Local musician eagerly shares his tuneful and wordly skills

Musicians who are generous with their skills, and tolerant of our lack of chops, are a rare but wonderful breed.

Rob Carroll, originally from Queens, N.Y., but more recently a Southeast Seattle lad, has impressive credentials. He majored in music and psychology at Rutgers University graduating with honors before heading west to continue his studies at the University of Washington's famed School of Music.

While finishing his dissertation on the obscure Venezuelan 'Gaita', he coordinates programming between UW's School of Music and the Experience Music Project while playing regularly for the local band Wildlife.

Also, to our great fortune, Carroll shares his thorough knowledge of all varieties of music through plain, old fashioned neighborhood lessons.

He especially loves passing on his great passion for pure rock 'n' roll guitar!

It would be easy to superficially conclude Carroll is a straightforward rock-and-roll sort of guy, for he does it so easily and with such obvious pleasure. While Wildlife specializes in British rock, as you peel away the layers you realize that Carroll's wealth of knowledge stems from his basic curiosity and the discipline to explore strange rhythms and often complicated and foreign styles of music in depth.

Carroll's desire for world music came from being a founding member of a 15-piece New York-based world music ensemble called All God's Children. The group incorporated jazz, dixie, African, Klezmer and folk styles.

The influence of the group set him upon a path of study, which came to an apex with his research of the cuatro, a four stringed guitar used to play Gaita music, which is traditionally only played at Christmas and dedicated to a regional patron saint.

Today Gaita has expanded beyond the Christmas months, perhaps helped by a Venezuelan law obliging media companies to give 50 percent of their airtime to traditional music, much of which now includes political themes.

Carroll was drawn to the cuatro's strange and intricate rhythm and was fortunate to find himself accepted by a community of master Gaita musicians willing to share their inner musical secrets with a token "norte- americano."

"There are an awful lot of ethnomusicologists running around Seattle," Carroll explained with modesty. "But the positive outcome of so many highly qualified music educators exposed to world music means that we now see middle schools with marimba bands and steel drum ensembles and African drumming classes."

Music is a fickle business and I ask myself how many other fields would have so many overly qualified specialists still willing to teach the likes of you and me? Fortunately Rob Carroll is blessed with great patience, a sense of humor and an essential love of teaching.

I witnessed a teen getting him to decipher Franz Ferdinand's hit "Take Me Out,' which has a host of odd twists and turns. The trick was translating it to fit the students technical skills, and still sound close enough to give the boy some satisfaction.

While having what seems like a barrel of fun, Carroll makes sure that teaching the basic skill of reading music gets through.

It is a bit like having to brush your teeth. It's just better if you do it. Reading music "opens the doors to other things" says Carroll, and to get his point across, he quoted Randy Newman, "You hate to be the only one in the room who doesn't know what's going on."

In any case, the joy and pleasure of music is what comes across when sitting down with Carroll, and it sure beats the heck out of the musty violin lessons of my youth that stopped abruptly after I asked my classical teacher to show me some bluegrass chords!

To get in contact with Rob Carroll call him at 619-2151.

Jacqui James may be reached via editor@sdistrictjournal.com.

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