My Teaching Philosophy, and Why I Believe It

The definition of music in academia is largely exclusive. “Popular” or “commercial” music is essentially ignored at the overwhelming majority of universities. If this kind of music is addressed at all, it is not done in a way that is proportional to the amount of focus afforded the other forms of music that make up the bulk of today’s university music curriculum.

 

There are exceptions to this, and it does seem that perhaps we are seeing the very beginning of a momentum shift in this regard. That said, talented and motivated musicians who are more interested in creating music of a “popular” idiom and who want to enjoy the benefits of pursuing this at the university level have extremely limited options about where to study, whom to study with and what to major in.

 

As a musician and an educator, I believe that this is a problem. It presents a lack of opportunity for these students to access the kind of well-rounded, multi-dimensional education that a university matriculation can offer. Further, it diminishes, unnecessarily, the value of “non-academic” “popular” music viewed through the lens of higher education. Why should an aspiring opera singer be denied access to the rigorous academic perspective of someone with an equal passion for hip-hop?  Why vice versa?

 

These are problems not only of musical access, but cultural and socio-economic access as well. Fewer and fewer public schools are able to maintain appropriate funding for the traditional “COB” (choir, orchestra, band) approach to music education. Accordingly, students in lower socio-economic areas are systematically denied access to the kind of music education that is an unspoken necessity to gain the required skills for acceptance into a university music program.

 

Beyond the issues of access, it is presumptuous at best to expect that the musical interests of middle school and high school music students in America are best realized in the compositions of W. A. Mozart, Eric Whitacre or Frank Ticheli, as great as that music is and as popular as those pieces may be in the world of “COB.”

 

When Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, John Prine, Childish Gambino, Carlos Santana or Radiohead releases a new album, the world says, “Here is some new music.” Meanwhile, academia—and only academia—says, “Here is some new commercial music.” As John Cage suggested, albeit for different reasons, why can’t we just call it all music and move on?

 

I teach at Chabot College, a two-year community college in Hayward, CA, about 15 miles south of Oakland. Chabot College is statistically the most diverse community college in all of California, which perhaps makes it the most diverse college in the world. The Chabot student body, ethnically speaking, is 25% Hispanic, 25% Asian/Filipino/Islander, 25% African American and 25% Caucasian. There are over 80 languages spoken among the 13,000 or so students at Chabot. It is not uncommon that I will walk into a classroom of 20-40 people on the first day of the semester and be the only white male in the room.

 

Working within such diversity every day has had a profound impact on me. It constantly reinforces the fact that everyone—students, faculty and staff—comes to school with a unique perspective informed by their own unique experiences. Almost always, these experiences are very different than my own. This is especially true in music; the majority of my students—my music technology students in particular, but even my music theory students as well—do not view music primarily through the lens of what academia considers a traditional “COB” background. The most important thing I have learned is that they are not wrong.

 

Schools of music need not discontinue what they are already doing. Opera, symphonies, jazz combos and gamelan orchestras can—and should—co-exist in higher education along-side of rock, hip-hop, synth pop and film music. As a matter of curricular precision, this will obviously require some trial and error. But this is critically important work that needs to be done and done well. Students who want to study music should be allowed and encouraged to do so, as long as they meet the appropriate standards set forth by the institution. What will “popular” music sound like in 30 years if even half of the people who write, record, produce and perform it have access to a university education that embraces all forms of music?

 

I am a musician of diverse interests and experiences. The deepest joy I find in my work comes from sharing what I have learned about making music with a wide variety of students through a broad palette of musical expression. My primary duty is to meet each student where they are and to help them realize their musical goals—whatever those goals may be—as honestly and as musically as possible. The process of doing so relies on effectively showing each student ways to improve the craft and clarity of their music, while at the same time encouraging them to grow and refine their own aesthetic compass.

 

 

Eric's Chili Recipe

2-3 hours of prep-while-cooking time. 

At least 90 more minutes of simmering time. 

Total = 3 1/2 hours (at least). 

These proportions serve about 12 hungry people. If you want to cook for less (or more) the ingredient amounts adjust proportionally. 

Ingredients:

3 lbs ground beef (ground turkey works too)

3 lbs Roma tomatoes 

3 lbs tomatillos (peeled, cleaned)

3 lbs canned pinto beans (I don’t love overly beany chili, so this is a relatively small amount; you can easily double this proportion)

3 lbs poblano peppers

3 lbs yellow onions

9 oz peeled garlic 

Spices:

1 cup Chili powder (I prefer Penzey’s medium hot, but whatever you have available. Remember you need a lot).

2/3 cup Cumin

3 tbspn Brown Sugar 

1 tbspn Salt for chili

1 teaspoon (or so) Salt for ground beef

1 tbspn (or so) Smoked Paprika

Black and/or White Pepper to taste

Note: if smoked paprika isn’t available, regular is ok. Smoked is a bit better in this recipe, but not a requirement. 



Brown ground beef in chili pot. High heat. Season w salt and pepper as if your only meal is this ground beef. Don’t drain. 

Add garlic and onions to chili pot. Re-season as if your only meal is this pot of ground beef, garlic and onions. I tend to overdo it a little here. 

Cook on high heat until onions and garlic are happily translucent. 

One tasty variation is instead of just adding the raw garlic to the pot is that you roast the garlic before it goes into the food processor. If you do this, start roasting the garlic before you start the beef, and make sure to add the roasted garlic after the onions are translucent. 

Process and pour the tomatoes and tomatillos into the pot. I tend to prefer a less chunky, more liquified level of food processing, but everyone’s got a different approach to food texture. 

Clean, core, seed, and dice the poblanos. Place in a casserole dish. Liberally season with smoked paprika. Bake at 400. Look for the peppers to be slightly oven charred but not blackened. This takes about an hour in my oven. 

Spice the chili: add chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, and salt. Stir thoroughly. 

When the poblano peppers are done, mix them into the chili. Stir. 

Add the canned beans to the chili. Stir. Do not add the liquid from the bean can(s); strain the beans in a colander. 

Let chili cook on low heat for at least 90 minutes (preferably more) after adding the poblano peppers and beans. Stir and taste often. Adjust the seasoning as you like throughout. (Advice: be conservative with the salt, once there’s too much there’s no going back). Some people might want spicier chili: if so, you might add some cayenne pepper or some premade hot sauce—whatever you’re into. One thing, I’d avoid hot sauces with lots of vinegar — the hyper-acidity doesn’t work well with the brown sugar and poblanos, in my opinion. 

Serve however you like. Some people like to serve with raw diced onions, shredded cheese, sliced cheese, oyster crackers, crumbled tortilla chips... it’s all good. I like to make this with sourdough grilled cheese, but it stands up well on its own. Whatever floats your boat! Enjoy! 


Why Schltz? (the self-indulgent long bio)

Hi. I’m Schltz. My real name is Eric Schultz and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m a husband and a father, and I make a living as a music professor at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. I teach music technology, music theory and music history. 

 

For most of my life, the bulk of my musical experiences have come through academia. I was a skinny kid in band who played the saxophone, alto first, then baritone. I did a lot of stuff with marching band in high school and college. This peaked for me when my college band was in the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade and I blew the whistle to start the whole thing (that was fun). 

 

At a certain point in college, I got kicked out of the band program and lost my music scholarship. Its a long story. Desperate to redirect but stay in school, I switched from being a music education major to being a music composition major. As a senior, this was not easy to do. But I stayed an extra year and did it. This catastrophe turned out to be the best thing to happen for me musically; I found that I was learning a lot more of the things I wanted to know about music by studying it through the lens of composition. I stuck with it, got into graduate school and went all the way.

 

During grad school, I got really into audio technology and the American experimental music tradition. My friends and I started a contemporary music ensemble (still going to this day) called Crossing 32nd Street. With that group I did lots of things. I ran much of the performance technology, conducted, played mostly saxophone and percussion, and did a whole bunch of other stuff. I even played the harp once. In public.

 

Outside of school, I made a pilgrimage every June to Springfield, Missouri where I worked as a faculty member at the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, an interdisciplinary arts academy for high school kids. I did this for 20 years. My involvement with the MFAA has been, by far, the most formative experience of my life. I met my wife, many of my best friends, I learned how to experience art, how to collaborate, I developed my aesthetic, learned how to see things from someone else’s perspective, and, like most of the other faculty members, I partied. Really hard.

 

My interest in music technology and recording and composition led to my being hired at Chabot College, where I now hold a faculty position, delightfully tenured. I am the head of the Music Recording and Technology area. We have a 24-station Mac lab and a proper recording studio with an SSL console. One of our alumni now works at Pixar; her first day of work was spent mixing Toy Story 4. I think our program is exceptionally strong. 

 

Working with my awesome and extremely diverse body of Chabot students has led me to a much greater interest in non-Academic music, or "popular” music (for lack of a better term—although I’m including things like hip hop and EDM and metal under that umbrella). “Popular” music is something that is now my job to study and know. This has been a happy revelation for me.

 

While I was in college I had some great gigs playing saxophone with some blues, jazz, soul and country bands. But I never really felt encouraged to listen to "popular music", much less study it. Admitting that you listened to any “pop” music other than the Beatles and Radiohead was frowned upon by many of the people in my academic life. Not everyone, of course, but enough people that this was my perception then and is my memory of it now.

 

Today, I listen to and study all music, including (especially?) “popular” music. And even though I know that it isn’t “wrong” to do so, I often find myself unable to shake the feeling that listening to and thinking about music that isn’t part of the “Western Art Music Canon” is somehow a guilty pleasure.

 

As a composer, this has led to a significant identity crisis. I’m making music under the name Schltz in an effort to find new ways to define myself as a creative musician and leave behind some of my hangups that I acquired through academia. If I can make music that doesn’t deny any of my musical interests or experiences, while at the same time honoring the things that my life in academic music has taught me, then that seems to me to be the most honest thing to do. Perhaps there will be an audience for this.