Skidmore Home About Scope Editor's Mailbox Back Issues

Campus Scene
Who, What, When
Class Notes
Saratoga Sidebar
Picture This

campus scene

Commencement 2007
The usher's tale
Women's works
Steloff Lecture brings von Trotta and Atwood
Skidmore teams with Carnegie and Juilliard First residency in October
For the record Making, and mentoring, music
Faculty retirees Levith, Tacardon, Sweet, Zangrando
Professoriat What the faculty are up to
Thinking ahead Brooklyn teens get a taste of college life
Books Faculty and alumni authors
One foot out the door Periclean Scholar award winners
Business casual Quirky performance art
Creative kleptomania Top composer advocates artistic license
Sportswrap Spring sports highlights

For the record

You have to hand it to a guy who drives his teenage boys to Boston for a rock concert, returns home at 2 a.m., and picks up his Skidmore teaching schedule later that morning without missing a beat.

John Nazarenko, aka Naz, is one of those rare people on the far side of fifty who genuinely enjoy their kids’ favorite music. In fact, he’s been engineering and producing a lot of it, in his Creek Studio, next door to his house on Fish Creek just east of Saratoga Springs. He is also putting the finishing touches on his own piano-trio CD. And he does some occasional performing gigs and concert production, when he’s not coaching jazz piano or ensembles at Skidmore. “I like the diversity,” he says. “One week I’m playing a show, and the next I’m in the studio producing a young band.” (Like Enigmatic Heart, whose members are twelve years old—and, he says, “amazing.”)

Naz has simple criteria for taking on a recording project: “I have to like the people, and I have to like the music.” He typically records and produces a master and then hands it over to the band to handle its own distribution. “The whole record-label radio promotion thing really doesn’t exist any more,” he explains, noting that his son has 2,200 songs on his iPod. The hot performance venue right now is on the Internet; from that home base, bands make a few bucks selling merchandise and performing the occasional live gig, like the “School’s Out!” rock show Nazarenko recently produced on campus at Falstaff’s as a benefit for Saratoga’s legendary Caffè Lena. It’s clear he enjoys mentoring young musicians, and when asked if he thinks any of their bands will go places, he says, “Oh, I do.”

He may find himself going places when his latest CD, The John Nazarenko Trio, gets around. With help from a Mellon grant and Skidmore faculty development funds, he did the arranging during his fall 2005 sabbatical and then hired bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland of the Aaron Goldberg Trio to record with him the following spring. Over three days in Skidmore’s Filene Recital Hall, the trio recorded Nazarenko’s jazz settings of eclectic rock songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and standards like “All the Things You Are” and “But Not for Me.” It took just a couple of live takes for each song to come together. “They were just incredible,” says Naz of his collaborators. “They breathed with me. They went with me wherever I went.”

A year later (“You have to have some distance,” he explains, to move past microanalyzing and get a larger view), he finished the mixing in his studio and sent the result on for digital mastering by “one of the world’s best”—his former student Emily Lazar ’93, chief mastering engineer of The Lodge in New York City.

Meanwhile he’s been working to line up funding for licensing fees and an initial production run of 1,000 CDs. He looks forward to having the final product but confesses that the high point for him was playing the music with top pros Rogers and Harland. “If I could play with people like this all the time, it would be the number-one thing I would do,” he says. But their performing schedule keeps them on the road and affords them little family time. For Nazarenko, “It’s a choice I made, to be home with my family.”

That’s good news for the members of Pinstripe Melee, the Acceptance Speech, Word to the Whys, and other up-and-coming groups that sing his praises. “My clients are the same age
as my kids,” says Naz. “It keeps me connected.” —KG