Creative collaboration in HPU's Jazz Band enriches Chase Pittman's overall college experience
by Kyle Mize
“My philosophy is to surround myself with players who are better than me,” says guitarist and bassist Chase Pittman. “That way, I can pick their brains and learn their tricks of the trade so it makes me better.”
Chase, a senior from Trophy Club, is a member of Howard Payne University’s Jazz Band. He says that playing in an ensemble, versus being a solo performer, brings heightened levels of enjoyment and development.
“I learn the most from the collaboration, especially in a musical context,” he says.
One of the most exciting elements of jazz performance is the interplay between musicians, frequently based on a written framework but open to spontaneous flights of improvisation. Players who might otherwise have little in common spin a creative collaboration – an in-the-moment high-wire act that depends not only on skill and focus but also on careful attention to what the others are playing. Through this kind of interaction, they can push each other to greater and greater levels of musical expression.
“What I’ve noticed from being in Jazz Band is that, as we take turns soloing on the solo section of a song, I’ll listen to someone else playing a solo as I’m playing the chord changes, and that’ll give me a musical idea. I’ll get inspired by something I hear and think, ‘Hey, I should steal that and incorporate that into my solo.’ It’s a lot of collaboration, and you learn from other players.”
Chase also credits the multi-talented Stephen Goacher, HPU professor of music and director of Jazz Band, as a particular influence. He appreciates Mr. Goacher’s supportive, empathetic nature as well as his wide-ranging expertise.
“I’m always inspired by hearing Mr. Goacher play,” Chase says, “because he never plays the same solo twice. Sometimes we’ll be playing a swing tune and he has a very refined, swing sound on the saxophone, and then we could play a funk or Latin tune and he’s got a very funky type of sound. I’m always inspired to learn from him and then go listen to other music and incorporate more ideas into my own playing.”
Chase says the urgency of focusing on his own playing doesn’t outweigh the need to actively listen to the musicians around him.
“This can be difficult for a lot of jazz players,” he says. “I can be trying so hard to sound good on my instrument that I’m missing the greatness of everyone else and what they’re playing – missing out on the beauty of the whole sound of the band together.”
Interestingly, though Chase is a longtime musician, he is not a music major. He majors in accounting but credits his experiences in Jazz Band for contributing to his academic growth as well as other aspects of college life.
“It’s a stress reliever,” he says. “For an hour and a half each day, I’m sitting down, playing music and not having a care in the world. Also, a big thing in my personal development is that the discipline to want to get better with the guitar has transferred to my business classes. That drive of ‘I want to be the best guitar player I can be’ transfers to ‘I want to be the best accountant I can be,’ so I’m putting more effort into studying for tests.”
Though Chase isn’t a music major, he plans to be a lifelong musician as he looks beyond graduation from HPU.
“Music will definitely be an integral part of my life until the day I die,” Chase declares. “It’s too much fun for me to quit.”