Peter Retzlaff is one of The Collective’s busiest faculty members. His daily teaching schedule usually begins around 9:30 a.m. and he works straight through the day taking minimal breaks ending at 8:00 p.m. or later. When his day of teaching is finished Peter continues on to a rehearsal, a live gig, or recording in the studio with one of the many projects he is involved in. His most recent projects include The Jamie Begian Big Band with a newly released album titled, Big Fat Grin, on Innova Records, The Kim Bock Quartet, with a newly released album titled Live in Copenhagen, on Steeplechase Records, an organ trio called Flow, with a soon to be released self titled album on Steeplechase Records, and a soon to be released untitled album with Pianist Matt Savage on Savage Records. Peter also recently finished recording his own soon to be released album titled Electro and Acoustic Experiments. In addition to recording in the studio and playing live gigs, Peter has co-authored two books. The Collective style series Contemporary Jazz Styles for the Drums, with Ian Froman released in 2007, and Baby Steps to Giant Steps with Jim Rupp released through Hudson Music in 2009. The Collective had a chance to sit down with Peter during a break in his busy day to talk about The Collective.
DC: How long have you been teaching at The Collective?
PR: I started teaching at The Collective in 1996.
DC: Did you start teaching at The Collective right after you finished College?
PR: Pretty much. I started teaching here as soon as I finished my Masters Degree. Prior to that, I had quite a bit of teaching experience in Ohio. I used to teach at Capital University
DC: You were also a student at Capital University, correct?
PR: Yes, I was.
DC: Did you receive both your Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree from Capital University?
PR: I have a Bachelors Degree in Music and a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, two separate degrees from Capital, and I got my Masters in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music.
DC: What advice could you offer to any perspective students thinking about coming to The Collective to study?
PR: I think The Collective has a real worldview of learning the right things to be able to work in the world of music today. Being able to study and play in rhythm sections with professional level musicians in New York that are great, definitely makes the student have to step up their game and play on a level that they’ve never had to play at before. We hold students to pretty high standards here. All the musicians that teach here are very nice, but they are very direct and honest about the student’s strengths and weaknesses. I think students can get a very accurate gauge where they’re at very quickly at this school, whereas at many other schools students tend to only play with each other. I don’t think you can get the same feedback and playing results as you can when you are playing with professional musicians all the time.
DC: How would you describe the overall vibe at The Collective?
PR: There is a lot of good camaraderie between the students here, and there is also a lot of good camaraderie between the Faculty, not only toward each other, but toward the students as well.
DC: Would you recommend The Collective to a student that has finished at another Music school?
PR: I absolutely would, especially if they want to get the performance aspects of their playing together. I’ve had a number of students over the years that have either come here in the summer in between semesters or after they were finished studying at other schools and they’ve often told me that they have learned more in their time studying at The Collective than any other program. If students finish at other schools with a high level of playing then maybe they don’t need to focus on performance here as much, but if there are some weaknesses in their playing, The Collective is the best place to solve those weaknesses no matter what style. We work with all styles here.
DC: What’s the best part of being a Faculty member at The Collective?
PR: Really the enjoyment for me is watching the progress of my students. Because this is such an intense environment to learn, the students that are working hard and applying themselves tend to improve quickly and it gives me a lot of satisfaction.
DC: Any words of advice for the students that aren’t working as hard?
PR: The world of music is getting more competitive everyday, maybe every hour. The more a student can get together every skill they can work, the quicker it will be for them to figure out how to make a living being a musician. I don’t think it’s getting any easier anywhere in the world and it takes real skill to make a decent living being a musician. The quicker you can get to it, the quicker you can get out and start experiencing the real world. Putting in time and commitment can help any student take their playing to a higher level.