In BRAVO!, Experiential Learning

Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge explain music is not just simply playing notes

BYU School of Music students had the opportunity to play for BRAVO! Performing Arts Series guest artists Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge at a masterclass the afternoon of their performance.

The two guitarists began the intimate workshop by performing two of their own compositions, “For Critter,” written by Lage and “Rygar,” written by Eldridge. Between playing their songs, Lage and Eldridge discussed their differing backgrounds and how they combine their sounds.

Guitarists Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge
Photo by Devin Pedde

Lage’s experience lies in jazz while Eldridge has more experience with bluegrass. However, they share the same musical heroes and desire to push the limits of what can be done with a guitar. Together they have explored and researched guitar orchestration in order to create original pieces that combine their styles and experience.

Both Lage and Eldridge were eager to take questions from students and took care to tailor their answers to fit the needs of the students. 

When asked how they push themselves in order to continue learning and progressing with their art, the duo talked about the importance of seeking new situations and having to learn new music and styles quickly. Making a commitment to play in front of people can be a good motivator to improve and take art more seriously. They also talked about how jamming with records can also be a good way to practice familiar styles as well as snap out of comfort zones.

The two also discussed their process. Eldridge gave the advice of writing ten awful songs because one of them might end up being good. Removing the barrier of “always having to be good” can be a powerful tool.

After answering questions, Lage and Eldridge moved to the masterclass portion of the event. Two ensembles played, one made up of guitars and the other of various jazz instruments.

Jordan Jacobson, a music major who played guitar in the first ensemble, shared his thoughts on performing for Lage and Eldridge.

“They were really chill,” Jacobson said, “so there wasn’t a ton of pressure. They made me excited to perform for them as a result of their demeanor.”

Each guitarist in the ensemble took turns playing solos before being critiqued by Lage. He discussed how the guitarists could better phrase their solos and add to the ensemble as a whole by building on what had been played before.

“I learned the importance of telling a story in a solo,” Jacobson said. “Just because you play the ‘right notes’ in any given scale doesn’t mean you’re playing a meaningful solo.”

Eldridge critiqued the second group, which played “What She Didn’t Say,” by Bob Reynolds. He discussed how the musicians could add more emotion into the piece by leaning into it more and thinking about why they feel the need to play.

Lage and Eldridge’s resounding message was clear through their performance and critiques — it is not just skill that makes powerful music, but passion and devotion.

 

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