“The most important attribute you can have is persistence. You can have all the talent, skills and opportunities in the world, but it’s the persistence that makes success possible.”
“If you are a creative person that is willing to expand your horizons, and you’ve figured out how to survive in New York City, persistence will allow you to move forward,” says David Schroeder, director of NYU Jazz Studies, brass and wind instrumentalist, leader of the ensemble Combo Nuvo, Director of the Jazz Studies Abroad Program, and Host of the NYU Steinhardt Jazz Series at Barnes & Noble.
Raised in Iowa by a family of musicians, David Schroeder was musically cultivated ever since a young age. As the youngest of six boys, he was exposed to and inspired by what his father played from his record collection, as well as the musical programming he saw and heard on TV and radio. When it was time for him to learn an instrument, Schroeder inherited a saxophone from one of his older brothers. He says, “Coincidentally, I was given the saxophone and that happened to be a jazz instrument. That led me to get very interested in jazz.” Schroeder explains that everyone in his surroundings was going into music school, and evidently he did too since his tender days in grade school. It was as if he was destined to be a jazz musician.
Consequently, Schroeder studied music at the University of Northern Iowa where he received his B.M.E. And interestingly, he says, “Where I grew up in Iowa, I had no clue that one day I would be in New York. When I was a young saxophonist in Iowa, I figured I would become a high school band director. I was fortunate as fate took a hand, that I was plucked out of Iowa and forced into seeing other parts of the world. This eventually moved me to Boston because I thought New York would never be attainable.” When he finished studying music in Boston, he decided he had to move to New York and “Take a chance,” or otherwise, he would have gone back to Iowa to become a high school band director. “I came here, like so many other people come taking a risk not knowing if they are going to get spit out, and I’m one of the fortunate few. I found a connection with people, some of those are at NYU, and they allowed me to stay,” he says. Subsequently, he earned his PhD in Jazz Studies at NYU.
While Dr. Schroeder teaches courses like Jazz Arranging, Reference and Research in Jazz, he also balances performing at New York’s hottest jazz venues like the Blue Note and Lincoln Center with his in residence ensemble, Combo Nuvo, all of who are NYU faculty. He describes, “We bring a whole variety of musical approaches from straight ahead jazz and classical music, but also world music, soul and funky and delta blues, and everything in between.” During the winter and summer intercessions Schroeder performs all around the world, including Costa Rica, Peru, Italy, Abu Dhabi.
Besides teaching and performing, Dr. Schroeder develops unique performance opportunities for his jazz students around the world. As the Director of the Jazz Studies Abroad Program, Schroeder takes his students to places like Florence, Prague, Lithuania, and Costa Rica. He says, “We are constantly expanding and developing not only our minds, but our world experience.” He continues, “These abroad courses have attracted students from all around the world to come and join me and a select faculty to really develop a personal relationship. It is a rare and special opportunity to have that many faculty at our level to actually live on our abroad campuses and interact with students on a daily basis.” Students interact with faculty as fellow musicians, as teacher-student relationships. These teachers show them the process of music, how to affect people through music, and how to think creatively in jazz though the process of improvisation.
Schroeder looks for students who are not only interested in playing their instruments on the highest level, but who are curious and attracted to the music scene of New York City, as he as undergone this approach as well. “I want them to not only be great musicians, but to also take all their skills and develop them so they will become unique and inspired people.” He continues, “Everybody goes to music school thinking they are going to go out and become famous. We can switch that paradigm. You can still have the potential and become famous, but you can use the process of music, jazz, and improvisation and develop that for your personal skills in life and decision making. That is the essence of education.”
Among his thrilling projects, Schroeder has partnered with Barnes and Noble in The NYU Steinhardt Jazz Studies Series. He brings some of the most prominent figures of the jazz scene for an hour of conversation. Schroeder says, “Every Friday I interview some of the most significant jazz musicians in the world. That research and interviews will eventually be part of a book. This will be a survey of musicians that will show that their unique creativity is definitely individualized by each artist. They all have a different process and approach to achieving their goals as musicians.” He says, “We have already completed interviews with Cindy Blackman, Stephen Harris, Medeski, and Dave Holland, among dozens of others. They are one of the most sophisticated, interesting, and inspired people that I have met.” While interviewing, Schroeder vividly project wit, humor, charisma, and sophistication, all of which is clearly evident in his own music.
A passionate individual who continues to branch out, a true master in the saxophone, and to many, a musical guru, Dr. David Schroeder has successfully intertwined numerous musical dimensions. As he once humbly thought of becoming a high school band director, Schroeder has proven to be one of the most inspirational and innovating artists of his field. Accomplishing global music expansion, becoming entrepreneurially and technologically savvy, and fruitfully teaching the historical, theoretical, and methodological functions of jazz, he has truly “Taken the process of music and used it as a process of life,” like any great artist should do.