Mentor Approach

My teaching philosophy is simple. I don't care to teach.
At least, not in the traditional sense. I prefer to mentor.

The old-world style of mentoring has been enormously successful throughout centuries of music education. It has been a vital method of jazz education since the origin of jazz.

I take a genuine interest in my students – their music, their goals and their lives – as these are inseparable in my opinion. Their futures matter to me, personally and professionally. How could any teacher even evaluate his own methodologies without knowing the fate of his students? After all, that knowledge is the assessment of his approach, wherein the ultimate litmus test lies.

Educational excellence in the arts requires much more than just the transfer of knowledge. Were it so simple, I would recommend some of the many resources available and wish each student good luck on his or her journey. However, most students that run the gamut of texts and online resources without guidance simply don't develop as players, nor do they deepen their musical understanding. Expert, focused and real-time feedback is the centerpiece of a performing arts education.

The Artist and the Art

I maintain a teaching philosophy which both acknowledges and addresses the inescapable connection between the artist and his art. I’ve never encountered a musician offstage that didn’t personally evince correlative traits to his onstage performance. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes it’s not. For example, a musician who exhibits a forward-thinking mind-set in conversation will almost always deliver an architecturally sound performance. Similarly, a musician who speaks monotonously will tend to play with less varied dynamics. The art cannot escape the artist, for better or worse. While this may seem like a quandary, the resolution can be simple.

Sometimes to improve a music performance, the musician needs to grow personally. I believe the ability to remain mentally elastic so as to allow perceptual evolution is a sign of intelligence. I’m certainly a different person than I was even a few years ago and I hope to be a different person in a few years hence. Similarly, my playing has evolved along with me. I can’t escape the connection, either. While I certainly wouldn’t want all my students to conform to a single behavioral model, I do endeavor to guide each student to develop their own intellectual and personal strengths. It results in better playing. Perhaps more importantly, it results in a higher degree of perception and creativity.

Did you cringe a little back there? Concerned that I might focus too much attention on your personal strengths and weaknesses and lose sight of your musical goals? After all, aren’t you considering coming to me for information about jazz? You needn’t be concerned. I wouldn’t want to change the essence of who you are. I'm simply interested in seeing you grow artistically through personal growth, which I believe is essential for a full life. I live by that philosophy, or at least continually aspire to live by it.

Music Colleges

    That one professor: is he there?

Serious professional musicians tend to cite the individual who mentored their paths before they cite the name of a college or a conservatory they attended, especially when speaking with other musicians. While a mentor may sometimes emerge within the academic framework, too often that’s not the case. The value of a mentor cannot be overestimated. Consider that, even in today's high-tech high-access world, less than 5% of the teachers produce more than 95% of the professionals. Furthermore, less than 10% of graduates from even the top 1% of music schools in the world end up making a living in the music industry. Imagine the statistics at the other 99% of music schools! To quote world-class musician Pat Metheny, a former Berklee College of Music instructor, "Most guys at Berklee are going to wind up truck drivers…"

    Coordination of presented material

I have nothing against colleges. I went to college and I’ve taught at two of them. However the nature of a college jazz program is such that the various instructors of related music subjects (i.e. improvisation, combo, arranging, applied lessons, jazz history, etc.) generally don’t know what is being presented at any given time in each other’s classes. There is little to no coordination of topics, other than in the broadest sense. This results in a disconnected presentation of related materials in classes, lessons and ensembles. While this may be unavoidable for a college serving a high number of students, this isn't necessarily the best way to educate students in the performing arts.

    Jazz programs are layered over classical programs

Another difficulty college jazz programs face is that their curriculum must be built on top of the classical curriculum. In other words, jazz majors are typically required to learn musical disciplines that are oriented to the classical student, but are not applicable to the study of jazz. Traditional classical theory, beyond that which offers a foundation for jazz theory, is not relevant for jazz musicians. (Yes, the theory of music has changed as has music.) Neither is the historical study of music from the Renaissance period relevant. While there’s nothing wrong with knowing these things, they consume time better spent on more applicable information. After all, classical students are not required to learn jazz history or jazz improvisation.

    Static program: dynamic art and profession

Any jazz program must constantly evaluate and reevaluate what is most relevant within this ever-evolving art and profession. When something new is needed, something else must go. Relevance should be the deciding factor of what is introduced, stays or goes, especially if a stated objective of the program is to prepare professionals.

    Administrators and time lost

Music college deans and music department chairpersons seldom come from a jazz background. A cultural divide is typical. Assistance in the form of either resources or the development and implementation of a relevant jazz curriculum can be a rarity. Further, if the degree sought is accredited, several non-music courses are required. While there is a benefit to a broad-based education within the college experience, it is outweighed by the need to absorb an overwhelming amount of information essential to a music career in a relatively short time period.

    Financial realities of schools

I certainly understand that schools must be financially sound to be viable, and therefore must operate on a large scale. My educational model could never serve the larger financial needs of a college. While I can afford to select a smaller number of students who I believe will succeed within my program, music colleges cannot. If they accepted only those students that they believed would succeed, most of them would have to close their doors. Regardless of their selection process, they must accept a larger number of students.

Jazz Arts Studio

    What’s different?

One of the strongest advantages of my program is that I teach or supervise all facets of instruction. This results in a clear connection between all areas of study. Topics that are conventionally presented in separate classes elsewhere are integrated within the same class at a time which is appropriate to the larger educational picture. This real-time, cross-curricular approach keeps all material fully in context.

And, while I’ve developed a very clear curriculum of topics covered at various levels (see Admissions page), the chronology of my presentation is malleable. Due to a teaching methodology which is highly responsive to real-time performance, no schedule is too binding or any plan unalterable. Spontaneity is used unsparingly to address the unique strengths and weaknesses which lie within every class.

Those students who previously attended or graduated a music school before coming to study with me often comment that they prefer my approach, which enables them to learn contextual material in a class setting and, in many cases, immediately apply it in a coordinating combo setting. My students learn how to integrate new information into their playing immediately.

And how do I adapt my program to an ever-evolving art and profession? My autonomy liberates me from the conventional struggles to gain both resources and approval for a new course, which may or may not come next year. If a topic is relevant, we address it now.

Finally, my expenses are clearly underneath those of a college. I keep them low by being both “chief cook and bottle washer.” In other words, I work hard to ensure Jazz Arts Studio’s continued success. And, even though we have excellent space in downtown Dayton, I don't have to pay for all those fancy buildings you might see on a pretty campus.

Something I Would Ask From You

Should you become a student, I will ask you to afford me a little “blind faith” in the beginning. I will actually earn your faith soon enough, but in the meantime let me direct your path. Allow me to guide your questions, not simply answer them. Often the right answer lies in the right question. This is especially true in music, where there is so much interconnected information to grasp and the need for conceptualization is great. Also, remember that many answers come with hard work.

Better to Know This Now

In the end, all that matters is how well a musician plays, not which college or conservatory they attended. This applies whether the student desires to forge a career in music or whether he or she exclusively wishes to develop the art for art’s sake. Throughout my career, nobody has ever asked me where I studied, save one exception. Knowledge is demonstrated in every performance. This industry is very unlike most others in that academic credentials are not particularly useful.

There are exceptions. In order to teach in a K-12 school, a music education degree (which isn't focused on performance) is required to obtain certification. If teaching in a post-secondary environment is the goal, then both a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees are generally required even for an entry position. Eventually, a doctoral degree will be necessary to attain tenure.

There are some (I admit I'm in this category) who often consider there to be an inverse correlation between performance skill and degree advancement. While it seems contrary to conventional wisdom, this is not an uncommon view held by professional musicians.

Master’s and doctoral degrees require many hours of research, which leaves less time for practice. And, while the musician toils away in an academic environment, far less professional experience accumulates. Many industry professionals go as far as to advise those seeking real-world opportunities within music to leave their graduate degrees off their resumes. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

A Fate to Avoid

Unfortunately, mediocre musicianship and professional ignorance runs rampant through a surprisingly high number of music college graduates. It’s not unexpected as many of their teachers didn’t posses the necessary tools to impart to their students. The truth is, other than the few marquee instructors at larger music colleges, most faculty members have never made a living by performing outside academia. And their business skills are typically underdeveloped and untested. However, many are eager to guide your professional path.

The Qualified Mentor

I believe that there are many qualities an excellent music mentor must possess: a solid grasp of the material, a clear picture of the developmental arc, practical and lengthy professional experience, an ability to evaluate a performance and positively affect it, significant life experience and willingness to care about his students and their efforts.

As of this writing (January of 2008) I have amassed 44 years of music study, 33 years of teaching experience, 30 years of professional experience (well over 5,000 gigs) and 29 years of experience as a jazz educator. I've not only made this my profession, I've made it my life's work.

There will eventually be that "one right teacher" that every musician needs to move beyond a certain point. Hopefully you will consider what I have to offer when seeking yours. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to work together to understand and realize your goals.

Oh, and in the statistical likelihood that you play an instrument other than piano, please notice in the above sets of pictures that, as often as not, a musician is mentored by someone who plays an instrument other than his own. Pianists are the most common “other instrumentalists” in such an arrangement.

My Mentor

Audley Wasson was a deeply passionate musician who studied with the Swiss concert pianist Rudolph Ganz, who in turn studied with Busoni and Brahms. While Jazz is clearly a distinctive idiom, music is music, and Wasson - a classical pianist and master teacher - instilled in me the musical qualities that are most important to me to this day.

The Results

Over these many years, I’ve had the absolute privilege of working with hundreds of motivated and talented students. Many of them continue to play in this region. Several more have moved on to enjoy successful music careers in larger markets. Still others have taken what they have learned about how to rigorously pursue their dreams into other successful walks of life. In all cases, a more evolved understanding, perception and performance of music occurs.

The program has attracted students not just from Dayton and its outlying areas, but also from Cincinnati, Columbus and well beyond. The professional and personal network of current and past students is large and the mutual support and kinship demonstrated routinely is virtually unsurpassed. To get a sense of this from the students’ perspectives, along with the perspectives of outside area professionals and parents, please read the testimonials below.

Jeff Acred
Kris Alavattam
Sean Ali
Erik Augis
Ian Baggette
Tyler Baratko
Jason Branscum
Matt Buehrle
Eliot Cardinaux
Mitch Coleman
Steve Dawson
Nate Duling
Pat Dunn
Lee Dynes
Mike Ervin
Tyler Fosnight
Ben Freelove
Josh Gonzalez
Maurice Greer
Ryan Hunter
Griffin Hussong
Jeff Kirk
Joe Knight
Zach Lemmon
Tom Lipps
Joe Litko
Jeremy Luzier
Lars Miller
Mike Minarcek
Pawan Murthy
Kirby Reiling
AJ Rolling
Bryan Russell
Jim Saxa
Rob Stone
Matt Warner
Adam Wheeler
Area Professionals
Gordon Brisker
Dennis Farmer
Jerry Gillotti
Robert Gray
Jeremy Laukhuf
Jerry Robinson
Robert Ruckman
James E. Smith
Jane Varella
Mark Wilcox
Josiah Wolf
Tom Baratko
Larry Feinstein

Bob & Lynn Freelove
Candy Lauer

Clark Miller

Jazz Arts Studio is a phenomenal resource. I've been around the studio for a few years, and during that time I've seen the transformation of players with relatively modest skills into exceptional players; I'm certain that this transformation is not luck.

-Jeff Acred
V.P. IB Logistics, Pianist, Bassist, Dayton

Eric Zadan is a man who cares deeply for each one of his students. Be it the assignment of material to practice, constructive criticism, or the entertaining lectures on everything from harmony to life lessons to business marketing, he demonstrates that his primary interest is the students’– and it is for this caring attitude and these various teachings that I am most thankful to him. He inspires and motivates me to expect higher standards of myself and to achieve excellence in not only my music studies but all facets of my life.

-Kris Alavattam
Saxophonist, Cincinnati

My experience at Jazz Arts Studio has been an altogether positive one. The studio is an excellent place to learn music theory, improve your hearing, and increase your repertoire. All that said, that is not the reason I attend classes here. The mere accumulation of musical facts and knowledge does not interest me as a student. The studio gives you the opportunity to breathe life into music, create something beautiful, and really play music. The studio helps you keep in sight the larger picture of playing music for music's sake, something many other teachers overlook. I do not mean to suggest that subtleties and details are overlooked at the studio; they are just placed in a larger context. For a student wanting to learn how to play jazz, this is the best opportunity in Dayton to do so.

-Sean Ali
Bassist, New York City

I met Eric in 1992. I have been studying music with him ever since we met. Although I have had many teachers prior to meeting Eric, and some others since, I can say unequivocally that he is the best teacher I have ever had. I truly believe that whatever success I have experienced in my career thus far can be directly traced back to things I learned from Eric. Not only do I have the highest respect for him as a musician; I feel that his wide and varied experience in music, in addition to his strong teaching and communication skills, distinguish him from the vast majority of other teachers. I feel very lucky to be able to study with someone so uniquely qualified to help aspiring musicians.

I would recommend his teaching without hesitation to anyone seriously interested in furthering their musical career.

-Erik Augis
Pianist, Columbus

I’ve known Eric for the better part of eight years. One thing that has been unmistakably constant throughout is his concern for his friends and students. It’s evident that he’s incapable of doing anything less than whatever he can to improve the lives of those around him. 

-Ian Baggette
Bassist, New York City

I began studying at the Jazz Arts Studio when I was thirteen years old. Eric instantly transformed my technique and made me a better player. I was playing classical pieces that I had never dreamed of. Over the years, I did however start to get into jazz. Learning about jazz theory and applying it in a real life environment is an amazing experience. When I had the motivation to bear down and work, I took huge steps forward as a musician and as a person. Eric Zadan is a good friend and a musical genius. The Jazz Arts Studio is a gold mine of opportunity for the serious student.

-Tyler Baratko
Pianist, Springboro

I first became seriously interested in music about my junior year of high school and was pretty obsessed by my senior year. About this time I heard Eric and a number of his students perform at a local venue and it blew my mind. I couldn't have imagined that musicians this talented and impassioned lived in the area I grew up in. Shortly after I decided to go off to study music at a big ten university which quickly became one of the worst experiences of my life. After my first year, I came to study with Eric and found the same passion and talent was as prevalent in his teaching as it was in his playing. It put university music school to shame! Not only was Eric concerned about my evolution as a musician, but I got the impression that he was actually concerned for my personal growth. It may seem like an obvious trait for a teacher, but I've had a lot of music teachers and it seems to be more the exception than the rule. Anyway, now my practicing seems to actually produce growth in my playing and I've seen a number of changes in my personal life for the better.

-Jason Branscum
Trombonist, Cincinnati

Eric Zadan is an extraordinary music teacher. There is no doubt that every single bit of musical knowledge I have can be directly attributed to him. Although his teaching abilities alone separate him from many other teachers, what widens the gap is his overwhelming sense of selflessness. Eric’s level of dedication to his students cannot be surpassed. I couldn’t even fathom a guess at how many hours a week he spends preparing material for upcoming classes and events. You simply won’t find a teacher with such an intense commitment anywhere else.

Although many other people on this page have already said the same, I still must tell you that Eric has not only been influential as a music teacher, but he has literally changed my life. It is hard for me to identify a topic on which my perspective has not been changed for the better since I first met Eric. I have never seen him hesitate to set aside time to help a student with an issue or problem outside of music.

I can honestly say that because of Eric and the Jazz Arts Studio, I have been able to happily and comfortably pursue my life dream of playing music as a profession.

-Matt Buehrle
Pianist, Singer, Songwriter, Dayton

I joined the Jazz Arts Studio looking for a thorough and intensive jazz studies program that would help me to progress quickly. I found that and an incredible amount more. In addition to Eric's criticism, his wealth of jazz knowledge and creative, musical ideas, his advice on business and life in general, I found a community of warm, engaged and determined people, students and Eric alike. I felt accepted by everyone from the moment I walked through the door, and only grew closer to Eric and the students as time went on. I always feel that I am in the company of good friends at the studio, and I look forward to every lesson, class, combo and, yes, even every board.

Eric is more than just a piano teacher to me. He is a life teacher. Every little thing he says, regardless of whether it has anything to do with music or not, helps to shape me as a better person. He encourages his students to think before they act, to speak articulately, and to consider others before themselves. Joining the Jazz Arts Studio has helped me to "find myself" both as a musician and as a person. Thanks Eric!

-Elliot Cardinaux
Pianist, Massachusetts

Eric is an extraordinarily sensitive musician, with a particular genius for nurturing that sensitivity in his students. Any serious musician can only grow from investing time in his program. Well into my professional career, I spent a year with Eric, not only enlarging my knowledge of jazz but also incorporating long-ignored fundamentals of technique. Equally vital was what I learned about "listening" to the piano. Those who are fortunate enough to study with Eric, derive lifelong benefits from having done so.

-Mitch Coleman
Pianist, Yellow Springs

I met Eric when I was seventeen and became a part of the Jazz Arts Studio. Up to that point, my musical training had come in the form of weekly lessons. What came after was a complete submersion in the study of a career as a musician.

Eric met with me privately each week as well as provided and coached me in jazz ensembles of my peers. This gave me the opportunity to apply ideas discussed in lessons.

Eric helped me to build a foundation of musicianship by stressing swing feel, swing feel, swing feel, (you must swing), phrasing, and communication within an ensemble. He then offered ideas on how to apply these skills in a way to provide for myself financially. I am currently living and working as a musician in Las Vegas. I remain in close contact with Eric and still use his opinions as a reference in my career.

-Steve Dawson
Saxophonist, Las Vegas

Eric is a passionate musician and an exceptional educator. He teaches each student holistically, providing insight to real world application along the way.

-Nate Duling
Guitarist, Tipp City, Ohio

I began studying at the Jazz Arts Studio in the fall of 2006. However, my first experiences with Eric Zadan, and the education the studio provides, began at the age of 12. I took private bass lessons with Ben Freelove who was a student at the time. The education the studio provides was evident, not only through Ben’s playing, but in his ability to teach. The foundation provided to me was crucial in my musical understanding. Through middle and high school concert and jazz bands I constantly referenced my bass lessons, I learned more through those lessons than I ever did in the school band room. After attending college as a fine arts major I decided that I needed to study music. I spent some time in Sinclair’s music program but wasn’t satisfied, and decided to check out the studio. To put it simply, making the choice to attend the studio was the best decision I’ve ever made. I have never experienced a peer group that demands such excellence, and truly works to achieve it.

The environment at the studio is like no other, it is professional as well as educational. I think of it like this; when we learn to speak as kids, we do so because we are within the environment of the language. In high school and as adults we study languages in books, but to truly learn a language and its application, the student must be thrown into its environment. As a school for aspiring professionals, the studio provides to its students that same environment of real world application, rather than distant study.

- Pat Dunn
Bassist, Lake Tahoe

I cannot say enough good things about Eric Zadan. His musicianship is one-of-a-kind; deeply impassioned, creative, and virtuosic. His professionalism and skill are of the highest caliber, and span many different areas of life. These things are very true, and very valuable, but I believe the most remarkable aspect about Eric Zadan is his astonishing ability to turn beginning musicians into dedicated professionals, and outstanding individuals.

I have had a few other music teachers other than Eric, namely at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The instruction at Berklee is well organized, and the information given is high quality. But Berklee is not where I learned how to care. That was at the Jazz Arts Studio.

Eric taught me jazz theory, improvisation, the whole nine yards. But what’s more is he instilled in me a strong work ethic, a humble outlook, and a deep passion for all my endeavors. When I was at a fairly early age, Eric taught me what it means to work hard and achieve something. That kind of instruction is priceless.

What made my time at the studio even more compelling was the extremely supportive and positive peer group there. Eric created an environment of equally dedicated individuals who want nothing but to see each other do well. As great as Berklee is, you won’t find that level of camaraderie there.

Having experienced other avenues of music education, Eric remains at the very top of my list as a music educator and as a person. I continue to apply to my life the things I learned at the studio, musically and otherwise. Really, my education with and Eric never ended when I left for Berklee. Having such an extraordinary person as a close friend is an on-going learning experience. With Eric in my life, I know I will never be short of direction and guidance. But most importantly, I will never be short of inspiration.

–Lee Dynes
Guitarist, Composer, California

Eric Zadan's Jazz Arts Studio is a great asset to the Dayton region. The studio is a hidden jewel that more people need to discover. Once musicians discover it, they will be amazed, as there is nothing else like it in our community. I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be serious about jazz to give it a try. Eric's Jazz Arts Studio is very demanding but well worth the effort.

-Mike Ervin
Former C.E.O & Chairman/Wright Health Associates, Civic Leader

The studio gave me confidence to not only to pursue my passions for music but also for life.

-Tyler Fosnight
Saxophonist, Cincinnati

I can sum up my experiences with Eric Zadan in two words. LIFE CHANGING. When I first met Eric I was a headstrong kid with no real playing ability to speak of. I learned that through hard work and the right attitude I could accomplish my goals. I was always amazed that although Eric was not a bassist, his knowledge of the instrument was immense. He has a deep understanding of the instrument's function in music, how it should sound, and most important how it should feel! Eric was the best bass teacher I've ever had!

The skills I acquired in my years as a student went way beyond just playing music. I believe the sense of responsibility and professionalism I learned in the studio will help me succeed in any endeavor I might undertake. Eric's constant push for his students to learn what it means to really be prepared gives them a unique respect for what it takes to accomplish their goals.

I look back on my years at the Jazz Arts Studio as some of the best times of my life. It was never easy, but there is a deep bond formed by working hard with others. I always look forward to coming back to Dayton and hearing how well everyone is playing. The musical growth is amazing!

-Ben Freelove
Aerobatic Pilot, Bassist, Oakland

I think that in life, you encounter people and places that affect and change you forever. Becoming involved in The Jazz Arts Studio has had a life changing affect on me.

In The Jazz Arts Studio, I have found a network of people who genuinely respect and care for the art form of music. As I entered I thought I was simply going learn to play jazz, but the lessons I have learned go far beyond music…they’re about life.

I think it’s impossible to say too many good things about the peer group within the studio. It’s always felt like a brotherhood to me. In the time I have been involved, I have learned something from everyone in one way or another. In times when I needed assistance there was never any hesitation from any of them to help. My peer group is comprised of the most driven and dedicated people I know. All of them are products of a truly great teacher.

Studying with Eric has changed my playing drastically for the better. I hold in high value everything I have learned from him. I don’t feel I will ever master all the lessons learned; they are life lessons that can always be revisited and refined.

Thinking about my playing before the studio there were so many things I was unaware of as a drummer. Eric has shown me that drum kit is not just an “instrument” to be played, but part of an overall musical context. It requires thinking, awareness, integrating into the larger picture the band creates, and it always has to groove.

I’ve always appreciated Eric’s honest and intense teaching style. The times that I feel have brought about the most growth were when he placed me in musical situations that were challenging, if not beyond my ability. Those moments were ones that brought about a confidence in me that was lacking before.

I will always be a student of Eric’s. He is more than a teacher - he is a mentor and more importantly, a friend.

-Josh Gonzalez
Drummer, Dayton

I am a pianist and I have to say the Studio has been a vital tool for me in all aspects of my playing. The theory classes help you understand what you are playing and how to compose your own music. I think the Studio is excellent for serious minded musicians who want to become better musicians.

-Maurice Greer
Pianist, Dayton

It is hard to express exactly how much Eric and the studio mean to me, but I can say that the years I spent there were the most educational I have experienced. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think of the studio or use something I learned there. I can't imagine where I would be without it.

Within my first week at the Studio, I experienced more growth musically than I did in the previous three months. I never knew that with the correct instruction and a real drive to play better, I could improve so quickly. Eric was able to explain to me what my specific role as a drummer was and how I fit into the band as a whole.

Possibly my favorite experiences in the studio were the times when I could play with Eric. He would sit in from time to time during rehearsals to illustrate a point to the band and over the course of a tune my playing was pushed to its limits. I felt as though I had become a better player in just minutes.

Within the studio, I found a friendly, fun, and open environment. I was surrounded by people that had a real love for music and who wanted to sound the best they could, I had never encountered students like this.

The camaraderie between the students is unparalleled, and as a result I found myself interacting with the most advanced students, who were there to help me when I needed it. At the studio, students who can help less advanced students, do, and are happy to. I think the reason is most likely the sense of family there, and also that those advanced players were once in the opposite position and remember how much it meant to them to have someone there to help them.

There are so many ways to describe Eric; he is a caring, fun, professional, brilliant teacher and person. I developed a close friendship with him during my time there. His interest is not only in being a teacher but in being a friend and a mentor as well. He wants to get to know his students as people and not just as another student or musician to fill a spot in a band.

Overall, I think of the studio as a place that taught me to be the best musician I could as well as to be the best person I could.

-Ryan Hunter
Drummer, Cincinnati

There no is denying the musical success that all of my peers and I have experienced attending the Jazz Arts Studio, but most important for me is the camaraderie I have felt and the friendships I have made. Through challenging projects, inspiring playing moments, or just going out for dinner, I have walked away countless times a better player and a better person. Eric and the rest of the studio has instilled in me a desire to “think forward”, not only in my playing, but in life. I am one of many that has received lasting values during my time with Eric Zadan and the Jazz Arts Studio.

-Griffin Hussong
Bassist, Dayton

Through the vision and direction of Eric Zadan, there is a place in the Dayton area for musicians to sharpen skills and for fledgling musicians to use as an incubator in which to grow musically. Eric once said, "Music performance has no room for Mediocrity." This phrase has stayed in my head for over ten years. Eric has installed in me an internal mechanism that drives me to play with excellence as a standard not exception. Though I may not overcome human error I will always strive to perform at my best and to represent where I am musically, nothing less.

The evolution of my playing is thankfully never done and Eric has helped me realize my limitations only so I may stretch them and grow.

Eric motivates by verbal instruction… finding what your pride is based on… then destroying it. Eric has taught me to play for the love of music rather than recognition, a truly liberating revelation.

In the Jazz Arts Studio, I have found others who are in different places musically but all share in a very supportive atmosphere. In this group I have found a place to move forward on my musical journey in a community of musicians who share in my life-goals. For that I thank Eric for having the vision and exhausting drive to create something bigger than himself, the Jazz Arts Studio.

-Jeff Kirk
Saxophonist, Dayton

Studying at the Jazz Arts Studio has been a great but humbling experience. Before coming to the studio I had somewhat of a big head and Eric woke me up a little. I think that is what's good about Eric. He tells you what you need to know in order to grow instead of telling you what you want to hear.

What I like most about the Jazz Arts Studio is that I get a chance to play with and interact with other musicians a couple times a week. There are some fine players at the studio and I feel privileged to get to perform with them.

Joining the Jazz Arts Studio has been the best musical decision I've ever made.

-Joe Knight
Guitarist, Dayton

My experience at the Jazz Arts Studio gave me a deeper understanding of music far beyond notes and rhythms. These aesthetics transformed my performance and composition of music to a higher level of maturity that I would not have reached on my own.

-Zach Lemmon
Guitarist, TV and Film Composer, Los Angeles

When people ask me about Eric, the only concise response I can come up with is, "Eric is definitely the most unique person I know." I don't think I can accurately articulate how much I've learned from him, both professionally and personally, but I can honestly say that the majority of who I am as a musician and a large chunk of who I am as a person is a direct result of my experiences with Eric Zadan and the Jazz Arts Studio.

Eric doesn't mess around… and I like that in a teacher. "Good enough" and "okay" aren't words you'll often hear come out of his mouth. He demands excellence from us, and I respect that because he demands excellence from himself. If you've ever heard Eric play or worked with him in a professional situation, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Eric's been much more than a teacher to me. He's been more than a mentor. Sure, he wants me to be the best player I can, but he more importantly wants me to be the best person I can. He's been the one person in my life who would get in my face, call me on the carpet, and tell me what no one else would. He's helped me to grow up, plain and simple.

The studio is about a lot more than just music… it's a family. You don't get that just anywhere. The camaraderie that Eric fosters amongst his students is unlike any group atmosphere I've encountered. Though there are a variety of skill and experience levels among the students, everyone is generally very encouraging and supportive of the others. Eric has instilled in us a genuine desire to see each other succeed, and we have learned to look out for one another, especially "off the court."

All in all, I wouldn't trade my experiences here for anything in the world.

-Tom Lipps
Pianist, Arranger, Orlando

I recommend Jazz Arts Studio to you whether you aspire to be a professional or are a dedicated amateur musician. I speak as a 60 year old amateur. Eric offers a wide range of ways to improve your performance and knowledge of theory. He is an extremely effective teacher. He hears you perform and focuses you instantly on the strengths and weaknesses of that performance. His advice runs across a wide spectrum of skills -- theory, technique, listening, combo skills and motivation. Lessons also go beyond the jazz genre. I have found work on classical pieces to be a great way to improving jazz improvisation.

I take a private lesson and participate in a small jazz combo. The combo is incredibly fun and a nice challenge -- both exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. It is an added benefit that I can see the improvement of younger players headed toward professional careers. It's never boring at the Jazz Arts Studio.

-Joe Litko
Pianist, South Carolina

Technically, a "mix guy" is an audio engineer. Odd as it might be, I don't consider myself to be an audio engineer. I've never been through any type of training or schooling for audio engineering and I've never been under the tutelage of an experience, professional audio engineer. I started playing piano when I was 6 years old. I've played drums and piano in various groups and bands since the age of 14. During my studies in jazz piano at the Jazz Arts Studio, Eric Zadan always stressed the importance of training your ear to control how your hand and fingers shape the dynamics of each phrase and how that phrase relates to the entire piece. This discipline of listening is the connection between the music and the emotion. It was then I learned the most important lesson in music. There is only one master of technique, your ear. Its not difficult to understand how those lessons build the foundation of my work as a mixing engineer. I am the last one of the production team to have complete control over the dynamics and the emotion of the entire piece. It is a task that comes with great responsibility. And one that I perform with passion.

-Jeremy Luzier
Sound Engineer, Pianist, Florida

Music is something that I hold very high in my list of priorities, which is why I started studying music with Eric two and a half years ago. It's very hard to explain the development in my playing in broad terms without being conceptual. Eric has brought my playing from being something that I work through to something that works through me. He has made music almost a spiritual experience for me.

The area that Eric has been most influential in my life is his mentorship to me. Because of him, I am now able to think more logically and rationally. Eric has been a great part of my life. Without his influence in music, I wouldn't be the player that I am today. Without his friendship and his role as my mentor, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

-Lars Miller
Bassist, Atlanta

Any serious student of jazz music, regardless of their chosen instrument, can greatly benefit from the Jazz Arts Studio. It is undoubtedly the finest learning environment around. Eric Zadan's wonderful playing and teaching ability, combined with a professional studio and like-minded students are altogether a supreme educational experience. Simply put, you won't believe how much you'll improve.

-Mike Minarcek
Drummer, Dayton

In my life, there have been many "teachers" who have merely conveyed a subject or concept in a manor that is easy to understand. While they have taught me arithmetic and biology, their impact on my growth as an individual always ended as soon as I stepped out of the classroom. "Mentors" on the other hand empower you to work harder or think clearer beyond any of your preconceived self-limitations. The effect of their "mentoring" touches all parts of your life and they teach you lessons that you'll never forget. I can safely say, Eric is one of my Mentors.

No doubt, I grew leaps and bounds as a musician when I studied with Eric. But the non-musical lessons in patience, humility, showmanship, the importance of emotion and the thirst for knowledge have made me grow as a person. Although I did not pursue a career in music, Eric still teaches me in ways that immensely help my professional career.

I was sad to leave the studio - but because of all that I gained in my short time there, I still consider myself a part the "Studio Family". His commitment to the Studio and to all his students (past and current) is unbelievable. For all of the above and more, I cannot thank Eric enough.

-Pawan Murthy
Online Media Manager, Pianist, Columbus

The Jazz Arts Studio is an invaluable resource for Southwest Ohio. Comprised of a serious, intelligent, and fun group of individuals, the studio is beneficial to any aspiring musician both for the supportive training environment and for Eric Zadan, who offers helpful insights into not just music, but life. My own experience at the studio has been immensely helpful in shaping my playing and my taste.

-Kirby Reiling
Guitarist, Reykjavik

The Jazz Arts Studio is the passion of a man, Eric Zadan, for music and the joy of seeing students grow. The professional successes of several previous students is one indicator. But the group dynamic and growth of his current students really evidences what the program is all about. Each week provides incredible opportunity: there is an individual lesson, an in-depth theory/playing session, and a combo session. Additionally, the dreams of gigging are encouraged and cultivated so that we build professional confidence and competence. The demands are great, as are the results. I've met a lot of great people in the studio, and we've shared the joy of music and a lot of hilarious stories and moments and helped each other out. It's what a tight college music environment should be.

-AJ Rolling
Aerospace Engineer, Pianist, Blacksburg, VA

Students come to the Jazz Arts Studio hoping to take their musicianship to the next level. Eric's gift lies in showing students the degree of dedication and attention required to achieve goals beyond their expectations.

Zadan has created an atmosphere where the only option for a serious student is to thrive. His students have a solid grasp of where each note belongs and what is expected of a professional musician.

Under Eric's instruction, I have begun to truly hear music and to be deeply connected to every note I play.

-Bryan Russell
Pianist, Dayton

Everything I know about music and theory I owe to Eric Zadan.

-Jim Saxa
Guitarist, New York City

In the nearly three years that I spent studying with Eric, I went from being a decent high school saxophonist with promise to a working professional musician in Las Vegas. Eric spent countless hours teaching me how to swing, phrase, understand music theory (both classical and jazz), as well as explaining jazz arranging and improvisation. Eric also took a very important role in my maturing as a young adult. We spent hours discussing how to better handle all types of situations in life in order to make me a more mature, well-rounded adult and professional musician. I'm very pleased to say that I wasn't the only student that received this important individual attention. Upon a recent visit to the Jazz Arts Studio, it became clear that Eric continues to be a very important role model for his students as a professional jazz musician and an overall good human being. I owe my artistic abilities and professional career to Eric Zadan, and will always stress the importance of the Jazz Arts Studio.

-Rob Stone
Saxophonist, Las Vegas

Many people, when reflecting on their lives, regret seizing an opportunity. They wish they had taken that risk, saw that project to completion, or made that important move. If your dream is to play music professionally, you need not miss your chance.

As a student at the Jazz Arts Studio over the past few years, I have seen my goal of playing music professionally become more and more attainable. I am certain that without my involvement in the Studio, I would be nowhere close to fulfilling that dream. It was and remains a uniquely successful program that has produced excellent musicians and, more importantly, excellent people.

I think of the Studio not as a "school", but as a "university". Of course, the emphasis is placed on learning to play music. However, the lessons I have learned range in subject from music skills to business skills, to people skills, and many practical areas. Becoming a better musician is often a natural result of becoming a better person. No other music education program I know of acts with this philosophy in mind.

While I have yet to become the player and the person I would like to be, I know that I am moving forward. My only regret is not joining the Jazz Arts Studio sooner. Carpe Diem.

-Matt Warner
Saxophonist , Cincinnati

I have been involved in quite a few different musical settings. My experiences at the Jazz Arts Studio have helped me in ways unique to anything else around. Whether it's having the chance to do a studio recording project, playing live gigs, or rehearsing in the student combos with special guest players, the intense and professional atmosphere has helped me not only in the area of jazz, but as a musician on all levels. I only wish I could have gotten involved earlier!

-Adam Wheeler
Drummer, Dayton

Although my association with the Jazz Arts Studio has been brief, I can sense the high quality of the various programs, the dedication generated in the student body, and the thoughtfulness and expertise that have fostered this situation. I can only wish Eric Zadan and his students much continued success in keeping the flame of the art of true jazz alive.

-Gordon Brisker
Internationally Acclaimed Saxophonist
Gordon Brisker passed away in September of 2004

I learned more from Eric about making music and performing in a group than from any high school or university music teacher before or since. Eric teaches music the way an old world master passes on his craft to an apprentice.

-Dennis Farmer
Music Educator, Dayton

For the past several years, I have been hearing enthusiastic comments from customers (who happen to be young musicians) talking about what they are learning at the Jazz Arts Studio. The more I talk to these students the more impressed I am, because they are learning to "love the music" and most importantly, they don't seem to be rushing. They appear to be willing to take the necessary time to absorb what they learned last, and improve as they go along with their studies.

There is an obvious "Q U A L I T Y" to the music and technique they are experiencing. These are personal observations of "an old" club owner.

-Jerry Gillotti
Longtime Owner of Gilly's Jazz Club, Dayton
Jerry Gillotti passed away in November of 2017

As both a friend and a colleague in the local professional musical venues, I have known Eric for quite some time. I have always regarded him as my "first call" pianist for shows which I have been the orchestra contractor and have requested or suggested him to others in need of the finest pianist in this area. As a result of knowing him in this manner, we have had many opportunities to talk additionally about his studio. I am extremely impressed with his total commitment to his students and the depth of preparation he imparts to them in every category imaginable as he gets them ready to enter the professional world. This certainly includes their practice routines, reading ability, improvisation, musical sensitivity to others in the group, punctuality, and a keen sense of the business end to become successful. I really know of no other studio that goes to this length in total commitment! It has also been a pleasure to meet and work with some of his advanced students on engagements when he feels that they are ready to gain valuable experience from groups such as the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Eric Zadan's studio has my unqualified endorsement as the best of the best in the Dayton area.

-Bob Gray
Clarinetist, Saxophonist, Music Contractor, Springfield, OH

I'm really happy and just having a ball trying to take music to the highest level I can. You know, every time I think back to school, I get so damn jealous that you got to seriously study with Zadan, and I didn't. There's not a day that goes by that I don't apply something I picked up second, sometimes first, hand from him.

[Note from Eric: Jeremy and I played a number of gigs together. He wrote this in an email to former student Steve Dawson and Steve forwarded it to me. This meant a lot to me.]

-Jeremy Laukhuf
Bassist, Air Force, Colorado Springs, CO

I can highly recommend the Dayton Jazz Arts Studio to any serious young musician who has the desire to develop jazz improvisational skills. Eric Zadan has put together an excellent jazz curriculum that includes private lessons, classroom instructions, listening lab and most important an opportunity to participate in structured jam sessions. I have known Eric for many years. He is a superb jazz musician and a very knowledgeable teacher. I would not hesitate to send my most advanced students to be part of the Jazz Arts Studio family. They have always achieved wonderful results.

-Jerry Robinson
Saxophonist, Arranger, Retired Band Director, Morrow, OH
Jerry Robinson passed away in October of 2018

I regard Eric Zadan as one of Dayton's jazz treasures. He is that rare combination of natural performer and expert educator. His playing, which is always articulate and contoured, draws you in like magic. Students who are fortunate enough to study at the Jazz Arts Studio receive the highest quality education from a true hands-on instructor--the kind of instruction that conservatories aspire to offer.

-Robert Ruckman
Pianist, Retired Chairperson, Fine and Performing Arts/Sinclair Community College

It is always a great pleasure to perform with Eric Zadan. He is a wonderful pianist and sensitive accompanist. In addition, the progress of his students at the Jazz Arts Studio attest to the quality instruction that he provides. His students perform regularly throughout the Miami Valley and are a vital part of the jazz community. I don't think I know of another teacher who is as serious and passionate about the success of his students. My hat is off to the Jazz Arts Studio. Keep up the good work!

-Jim Smith
Guitarist, Chairperson, Fine and Performing Arts, Central State University,
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Jim Smith passed away in June of 2020

As a contractor in the area for many events - Dayton Philharmonic, Broadway shows and various functions, I have found that whenever I have hired Eric or his students, they are always well-prepared, punctual, well-dressed, and are very good players. I have never hesitated to recommend them to other people.

-Jane Varella
Retired Principal Percussionist and Personnel Manager, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

I have the utmost respect for Eric Zadan, both as a player and a teacher. While I have never "officially" been a member of the Jazz Arts Studio, my association with Eric has taught me more about improvisation than any other professional or educational experience. I have seen the Jazz Arts Studio grow from a weekly jam session to a curriculum that rivals most college jazz programs. Eric's success as a teacher can be measured by the number of his former students who are now thriving professional musicians throughout the country. Any musician who is interested in pursuing a career in jazz could not find better training.

-Mark Wilcox
Trumpet, Instructor/McMurry University, Adeline, Texas
Mark Wilcox passed away in July of 2015

It was a great experience for me to play with Eric and his students. The warmth and camaraderie that I found in the studio is only part of what it makes it so unique.

-Josiah Wolf
Drummer, Cincinnati

As a high school principal (Carlisle High School) I deeply value the importance of Music education. The lessons learned last a lifetime! It was a pleasure to watch the growth of my son musically and socially. His participation at the studio certainly has been a positive in his life. Eric's passion and expertise in Music compliments his genuine concern for his students.

-Tom Baratko
Parent (Tyler Baratko), Springboro, OH

My son has been playing piano for fourteen years. Last year he began to attend the Jazz Arts Studio.

The studio is a top notch, professional organization that demands excellence and dedication from its students. Every student participates in a dynamic combination of individual private instruction and collaborative work in groups with other students.

I cannot overestimate the dramatic impact the Jazz Arts Studio has made on my son. His musicianship has improved at a tremendous rate, and the demand for excellence is instilling valuable life skills such as perseverance, commitment, and determination.

I highly recommend the Jazz Arts Studio to any dedicated musician who is seeking to improve their musicianship.

-Larry Feinstein
Parent (Jesse Feinstein), Maine

A few years back when our son was 17 he was very excited about playing jazz. He had only been playing bass for a short while when he came home and told us about "this guy in Dayton that has jazz classes on Sundays". We were somewhat surprised as our son, Ben, had never asked to take lessons before... he had taught himself to play bass and was already teaching others to play.

He'd started playing in the combo for the high school show choir, then got into the school jazz band and also played for the school's musical productions. Ben really started to like jazz which pleased Dad who loved to play jazz himself. So we encouraged him to check it out. So he went all the way up to Dayton to see for himself. When he returned we knew he was excited and it wasn't long before he wanted to study with Eric. We soon realized that our son had developed a respect for Eric, which said a great deal to us because Ben was at the stage in his "teen-age" life when he felt was a better bass player than anyone else around.

As parents we wondered how long this would last, but it lasted quite some time. Early on we were concerned about Ben driving to Dayton and the fact that we'd never met "this Eric guy." Then we got our first of many phone calls from Eric. That call helped assure us that not only was Eric a musician, but that he understood how to deal with and specifically challenge our "teen-age" son. Ben responded and really worked hard to meet up to "Eric's high standards." Eric in his own unique way did more than just teach music; he truly cared about our son and his development as a person in addition to his musical abilities.

We grew to appreciate Eric's straight forward approach and the fact that he communicated with us directly. In the years our son spent as a part of the Jazz Arts Studio we saw him improve his skills and grow musically, but more importantly saw him mature into a respectful and responsible adult.

We also appreciated getting involved with the activities of the studio ourselves. The picnics in the summer and the studio open houses during holiday seasons were always great. We no longer live in Ohio and our son is now in California pursuing his dreams. However, there still are times when we wish we were closer to Dayton so we could drive up, like we used to, to see some of the studio guys at one of their gigs.

Eric, thanks for teaching our son to pursue his dreams and not take his commitments lightly.

Thanks Again,
Bob and Lynn Freelove

-Bob Freelove
Parent (Ben Freelove), Santa Barbara, Mainville, OH

If you or your loved one has musical ability and the motivation to pursue music lessons in a serious way, you have clicked on the right website. Eric worked for two years with my son, Rob Stone, helping him learn and refine his saxophone playing. Through Eric's own incredible teaching ability, his dedication to his students, and his infinite patience, Rob's talent blossomed. He won awards and, with Eric's help, obtained a scholarship to UNLV. Rob is now a professional musician in Las Vegas and loving every minute of it. The Jazz Arts Studio is an unbelievable asset for Dayton area students, young and old. Because of Eric's work with my son, I was able to hear some fantastic jazz at the students' recitals. If you're lucky enough to catch a performance by Eric himself, you'll never forget this amazing man and his music.

-Candy Lauer
Parent (Rob Stone), Lebanon, OH

At first, my wife Kim and I were hesitant to let our son Lars drive into Dayton and spend so many hours at the studio and be out so late. We had heard good things about the studio and decided to try it for a while to see if this was the best way to help Lars continue in his music training. While the late nights were at times inconvenient, I am convinced that Lars has received the best training he could have in the Miami Valley. The obvious is you as his teacher Eric, have been able to draw out his God given talent and instruct and train him musically beyond our imagination; but beyond that, you have became a mentor, and trained him how to be a musician. You have prepared him for the hard work and long hours it takes to succeed in life. You have taught him to market himself, to negotiate, to be a businessman, to be professional. You have prepared him for the life he could lead as a musician. And in the process, you have become a friend. Looking back, making the sacrifices to get and keep Lars in the Jazz Arts Studio has impacted his life and prepared him for a career, and for that, we are grateful.

-Clark Miller
Parent (Lars Miller), Roswell, GA