Jordan Rudess has spent the majority of his life excelling as a pianist, but he’s not afraid to step away from the ivories to create new musical tools and applications.
Classically trained from an early age, Rudess became a professional musician while still in school. Now, he's helping the University's music students by giving master classes and a public concert to benefit scholarships in the department on Feb. 21.
"I'm a big believer in education," says Rudess, who is currently recording his eighth studio album with the renowned progressive rock band Dream Theatre. "It's especially important these days to have training. You have to have the foundations and education or you're just limiting yourself."
Rudess credits his early, structured music education at Julliard with his ability to push the boundaries of his field with keyboards, synthesizers, iPads and more.
"I really enjoy being an educator," says Rudess, who has been developing music composition and educational applications with partners. "It's important to me and enjoyable to share what I've learned."
During his day on campus, Rudess will lead master classes with students studying the keyboard and other musical instruments. Several students in the contemporary electronic music ensemble – led by visiting lecturer Mike Testa '04 '09, who invited Rudess to campus – will demonstrate new instruments they're building for Rudess.
"I'm all ears," Rudess says. "I don't care how old you are or what you've done, if you've got creativity in your heart and brain, then I'm listening and interested."
"The great thing about playing at schools with high-level students is the feedback loop," Rudess says. "You excite these people whether you're educating or performing and they come back with their inspiration and often good ideas, so you get more energy into what you're doing."
Testa says the loop Rudess describes is also created in the classroom. Meeting the man voted the greatest keyboard player of all time by MusicRadar will certainly get students going, he says.
"From the student perspective, it's very educational and valuable to see someone of Jordan's caliber onstage and using technology in his music very successfully," says Testa.
For Rudess's part, he's aiming to educate and engage with students by day and thrill an audience by night.
"If I can play some nice music for the students and get them to think and be inspired, that would be great," Rudess says of the master classes. "If at night I can rock the place to bits while still getting people to think, that's great. I'm sure it will be a really fun day and night."
For more information and tickets for the 7 p.m. concert in Durgin Hall, please visit the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell's website. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will fund scholarships for music students. More information on sponsorships is available by contacting University Advancement at 978-934-3243.