An Interview with Polyphonic’s New Editor-in-Chief, James Doser
This summer, Polyphonic.org welcomes a new Editor-in-Chief, James Doser. He takes over for Ramon Ricker, who led Polyphonic.org since its inception in 2006. Welcome, Jim!
James Doser, Polyphonic.org Editor in Chief, and Director of the Institute for Music Leadership at the Eastman School of Music
Jim – one thing that readers will find really interesting is that you actually studied with Ray Ricker, which means you are both saxophonists and that you know the previous Editor-in-Chief very well!
JD: Yes, Ray and I have been friends for many years. In fact, I was a member of the first class of saxophone majors in Ray’s studio at Eastman, a student in one of his first ‘Business of Music’ classes, and was one of the students who benefited by being the first group to use many of his publications. In fact, I still have some of the hand-written manuscript versions of his very successful technique books in my library! I look back on those times with appreciation for the learning, but also like so many others at Eastman, for Ray giving me my start in the professional world by hiring and recommending me.
Even though you are a saxophonist, you are no stranger to orchestras, having performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra numerous times.
JD: My time as an extra musician in the RPO began around 1980 (on Ray’s recommendation!) and continues to this day. Saxophonists have the pleasure (and challenge) of playing many different styles of music in the orchestral setting, and my time with the RPO has certainly borne that out. This includes everything from Mussorgsky to Ravel, more than a few performances of Gershwin, and of course, plenty of pops concerts.
Who are a few of the musicians (performers, composers, teachers) who have influenced you most?
JD: Too many exceptional and influential teachers to list, of course, but here is a start: Donald Hunsberger, Director of the Eastman Wind Ensemble- an uncompromising artist and teacher of the highest level who lives and breathes excellence; Rayburn Wright, chair of the jazz and contemporary media department at Eastman, who possessed the rare gift of helping guide students to discover their true passions in music; and Robert Zale, a tuba player with the original Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell, and also my high school Wind Ensemble director. In terms of performers/composers, I will look to the present rather than the past. Pianist Dariusz Terefenko, faculty in the music theory and jazz departments at Eastman, is the performer/improviser/composer today who inspires and challenges me the most. Though many artists strive to blend the line between genres of music, Dariusz eliminates them completely. He is an artist of the highest level.
Do you have a favorite memory or experience from performing with an orchestra?
JD: One of my first performances with the RPO was a series with the Joffrey ballet. I was a very young musician, in one of my first performances at this level, playing difficult music and surrounded by incredible musicians and dancers. It was so long ago that I forget many of the details, but I will never forget the feeling (a mixture of pure joy and total fear). I hold my experiences performing and recording William Walton’s ‘Façade’ with conductor David Zinman and the Society for Chamber Music in Rochester as an artistic and professional highlight of my career, and also the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Holiday CD, conducted and arranged by Jeff Tyzik, on which I was soloist.
You are a seasoned performer, educator, and entrepreneur, all of which will surely inform your work as the new Director of the Eastman School’s Institute for Music Leadership. Given your background in education, how important do you think the concept of education is for our orchestras, ensembles and communities as we move into the 21st
JD: Music education (and all arts education), particularly in the K-12 schools, is central to the mission and success of our arts organizations, and most importantly, the development of critical thinkers and informed citizens. However, I also believe that when we refer to ‘educating our audiences’, I cringe. This concept of ‘educating people’ so that they can appreciate the arts, though well intentioned, is one of the reasons that we fail to connect with many in our communities. I think it much more effective, and in fact essential, for us to consider how to make what we do relevant to those in our communities.
The Institute for Music Leadership at Eastman has always been forward-looking and driven by innovation. How do you think that influences Polyphonic.org, and what is your vision for the future of Polyphonic.org?
JD: When I consider the dialogue surrounding orchestras and our other arts organizations, I am most excited and driven by those studies that describe and analyze the successes of both our traditional and new, emerging ensembles. In these successes lie the creative blueprints for moving our organizations to become stronger, more vital, and embraced as essential to our communities. I see Polyphonic.org, The Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research, and Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership as leading this dialogue.
What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?
JD: When you cannot find me in my office, on stage, or in the classroom, I will most certainly be at our family cabin in the Bristol Hills, enjoying the sounds that you only find in nature’s concert hall….
Welcome to Polyphonic.org, Jim! We look forward to your contributions.
If you are interested in contacting Jim, you can email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org