A Q&A With DIGITAL LAB INSTRUCTOR RANZEL MERRITT
March 30, 2022 | by SFJAZZ
SFJAZZ Education welcomes our newest Digital Lab Instructor Ranzel Merritt! An alumnus of the High School All-Stars program and graduate of the Oakland School for the Arts, Ranzel now serves as an SFJAZZ Alumni Ambassador, bringing his experience and creative development to his work with young students.
He will be teaching Intro to Urban Beat Making on April 18, and here is a brief Q&A to get to know him better.
Q: What do you enjoy about teaching music production to youth? Why do you think these creative skills are important today?
A: Teaching youth anything of substance is enjoyable to me, whether it's music, history, or computer science. Why? Because giving knowledge and seeing it be used in a positive way is one of the most satisfying feelings there is, especially if a student pursues a career and begins making money from what they love. I love to see that! Learning music production can take you down so many cool avenues, such as becoming an audio engineer, working as a music producer, or mixing sound for live concerts. There are plenty of lanes you can take from learning music production. Having such creative skills and mastering them is a must, and you can translate those same techniques and practices to other subjects, such as computer science or law.
Q: Who were some of your important mentors coming up in Oakland, and how did their influence inform your career path?
A: Growing up in Oakland, my dad was my first mentor. He plays drums, is a songwriter, and knows basic audio engineering techniques, so I learned a lot by seeing him perform and make music. After that, my next mentor was David Murrray, the saxophonist. My father and David were best friends in high school, and my father appears on several of David’s albums. Whenever he came to town, I would get a lesson from David and get to be around so many great musicians. Later on, I had the chance to be in the most prestigious music program in the country at that time, known as the Young Musicians Program (YMP), which took place at U.C. Berkeley. YMP was a music training program for 3rd-12th grade students with exceptional talent. While I was in YMP I studied with Pete Yellin, Ndugu Chancler, Frank Foster, Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller, Patrice Rushen, and many others. Being in that program is what got me ready for the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, and later, The New School for Jazz in New York.
Q: What advice would you give to younger folks about the music industry?
A: As a professional musician who has had so many cool experiences with music, I would say really study your craft and put your all into it, so that when those great opportunities come you are ready to perform and be your best. Also, you should get into the music business side of the music industry and really understand the idea of owning your Intellectual Property (IP). Most musicians have no business or marketing skills, and it is really important to be an educated artist in music and in business. If you don't master the business side of things, you will end up with bad contracts or not making any money, or worse, owing money! Understanding the basics of music contracts, owning your masters and publishing (IP), and things of this nature will set you up for success in the music industry.
Q: What do you think is the importance of representation with instructors and how it can impact young learners?
A: Representation is always important, no matter what field of work you are in. People unfortunately judge you first off based on your look and also how you speak, so always make sure you're presentable to everyone, no matter what field of work you are in. Representation isn't just about image; you also need to have integrity and honor about yourself and how you communicate with others. This is a key factor in being an instructor or mentor to young learners, as children copy what they see and hear. Always demonstrate those characteristics and you can be successful in the world.
In his youth focused workshop on April 18, Ranzel Merritt will demonstrate the techniques needed to create the beats and melodic parts of modern urban music, ranging from RnB, Hip-Hop to Trap styles. Students will learn all they need to know to get started producing music in these very popular genres including beatmaking, arrangement, mixing and mastering. More information and tickets are available here.
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