Uli Jon Roth/Old Bridge Music Center Sky Academy Master Class…

*Pictured above is Legendary Guitarist Uli Jon Roth, and Gregg Zubowicz, Owner/Director of Curriculum at The Old Bridge Music Center.

ULI JON ROTH MASTER CLASS, SATURDAY FEBRUARY 4TH, 2012

It is always so Great to have a dream and vision realized… In the Summer of 2007 we walked into the vacant “Loft” Studio Space of Suite #2 upstairs in the Learning Annex here at the Browntown Shopping Center with the hope of creating a really special, “different” and “unique” learning environment for students of all ages and levels to study Music and the Related Arts and Sciences…

That summer, my Dad and I spent every spare second after work painting, hammering, scraping, hanging, and completely remodeling the space long hours deep into the middle of the night. Alot of laughs and good times amidst empty pizza boxes and Coke cans.

Many a night was spent listening to “Axis: Bold As Love” from Jimi Hendrix, while finishing up a second coat of paint until the clock said “3:30 am”, then back home for a few hours of sleep before waking up to do it all again… All the while keeping the Vision for the Future of the School in mind… The Dream was getting closer…

We wanted a place for Music Lovers to be able to come to be inspired, and carry that inspiration with them into their own lives. Having been fortunate to study with some of the Worlds Best Renowned Musicians personally over the years, one of our Dreams was to have the students here at the OBMC have the same opportunity.

Fast forward, December of 2011, I was looking over an Outline List of Things that we wanted to offer here at the School in the year ahead, and at the Top of that list was to finally kick off our “Meetings With Masters”  Master Class Series here at the School.

There was a very short list of Musicians that we wanted to invite to be the first to kick off  and inaugurate this special series, and with the winds of good fortune on our side, by Mid-January 2012 we were able to confirm to Students that our first Guest in our Master Class Series would be none other than the Legendary Guitarist ULI JON ROTH!

But First, A little bit about the Back-Story…

Growing up a Music-Obsessed kid in Laurence Harbor, (A small fishing town that is part of Old Bridge Township here in Central New Jersey, USA) in the 70’s and early 80’s, Music was really an all consuming way of life. We will examine the amazing Musical History of the area in another blog, as the many incredible International Major Musical Success stories that have come from a 10 mile square region is nothing short of remarkable.

Every spare second we had was spent listening to records from our favorite artists, learning about them, and ultimately trying to emulate and play the music from our Musical Heroes.. It really was an incredible, inspiring, vibrant time for Music..

My parents were incredibly supportive of their young son’s passion for the Music, (Thanks again Mom and Dad), and I would wake up early each morning at 5:30 am to practice before heading off to school, (*not because I was a “morning person”, but rather because I wanted to utilize the extra time to improve on my instrument)

The decor of our rooms was such that wallpaper couldn’t be seen beneath the sea of posters of our favorite musicians. There was something really inspiring and magical about the whole process of taking your guitar out of the case, putting the strap on, flipping the switch on the amp and seeing the red light come on, looking up at those posters for inspiration, hitting that first “open G chord”, hearing the notes sustain, then dropping the needle onto your favorite record and playing along to the song.Time became non-existent, and every problem of your youth faded as you became one with the music. Incredible…

During this time, there were a handful of us who were really into music from bands that were not as well known here in the States. Sure, we Loved and listened to Jimi Hendrix,The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen,Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, KISS, and all of the other  Great “Classic” Bands of the era, but there were Amazing Bands that many people had not yet heard about as much.Bands like early Scorpions, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, and others that were incredible bands with Great Guitar Work.

It was during these years that I discovered two of the Greatest Guitarist’s of this era, ULI JON ROTH, (SCORPIONS), and MICHAEL SCHENKER, (UFO), both of whom were a Huge Influence on my Musical Development. Both of these Guitarists were incredibly Melodic, and played with such a combination of finesse and feel, a combination that is hard to find…

The early SCORPIONS records stand as some of the Greatest Rock Albums of all time, and include some of the most incredible Guitar Playing of its kind. Check out the Classic Song “Sails of Charon” taken from the SCORPIONS landmark 1977 album, “Taken By Force”…The Guitar Work on this album is incredible, and is so ahead of it’s time…

So here it was, over 30 years later, and ULI was coming to the Old Bridge Music Center for a Sky Academy Master Class… I would like to share with you a little bit about the Chronology of that Incredible Day, the Impact it had on all that attended, as well as a little bit about what we learned that day from the Master… See if you can catch the Inspiration:)

Chronology of an Incredible Day…

We initially had some concerns about having the Master Class in February, as the elements sometimes do not cooperate this time of year, but once again the winds of Fortune were on our side, as we awoke to the Sun breaking through the clouds, and with that, unseasonably mild and warm winds from the South. Things were off to a good start!

We did however have a few scares to start things off, as Angel Mancini, our Director of Publicity/Artist Relations informed us the night before that due to some sudden health related complications she would probably not be able to be there in the morning to take care of things as planned. Being Angel is a consummate pro who has worked with many top Artists in the past, we were concerned, as she always gets the job done, and the Artists Love working with her. An hour and a half before the Event, Angel pulled up to the School like the Trooper that she always is, and helped the Tour Manager Jeff with a variety of last minute things that always happen with any Musical Event. Thanks Angel!

As I arrived at the School on this Beautifully Warm Winter Day with the Sun shining bright, the Magnitude of what was about to happen began to resonate…ULI JON ROTH, the Guitarist who had inspired me in that small room at my parents house in Laurence Harbor some 30 years ago to be the Best I could be,  who encouraged me through notes alone to discover other Worlds within the notes was coming again to Inspire…I had Lived and went to Music School in California and NYC, travelled around the World with the Music, driven across the United States,lived in a variety of places, and here, back in Old Bridge 30 years later, we were Full Circle… It was a Great Feeling…

Here is a picture of the room where we had the Sky Academy Master Class early morning before anyone arrived… A special note of Thanks to Rob Mattson, who is a good friend, and Apprentice Instructor here at the School. Rob came to help out the night before to get everything set up, and stayed until the early morning to help make sure everything was ready to go in the morning. Thanks Rob!

The Rays of Light begin to filter into the room, and Students began to gather in the hallway in anticipation of ULI and the Incredible Day ahead.

The Wait is Over…

The Tour Bus Pulls up to Browntown Shopping Center…

Excitement began to build as the Students and Staff know that in a matter of time they will be learning from one of the World’s Greatest Guitarists. Our resident Sound Technician Matt Callahan was on hand to help set up a few last minute requests, along with Phil Patel, both whom helped make sure everything got up and running as smooth as possible. Thanks Guys!

In what seemed like a blur from the week leading up to the Event, the moment was now here… Uli had now made his way up to the School, introductions were made, and Uli was soon doing a Sound Check with his Sky Guitar, the incredible warm sonorous tone of his vibrato carrying through the School, into the Hallway, where Students and Staff smiled and knew that they were in for a Special Day ahead…

The intimate Sold Out Class filed in, and there was a combination of Excitement and Wonder in the Air as to what would be happening next. There was also a sense of that  we were in the Presence of a Master, and that this was going to be something different from what most were used to…Much Different…

The Sky Academy Master Class Begins…

*Director of Curriculum Gregg Zubowicz and the rest of the Class listening intently to every word and insight from Uli during the Sky Academy Master Class…

Before writing about some of the Insights and specifics of what we learned on this Incredible Day, a few words….

Normally ULI does not do these “abbreviated” (albeit 4 Hours!) Master Classes- his own SKY ACADEMY Events that are held Overseas, or in the past at UCLA in Los Angeles are usually 2 or 3 days, where he can really get into a lot more things in depth over a longer period of time. Additionally, the Events are often attended by Students of a certain level of proficiency, many of whom have been playing for some time, and are familiar with his music and his approach.

With these things in mind there are several things about this Master Class that made it even more Incredible. First, I would like to Thank ULI and his Management Company just for giving us the Chance to Study with the Master, and for caring about a smaller Music School like The Old Bridge Music Center.

Also, it is extremely difficult to teach a class where the group is divided into various degrees of Experience and Knowledge. ULI was completely unfamiliar with the background of the Students, and had to devise a plan on the spot that would not alienate the beginners, yet would inspire the intermediate and advanced players. He did a remarkable job and every single student was captivated, and never alienated during the entire 4 hour Master Class.

*A Brief Observation- Upon reflecting on the event during the days after, I realized that it is actually perhaps of equal or even more of a benefit to the younger “Beginning” Students to study with a Master like ULI, as they have their entire lives ahead of them to create using the principles and ideals that they learn. They don’t have long standing bad habits to “undo”, and their minds are fertile ground for new influences. Conversely, those of us older players who grew up listening to ULI and the other Masters from that time period of Music got to experience that Incredible era on Record and Live first hand. It is a different time now, and these students one day will no longer have the chance to study or even experience the playing and Musicianship “Live” from Players of this Caliber. Think of the possibilities that may come from these younger players whom these Legends touch with their insights!

And so it was that the Sky Academy Master Class began with an Introduction to Uli, followed by and Improvisation between Uli and Myself. Uli asked me to play something, anything, without telling him the Key, or anything about it, “Just Play”, which has been our theme here at the School since he left, as the underlying theme of the Class was to be Connected to the Music Without Thought… I am paraphrasing here, as this Blog is not to recreate the exact information given at The Sky Academy Master Class- That is a personal thing that one needs to experience individually to really capture the essence, (and we Highly recommend doing so if given the chance), but this is rather meant to serve as “snapshot in time” about that Incredible Day here at the School, and the impact it has had collectively…

This was also a great reminder of one of the things that we always go over in our private Classes routinely- Always Be Ready When Called Upon To Play…

There Will be a time when you are “put on the spot” to deliver, and it will be what you have worked on, practiced, and played in the hours preceding that will determine the outcome. Having worked with several Major Artist’s over the years, and having been through many “demanding” situations both performing and recording, I was ready, and started a “Drone/Raga” in the Key of E, Uli jumped right in, and together we wove a Tapestry of Sound that filled the room, not unlike what it would sound like if Jimi Hendrix and Vivaldi were playing down the streets of Bombay:) There were a couple of moments where I closed my eyes, and locked into the percussive groove with Uli, it was really great… Playing with Uli on a Saturday morning. Yes, Life Was Good that Day!:)

After the Improvisation, Uli began to talk about one of the variety of subjects that you will learn if you attend a Sky Academy Master Class. It was actually something that I spend alot of time on with my Students, which is Vibrato. For those of you who don’t play an Instrument, Vibrato is basically the art and technique of “bending/raising” a note back and forth with a smooth, even succession of two pitches. When you see a Guitarist, or Violinist “shaking” their left hand on the neck of the instrument, they are using Vibrato. I would like to point out that I was turned on to Vibrato by one of the Best Guitar Instructors I ever had, Pat Thrall, who won “Best New Guitarist” in Guitar Player Magazine when he was in the Pat Travers Band in 1980. Pat really got me to work and Master my Vibrato, suggesting listening to Blues Greats like Albert King, and developing a real “Vocal” quality to my playing. It was Amazing how all of those great Jimi solo’s like “Watchtower” came to life in a completely different way once my vibrato started to happen.

So it was Great to hear Uli reiterate to the Students how important their Vibrato is, and he talked at length on how to physically go about improving one’s technique, and even went around the room listening to everyones vibrato!

A funny story comes to mind about that moment. After Uli asked the first kid in the front of the class to demonstrate his Vibrato to Uli and the rest of the class, a number of students began to panic knowing that they would be playing in front of Uli and the Class next. One of the students whom I teach personally  totally went blank! Uli asked him to start on “D” on the G string, and the poor kid started playing notes on every string just to play anything, but still hadn’t found the “D’ on the 7th fret on the G string . *(Lesson-Students, make sure you have the names of the notes on the neck memorized, and are able to identify them all in an instant!). Feeling the pressure of a World Renowned Master and the rest of the class looking at him, he finally stopped, looked up, and stuttered, “I’…I’m k…ki…kind of Ne…Ner..Nervous”…! That broke the ice, and hours passed like minutes as Uli talked about and shared many profound Insights, as well as ideas about techniques, and also having the class play along together to some of these techniques…

I catalogued every word of Importance during the Master Class, and we have been using many of those Insights in our Curriculum with Great results.

Another Highlight was when Uli asked if anyone wanted to get up and play with Me in front of the Class to be critiqued by Uli. I must say that it is no easy task playing in front of a World Renowned Legend, your Instructor, and a Class of your peers, but student Nick Ertman raised his hand to come up and play, and he played excellently! Way to Go Nick!

We paused for a 10 minute break, and when Uli came back, he led the class through a series of techniques, profound insights and wisdom that students are still talking about a month later!

In what seemed liked a matter of minutes, 4 hours had passed, and Uli and the band had to get ready to leave to head to the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, which is conveniently located less than 10 minutes from the School.

Before leaving, Uli was kind enough to spend time signing autographs and posing for pictures with everyone in attendance…

Here are some of the pictures from after the Sky Academy Master Class…

A Very Happy Group Shot…

Another Group Shot-What An Incredible Day!

Partial Group Shot…

Uli Signing Guitar for Talik…

Uli and I…What An Incredible Way to Spend A Saturday Afternoon!…

Matt and Ciano With Uli…

Rob and Chris With Uli…

Rishab and Andrew with Uli…

Uli and Nick…

Talik, Tarith, and Phil Patel with Uli…

Uli and Brendan…

In what seemed like a matter of minutes, the 4 hours had passed, and Uli was being led back to the bus before heading to the Sound Check at The Starland Ballroom,

Students gathered in the lobby to purchase some tour merchandise, (We can’t help to think how cool it is in 2012 for a young kid walking into school wearing a Uli Jon Roth Tour T Shirt-Awesome!:), and wish Uli a Great show later that evening, which many of the students would be attending…

Here is a picture of Sue, Rob, and Chris after helping to  load up some of the Merchandise onto the Tour Bus…

Uli, Band, and Crew head off for a Sound Check before the show at The Starland Ballroom later that Evening before heading out West, then Overseas for more shows around the World on their 2012 Tour…Thanks for an Incredible Day that We Will Always Remember Uli!

As We watched the Tour Bus pull away from the Browntown Shopping Center, the unseasonably Warm Winter Winds sifted with the Sun through the Pine Trees that surround the parking lot here at the School…

Students bid their farewell with huge smiles on their faces and in their hearts, while Angel helped the band with booking their accommodations and getting them back to the venue.

Doug E. Fresh, an old student and good friend who I hadn’t seen in years came back upstairs to the School, where we reminisced about the days events, and about how Incredible everything was that transpired that day…Funny enough, there was no mention of Techniques, Scale or Arpeggio Ideas, or any other “Technical Data” based talks, (although they were all covered in detail)…We were talking about the Feelings of Inspiration we had gotten just from being in the Presence of a Master who had come to Invite and Inspire us to find the Inspiration with Ourselves through some of the discourse he had shared… It was so much more than just the music…

We talked about how few Musicians there were or are that could offer the same depth of Wisdom and Insights beyond the music… It was really incredible how inspired we all had become in that short amount of time…It was as if a “Burst of Light” had come through the School, and Remained to lead the way long after it was gone… As a Musician, you have these moments where something really impacts you…

Maybe it’s the first song you hear that makes you feel alive in a way that you have never felt before. Or maybe it’s the first concert you see from a band you really like, and you realize at that moment that “This is what I HAVE to do for the rest of my Life”, or just capture the inspiration to go home and practice more then ever…It could be the first time you play with your first band, and the feeling you get when your songs start coming together…Maybe it’s when you work really hard on something for a long time and it finally comes together, and you are able to play and execute it perfectly…

It is times like that where you feel extremely privileged to be part of this “Music Journey” that we are all on once we connect with that first song that brings us in…

They become the soundtrack of our lives, they carry us through the good and and bad times, and it is a feeling like no other…

After finishing up talking with Doug, I straightened a few things up, took a look around and gave Thanks to God for making such an incredible day possible, then locked the door behind me and walked down the hall, down the stairs, and was greeted by this beautiful sunset  as the day faded into dusk outside in front of the School…

Moments like this are really incredible, as you know that they are something to be cherished, reflected upon, and learned from, as they get filed into a part of our souls that nothing can erase… These rare moments where everything comes together, and you have the blessing of being able to share it with some great friends…

Before we knew it, we were on our way over to The Starland Ballroom, (all the while, my cell phone was going off with text messages and calls from Students and Friends who attended the Event and couldn’t stop talking about how Inspired they were).

Mountain Guitarist (and Legend in his own right) Leslie West started the evening off with an Awesome set of Mountain Classics. Those who are not familiar with Leslie’s playing should definitely check out his playing, as he was also a huge influence on other Legendary Guitarist’s like Michael Schenker, Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads amongst others. His vibrato, phrasing, and feel are amongst the best.

Soon, Uli and band took the Stage, and the Starland crowd were really into the killer set of SCORPIONS and Electric Sun/Uli Solo Classics from over the years. Everyone we were with was commenting on how great the band sounded, and we couldn’t stop smiling as we would hear the opening guitar parts from all of those classics that you never get to hear played so perfectly. (The entire band really sounded great)

Generally while at shows we don’t like to film too much, as it takes away from really being “in the moment” during the show, concurrently taking away from the experience, but we had to capture one of our all time favorites from the Amazing SCORPIONS album, “Taken By Force”- The Legendary Classic “Sails of Charon”- here is the video from that night at Starland, (please forgive the distance from the stage- we were standing by the soundboard, as that is usually where the best sound is, the audio is really good, and Uli’s playing is Amazing as always:)

During the concert, we had run into some old students and friends who were at the show, all of whom were smiling ear-to-ear listening the SCORPIONS Classics “Pictured Life”, “Catch Your Train”, “We’ll Burn The Sky” and others. Before long, Uli and Band had finished the set, and the crowd began to fill out into the beautifully warm February night air in Sayreville. Everyone who was at the show was talking on the way out on how great Uli and the band sounded, and you could only hope that they would be back soon to share those great songs again with New Jersey:)

The following day Sunday I kept getting calls, texts, and emails about how deeply the ULI Master Class had inspired all who had attended. Everyone kept mentioning how they couldn’t believe how Inspired they felt since Saturday with ULI…I noticed the same thing- everything had kind of…Shifted into a another Direction for lack of a better word. It is actually kind of hard to put into words what transpired that day..It is something one has to experience, (and again, if you have the chance to go to a SKY ACADEMY Master Class anywhere at any time, don’t hesitate, it is Incredible!) to truly understand.

Some of the things were brand new concepts and ideals that I learned that day, other things were a reminder to get back to certain concepts from when I started many years ago. One of the things that was great to Experience was that when you are with ULI, you are not only with a Legendary Master Musician, you are with a Pure Artist… In a day and age where everything has become “Commerce Based”, and Musicians talk about how to “Make It” while talking about “Demographics”, and play and compose on their instruments with Fame and Chart Positions in mind, ULI plays simply from his Essence of Spirit, which is incredible to be around and experience. Simply by being who he is, he inspires…

He reminded us without saying so that there is a much deeper reason that we play the music. It is something that has been around since the beginning of time, and will continue long after we have continued on. It is something that when done with feeling connected to the source from which it is born will take us somewhere else. He taught us that the very essence of who we are should be in every note, and that within every note there are many stories beyond that single note…

On Monday, I pulled into the Browntown Parking Lot, took my guitar case of the car and walked up the stairs like I had so many times before, only this time everything was different…

There was a different feeling in the air. I put the key into the lock, opened the door, and walked through the waiting room where only a short time ago ULI had been mingling with students, friends and staff saying goodbye to everyone…

There was a palpable positive energy still in the School from what had transpired on Saturday, and as I walked into the Blue Master Class Room, I immediately was drawn to what he had written on that same Poster that was on my wall when I was just a kid with a heart full of Music Dreams…

Here is the Picture…

Thank You So Much ULI, we have remained “Inspired”…

*(And Thank You again to all Students, Friends, and Staff who attended the Master Class and who helped create this Incredible Experience)

Peace,

Gregg Zubowicz

 Director of Curriculum

Old Bridge, New Jersey

United States

March 25th, 2012

*If You wish to follow what is happening at The Old Bridge Music Center, you can “Like” us on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/oldbridgemusiccenter

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