has a thriving music scene with a variety of different types of music. It is home to punk shows and a world-class symphony orchestra. There is always music happening. Certainly NYC has a larger amount of music, but that is bound to happen when you squeeze so many people into one place.
I definitely think that there is a idea that NYC is the only place where truly great musicians can be found. I think that notion is dead wrong. Some of my favorite musicians live and work in the Buffalo area. I think there is a large amount of music that goes unnoticed from these small cities, but it’s there. You just have to look for it.Since I’ve known you, you have played in all sorts of bands from ska/punk to funk to improvisational jazz. What is your favorite style to play out with? What about to teach (if there is one)?
I really enjoy playing music that lets me convey some sort of emotion or express an idea but I find myself most at home when I am improvising, because it is so in the moment. It is a musical conversation that, like a normal conversation, can start in one place and go anywhere else. That being said, I have always loved performing classical music as well. I find it interesting to read a sheet of music and try to figure out what type of emotion or idea the composer was trying to convey and bring it out to the best of my ability.
As far as teaching goes, I love to teach anything! My favorite part about teaching is helping students discover things on their own and guiding them to make connections between what they know and what they need to find out. It is a great moment when a student comes to me and is inspired to learn. Whatever it is, I get excited about it too!
Explain to us a little bit about your current project, Cerebral People? What makes it different from stuff you’ve done in the past?
This project is an amalgam of the past three years of my musical life. I have been studying free improvisation and coming up with ways to vary the parameters for the band. I am searching for new ways to create fresh sounds that have not been totally explored. I love that every time we play, we sound a little bit different.
I have also been studying music from the Balkans, trying to improve my abilities playing in odd meters. My music always has a certain aspect of dance to it. I think the combination of these things is something that has not been explored too deeply and is something I am pursuing further.Cerebral People is a very interesting name. How did you come up with it?
The name comes from all of the people I met in NYC. A lot of musicians really get into their own heads and over analyze everything. I like to think that my music is somewhat open and free for improvisation and communication, but many of the tunes are inspired by people I met. The band is a celebration of different types of people and the way they think.What should people be looking out for? (Performances, recordings, etc.)
My band is going to be recording on August 25th at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn, NY. I am excited to get a chance to record this music and take a snapshot of this period in my musical life.
After the record is all done, I will be booking some tours of the northeast United States in June and July of 2016 to help promote the music.
I am also starting a podcast with my best friend and bandmate, Alec Dube. We are still in the preliminary phases of work, but we are hoping to have our first podcast up by July. It will focus primarily on music, musicians, albums, and education.
More information can be found at www.joegoehle.com