Derrick Hodge Workshop at Uarts

* Pictures courtesy of

Today I attended Derrick Hodge's master class at my school, University of the Arts. I read the email about it this morning and thought I would check it out. The email, the school sent out to inform the students of this event, said Derrick is a Bassist, Music Producer, and Film Scorer. So, I thought I could learn some relevant information. However, it was all jazz performance based, but I did enjoy it. It was a good Monday afternoon performance.

Now, some background on Mr. Hodge:

Derrick was a member in various bands lead by trumpeter Terence Blanchard, keyboardist Robert Glasper, rapper Common, and R&B singers Jill Scott and Maxwell. After years of being part of bands he wanted to stand out and find his unique voice and sound. Then in 2013 he started his solo career and released his first album Live Today.

“Mr. Hodge has made a cinematic word of his own,” declared The New York Times in their glowing review of Live Today. JazzTimes called the album “a focused, cohesive and artistically ambitious record,” noting that it’s “identity, and lasting beauty, is found in his arrangements,” and praising how naturally Hodge’s sound wove together jazz and hip hop: “the hypnotic morphing of textures and timbres within these liquid arrangements herald new chemistry and creative fuel.”

With such an astonishing resume, I was a shock to hear that he barely made it into collage. He blew his Temple audition because he wasn't able to read music, so on the site reading portion of the test he made it all up. He did make it in, just by the skin of his teeth. In order to get by for so long he relied on his ear training. However, he ended up dropping out of college. Down playing his weakness only held him back and was forced to deal with it. So with input from his mentors, he decided to go back and graduate. He was willing to work hard at it, till his weak point was a strong suit. Taking time to write out scores, he wanted to better himself. Then, he began writing scores and mailing them out to producers, as well as film-makers would send him movies without audio to write music for. His advice to any and all music students is to make sure to cover all the grounds and defiantly need to be able to read music.

(This is something that I really needed to hear, when it comes to writing and reading music, I am okayish at it and I defiantly need to work at)

Turns out, Derrick knows Uart's very own Mike Jones. They met back in high school at a music store. The two were both strangers in a store checking out guitars and then started jamming! They are still friends and keep in touch. Both of them performed together for this masterclass. Both were on bass. I never listened to anything like this live before, the two were improving together but it flowed so smoothly and played almost in unison at certain points. I wish I could provide a more in depth analyisis on their set, but I am not a proper music critique yet nor a composition major. -Check out a snip-it of their set here-

Last night (9/30/18), he performed at Philly's own Milk Boy. His concert series is called Philly State of Mind, and pays homage to the sounds his fell love with here in his home city. As a native Philly man, he used this series to show love for his friends and this city.

He stated that he believes Philly musicians are louder and have more gusto. That musicians from Philadelphia have their own unique intensity of their sound. Philly musicians are versatile. We are a melting pot here. Philly is not such a cut throat city as NYC,”here we have such a unique energy where we all have to open our ears, it forces you to be sponges,” Hodge stated. He ended up using the sponge analogy multiple times, about absorbing more skills, sounds, and ideas from the various environments around him that help contribute to his unique sound. Being a 'sponge' is a trait all musicians in Philly seem to have.

The biggest point he emphasized the most from this class was when he talked about how he likes to make his music and his methods to being a creative musician. He put a lot of focus on being honest about sounds, feelings, and the music. Live Today was the DNA of all of his music and it all has different origins, not just jazz, all melting together to make something raw. He only did one take of bass. “If someone rocks with me or not at least they’re getting something honest.” He really wants his music to tell a clear story that his listeners can feel and follow. His prestigious music teachers are to thank for his honesty, they told him “don’t force it, let it be.”

Luckily, a student asked a question about his advice on getting into the music business, instead of performance. If it wasn't for that kid, Derrick probably would've never talked about the behind-the-scenes. Remember, I am a MBET (music business, entrepreneurship, and technology), I am not a performance major. Derrick had really phenomenal tips on being a modern-day music producer:

  • Stay super hungry, hustle hard, and always want to learn more

  • It's about working with others to make a team to make successful performances with various skills in different niches

  • Have someone you’re close too that is in PR, promotion, booking, DJ, mixing, recording, songwriting, social media, etc.

  • "Don’t think day to day, got to think of the big picture of what you want to do and how."

  • Be able to collab and be versatile

  • Now a days it is so important to have a social media presence whether its youtube, twitter, instagram, etc.

  • "Build up your skills so later they can all work together to make something amazing"

The class ended with Hodge playing with and critiquing a Uarts jazz ensemble. I never watched a whole ensemble play for a teacher, practice, and be critiqued with an audience. It was good to watch and seeing him giving the band ideas and applying them. The question and answer, show and tell going on between the members and Derrick was great to watch. His main suggestions where stylistic like shortening or popping notes, and technical like staying on beat. -Check out a snip-it of their set here-

Although, majority of the time was on jazz performance, I very much enjoyed it. I got some new insight into jazz and what performance majors do. The short time Derrick spent on being a producer, was very true and points you need to know and actions that need to be taken in order to be successful.

3.5/5 stars for the afternoon.

Please make sure to check out the imbedded links on Derrick Hodge and his works!

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