Thursday, June 26, 2014

5 Questions with Eugene Cantera

Eugene Cantera (B.M. ‘81) studied music education at Hartt from 1977 to 1981.  He is currently living in Carrollton, Texas.  

What have you been up to since you graduated from Hartt?

I worked at the Hartt Community Division for over 10 years beginning shortly after I graduated. I've always enjoyed one-on-one teaching and performing and managed to stay busy doing both in and around Hartford through the early 90’s.

What are you involved with right now?

Around 1993, we were in Dallas visiting friends from Connecticut when I was fortunate enough to see a sign for the Dallas School of Music and popped in. I had no idea that they had only recently opened their doors so I jokingly said to my now boss “If I relocate here will you give me a gig?” He said “yes” but little did he know that I would show up just a few weeks later ready to work. lol. I became a Partner just a few years later.

DSM is a private community music school in north Dallas. Our youngest students are 3 or 4 and our oldest are in their 80’s - and sometimes they come one after the other!  It’s a wonderful challenge that keeps things interesting and keeps one's teaching chops sharp!  We are also publishers of online music learning materials ( that are used all over the world, and part of my days are spent creating content and heading up the social media aspect of those related blogs and sites.

I recently returned from an artist in residency at a private school in Adelaide, Australia.  The trip was incredible and came about almost entirely because of the work we've been doing online over the past 10 to 12 years. I wrote about how the trip came to be, what it took to plan, and how it all turned out on Tumblr - the account  it’s far too long but if anyone is interested, here is the link:

What is one of your most memorable things about your time at Hartt?

Monday, June 16, 2014

5 Questions with Eric Seddon

Eric Seddon (BM, 1994), studied clarinet at Hartt from 1990-1994. He currently lives in Cleveland with his wife, Elisa (BM in flute, BS in Chemistry 1995) and their seven children.

What have you been up to since graduating from Hartt?

Twenty years is a long time, and a great deal has happened. Obviously the biggest things are personal: Elisa and I have been married for 22 years now, and have been blessed with seven beautiful children. As any creative artist will tell you, to have that sort of stability—a spouse and family who care and are supportive of your work—is irreplaceable.

Musically speaking, after Hartt I went on to graduate work at Butler University, then played in regional symphony orchestras, teaching briefly at the Cleveland Music School Settlement before being forced into an unexpected ‘early retirement.’ Since childhood, I’d had a severe heart condition that grew increasingly worse. By age 28 it had progressed to the point that I couldn’t breathe well enough to play, and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Packing up the clarinet was excruciating, but something I had to do for my health’s sake. So for several years I turned my efforts to writing; publishing academic pieces on music history, performance reviews, CD reviews, and some poetry. I even spent a couple of years selling clarinets for a prominent German instrument maker. In short, I tried to stay involved with music in whatever way I could.

Then, around 2010, everything changed for the better. A cardiologist diagnosed me correctly, and I had open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. An operation like that can change your life in many ways. Thankfully, the surgery was a resounding success, and I spent the next three years rebuilding my technique to a professional level. I’m grateful my wife and kids understood the type of drive that can make a 38 year old practice for five or six hours a day—before sunrise, during meals, and after bedtime, if necessary. I played my first gig in fourteen years this past January, and have been performing steadily, often several times a week, ever since.
What are you involved with right now?

The Cleveland jazz scene. I’m grateful so many musicians here have given me a chance to play—and have responded enthusiastically to what I do. George Foley was the first. Anyone on the scene here knows his work—his piano and band leading skills are mainstays at venues like Nighttown, Bon Vivant, the Barking Spider, and the Tavern Co. Through George I met a community of artists, getting opportunities to play with Gene Epstein’s Jazz Hot, Kevin Richards & Friends, jazz violinist Reed Simon, and Brad Smedley, who has hired me a couple of times to play with his gypsy jazz group Hot Djang.

Beyond these opportunities, I’m in the beginning stages of organizing my own group, Eric Seddon’s Hot Club, an ensemble featuring my clarinet through the lens of New Orleans, gypsy jazz, and swing. The idea is to have a creative fusion of those elements, which are in many ways the most important roots and continued areas of innovation for jazz clarinet.
What is one of the most memorable things about your time at Hartt?

There are so many that I can hardly do the question justice, but one quote will have to suffice, as it encompasses the importance of the student-teacher relationship so central to conservatory study. I entered Hartt as a young man who had just gigged in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and whose primary goal was to play jazz. Back then clarinetists weren’t really accepted into jazz programs, and because of this, I was more encouraged to get a degree in classical performance.

At my audition for Hartt, Charles Russo, who was himself a proficient jazz musician, was understanding about my jazz concept, and said he would tailor my lessons in that direction.