After 30 years of performing, funk/ R&B artist Thaddeus Hogarth says what has kept him going is maintaining a balance—as a performer, businessman, and educator at Berklee College of Music here in Boston. Part of his work at Berklee is creating online courses for students all around the world, and advancements in technology are giving new opportunities for those who wish to learn how to play.
Hogarth has performed both solo and with his band, the Thaddeus Hogarth Band. He is the author of Funk/R&B Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves and Sounds, COMMA which outlines his approach to guitar instruction. This is explored in his Berklee Music Online Course, Funk R&B Guitar Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar. His Intro to Guitar course on Coursera saw an enrollment of more than 120,000 for a six-week period.
Noise: What do you view as your biggest accomplishment as a musician?
Thaddeus: My biggest accomplishment has been to balance it all. My goals have all been personal. I continue to learn and grow, the thing is balancing it all—the pie chart of my life—with the right amount of art, the right amount of earning, the right amount of performing, the right amount of sharing, the right amount of collaborating. Keeping it all in the place where it’s still fun.
It’s not to discredit the great gigs and people. There are people I think are amazing. Some people I worked with are great musicians. That’s part of the collaboration. I’ve had some amazing experiences performing with my band or jamming with the people in the jam sessions and I value and treasure them all in an equal way.
Noise: What has kept you playing for 30 years?
Thaddeus: Just keeping it in the place where I love it. There are times when I get tired of playing, so I teach. Learning and growing and sharing, that balance. It’s easy to get in the place where it’s not fun. The balance to me is what keeps it going, what keeps it fresh—the ability to share and teach, I think of that as a gift that keeps on giving.
They [students] give me some insight. As I demonstrate something to them, I learn something else. Also being a musician, I love music enough to learn more about what makes it work and get better at it.
I feel like I get to be on the vanguard of a lot of really cutting-edge projects that keep me excited. It’s not just about jumping up on stage. Artists can find peace in knowing that the business is the business. The most important thing is to not be bitter about it.
Noise: You’re a teacher at Berklee College of Music here in Boston. What made you want to become a music educator?
Thaddeus: It’s a long progression. You’re a performer, but when you get on stage you’re also an educator. People are looking at you as a role model and they want to do what you do. I always taught, I loved music, to want to learn more and to share that with other people. For me it was a logical progression of things to become involved in education.
The more I got involved, the more I realized it was where it was at for me. I continued to be inspired by this thing called music in your life. It’s hard to become inspired by the music business, it’s hard to be inspired all the time—you’re booking gigs and people don’t call you back or you’re negotiating contracts.
Ultimately I find when you’re tired of the business end of things and agents and emails and mailing lists and all that stuff, you just find a quiet place and you pick up the guitar and learn a new song.
That for me is a logical progression. I decided I don’t want to drive around the country when I’m 65. When I first came to Boston it wasn’t to get a record deal. I loved music enough to want to learn what makes it tick.
Noise: Has education changed much because of the Internet?
Thaddeus: As far as the world of education goes, I teach guitar, I’m also one of the tutors for the online school, Berklee Online. I’m also author of a course, a pretty popular course, Funk R&B Guitar Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar. It teaches people how to solo in the genre of funk and R&B. It’s connected to some of the work I did on my book called Funk/R&B Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves and Sounds.
Recently, one of the more notable things I’ve done is authored an introductory guitar course, part of a partnership with Berklee and an organization called Coursera. It provides online courses to the world from major colleges, Ivy League colleges, like Princeton and Harvard, colleges like Berklee. It’s part of a growing trend of offering education to the world for free. It gives the same education if you were to enroll at the brick and mortar college.
Noise: What’s the benefit of online classes?
Thaddeus: Some people say “I’d rather have a private instructor in the room with me.” That’s great, but if you’re living in the far reaches of Australia, and you’re not able to come to the physical brick-and-mortar college, this is not only a viable option, there are things that are easier to demonstrate online than in person: You can stop that video. You can rewind it. You can look at multiple camera angles. You can see if our fingers match up. You can do that 5,000 times.
There are pros and not very many cons, just the accessibility. The whole world of online learning as far as music goes, it’s an amazing opportunity for people all over the globe.
It’s a new frontier and as an artist and as a musician myself, I see the benefits. I see the ability to reach your student in a different way, where without this, it may take them years before they can come to the U.S. to study here. It’s nothing but advantage.
Noise: How do you think the availability of music online has changed the industry and the local scene?
Thaddeus: I think of the Internet as a tool that can be useful. I don’t think the Internet killed this or that aspect of music. As artist musicians, we get together and rehearse and get a gig, and people buy our CDs—that hasn’t changed. All the extra stuff, all the online downloading, that can be somebody’s total world, if that’s all they want to do.
In my humble opinion the Internet is a tool that you can use to your advantage. You can use social media to let people know about your gigs, but don’t let the social media become your gigs. Don’t think of it as something that ruins your career.
Noise: What was it like when music first started being available online?
Thaddeus: I remember when everyone was talking about how the Internet was going to change things and this is the way it’s going to go, and that seems to change every five years. I’m still waiting for the person to come up to me and say, “Hey man, I make my total living online.” I think that’s not the way it has to be done—that’s a way it was done for that artist. You use it as a tool to help what you’re doing. You can produce an amazing music video that goes viral and gets two million hits. It doesn’t mean you’re ready for live shows.
Noise: What about people pointing to music online as a reason why shows get smaller crowds?
Thaddeus: I don’t think the Internet has come along and ruined the way live performances happen. We still have the ability to find venues to play, put a performance together, find people to come, and find people to buy our product. I don’t think the Internet has changed people’s desires to sit and appreciate music. Musicians just have to work a little harder. It’s up to you to find ways to use this tool to your advantage. It’s also a marketing machine. More power to the people who use it for that. I use Facebook and I use my email list to let people know where I’m playing—but it’s up to me to get up and play the show.
Thaddeus Hogarth’s music and links to his online courses can be found on www.thaddeushogarth.com/index.html