Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education
“Jazz musicians are among the most interesting, inspired, and forward thinking people I’ve ever met... Their amazing journeys are revealed through their musical thought process. As for me, I cannot think of a better form of self-expression.”
“If you are a creative person who is willing to expand your horizons, and you’ve figured out how to survive in New York City, persistence will always allow you to move forward,” says Dave Schroeder, director of NYU Steinhardt Jazz Studies.
Born and raised in Iowa, Dave Schroeder was musically cultivated from a young age. As the youngest of six boys, he was inspired by what his father played from his record collection, as well as by what he heard on TV and radio. When it was time for him to learn an instrument, Schroeder was given a hand-me-down saxophone from one of his older brothers, leading to a lifelong passion for jazz.
He studied music at the University of Northern Iowa, and later, at the New England Conservatory in Boston. “When I was a young saxophonist in Iowa, I figured I’d become a high school band director. I was most fortunate that fate allowed me to find another direction.” When he completed his studies in Boston, he says, “I came to New York, like so many other people, to take a chance, and found a connection with other musicians at NYU.” He later earned his Doctor of Arts in Music Performance NYU.
Aside from directing the jazz studies program, Schroeder teaches courses in jazz history, jazz theory, and jazz arranging. He balances teaching and performing with his faculty ensemble, Combo Nuvo, at New York’s hottest jazz venues like the Blue Note and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We perform a wide variety of musical styles, from mainstream jazz and classical to world music, delta blues and everything in between.” During the winter and summer breaks Schroeder performs internationally with student jazz combos, most recently in such diverse locales as Costa Rica, Peru, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates.
Besides teaching and performing, Schroeder works hard to develop unique performance opportunities for his jazz students. As the director of music for NYU’s Study Abroad sites in Florence and Prague, Schroeder helps his students experience music from a world prospective. “International travel and study is just one of the many ways in which the faculty and I develop our students for global careers in music.” He notes that jazz studies students, whether on campus or studying abroad, actively interact with faculty as fellow musicians, learning how to think creatively in jazz though the process of improvisation.
Schroeder looks for students who are not only interested in jazz performance, but who are curious and attracted to New York City’s cultural scene. “Most students head to music school convinced that they need to put all their eggs in one basket in order achieve to fame and fortune,” he says, “but I believe that paradigm is much too simplistic and has been outdated for some time. You should always strive to become the best musician possible, but the even greater prize can be found in using music and improvisation to develop and inform your direction in life. That is the true essence of music education.”
For Schroeder, educating his students means getting them out of the classroom and exposing them to New York City’s jazz scene. He recently partnered with bookseller Barnes & Noble to create a weekly jazz series in which he introduces seminal jazz figures to his students and the general public by engaging them in an open forum. “Every Friday night I interview the most inspired jazz artists on the planet. My intension is to illustrate how each artist individualizes his or her creativity.” Schroeder has interviewed a diversity of such jazz greats including Benny Golson, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Cindy Blackman, as well as the groups including Oregon, and Medeski, Martin and Wood.
He says, “Jazz musicians are among the most interesting, inspired, and forward thinking people I’ve ever met. What we discover in conversing with them is that in the end, their amazing journeys are revealed through their musical thought process. As for me, I cannot think of a better form of self-expression.”