Taking a step back to gain perspective

By The Columbia Chronicle

By Vanessa Morton, Contributing Writer

Musician, composer and First-Year Seminar lecturer James Falzone is preparing to release a new album titled “Other Doors” with his band KLANG on April 26. This is his sixth release on his recording label Allos Documents, which was created in 2000.

Raised in Norridge, Ill., a Northwest suburb of Chicago, Falzone stumbled upon the clarinet by chance at age 10. Sparked by interest and natural ability, he has spent the past 29 years dedicated to his craft. Falzone sat down with The Chronicle to share some of his past experiences that led him into a career of music and education, and what he sees for the future.

The Chronicle: Where did your early influence in music come from?

James Falzone: My main influence was my uncle, who took me under his wing once I started playing the clarinet. One of the things he did that I really appreciated was expose me to a wide variety of music at a young age. He would buy me old vinyl records and wouldn’t tell me what kind of styles they were. Instead, he would just tell me it was good music.

The Chronicle: So how did you pursue your music education and career?

JF: I started as a clarinet performance major for my undergraduate at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. While I didn’t realize it at the time, it wound up being a good program. But I dropped out of school for a while before I attended graduate school at the New England Conservatory in 1998.

The Chronicle: Why did you drop out?

JF: I got tired of school, so I traveled and played a lot of music. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to keep playing music but wasn’t sure college was the way to do it. So after some time off, it became clear to me I needed to return.

The Chronicle: How did you find the motivation to go back?

JF: Well, I think all of us have the self-motivation, but I think we are just so used to the crutch of school we forget about that self-determination, self-love of knowledge and self-education. After a year off, I reinvigorated the love and passion I had for music and my studies. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to obtain what I wanted to on my own, and I needed more guidance. It took me stepping away from that to recognize it.

The Chronicle: Where did your passion for teaching come from?

JF: I totally fell into it because I needed a job. After I finished school, my wife and I moved back to Chicago. I sent my resume to every school within 60 miles of Chicago and got lucky enough to teach a music theory course at North Central College. That was my

first time in front of a class, and it scared the hell out of me, but I learned I really

liked teaching.

The Chronicle: How do you manage to have two separate careers?

JF: I wouldn’t say separate. I see teaching and playing as two sides of being a creative artist. That’s why it’s important to keep them going simultaneously, so one doesn’t overtake the other. If I’m not playing and composing, I’m not a good teacher. And if I’m not teaching and thinking about the world of ideas or engaging with students, then I also lose perspective on why I

play music.

The Chronicle: What was your mission when you created Allos Documents?

JF: The record industry has changed so much, and as a kid wanting to be a jazz musician, I thought everything revolved around getting a recording contract. But within the last 10 to 15 years, that whole paradigm has shifted, and it’s just not necessary anymore. So when I wanted to put out my first record, I had this recording that I was going to start shopping a

round, and some people were interested. Some said to wait, and I told them I

didn’t want to, so I just learned how to do it myself.

The Chronicle: What was the influence for your upcoming album?

JF: It comes from the performance KLANG did at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2009. They asked me to create a tribute to Benny Goodman, who was one of the great jazz clarinet players of the swing era. I studied his

music and immersed myself, and this record is a document of all the material I wrote for that festival.

The Chronicle: What’s next for you?

JF: I don’t know. I try not to spend a ton of time thinking about it, but I know there will come a time where I’ll get restless with what I’m doing at Columbia. But the older I get, the more I find myself able to focus just on the present. Often, we can be looking so far ahead that we miss being in the moment, and there are some real beauties here now.