Aug 29, 2013

Q&A With Alum Jeff Adkins

Spotlight Date:
August 30, 2013
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Class of 2005 Music alum Jeff Adkins pried himself out of the recording studio to answer a few questions about his busy music career. Jeff started playing the upright bass at Palm Beach Public School when he was just nine years old and started playing the electric bass about a year after that.
Q: What was your favorite performance while at Dreyfoos?
A: The more intimate performances stand out; solo recitals and jazz combo performances were always special.
Q: What is the most profound change you experienced at Dreyfoos?
A: Those high school years are so formative -- it’s hard to say. Probably the transformation from technician to artist. Not just playing my instrument, which I could do well from a young age, but learning how to express myself.
Q: Favorite Dreyfoos teacher?
A: Outside of my music teachers I’m going with a three way tie: Ruth/Merkle/Johnston.
Q: Is there something Dreyfoos could have provided that could have better prepared you for your college and career?
A: I was really in demand right out of high school, so I’d say Dreyfoos did it right! I was actually ahead of many of my friends in college, I had already played Symphonies by Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms.
After graduating from Dreyfoos Jeff went on to attend Lynn University Conservatory of Music where he received both his Bachelors and Masters in Music Performance.
Q: What made you choose to attend Lynn?
A: The incredible faculty, especially my bass teachers. I began studying there under Shigeru Ishikawa, who left to join the Bern Symphony in Switzerland. I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree under the direction of Timothy Cobb, principal bassist for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The opportunity to study with such well renown players so close to home was one I could not pass up.
Q: What styles of music do you most often perform?
A: It depends on the time of year. This summer I found myself playing a lot of jazz – both at live shows throughout South Florida and also with a recording session for an album produced by American blues artist Otis Taylor. Earlier in the summer, the Americana band I play in, the Short Straw Pickers, finished our first album composed entirely of original music. When season kicks in I’ll be doing tons of classical music with Florida Grand Opera and Palm Beach Symphony, but I manage to sprinkle in bluegrass, folk, blues and rock throughout the year.
Q: What style of music do you enjoy the most?
A: I enjoy them all equally, they all present their unique challenges and I strive to always play at the highest level possible.
Q: Explain a little bit about the life of a working musician?
A: As a performer I work when the majority of people are off: nights, weekends and holidays. During season I am playing concerts three to four nights a week while the rest of the evenings are occupied with either rehearsals or private lessons. During the daylight hours I teach at both Bak Middle School of the Arts and Dreyfoos, in addition to managing myself (this surprisingly takes a LOT of my time) and of course practicing my instrument.
Q: What has your experience been like teaching at Dreyfoos?
A: It has been wonderful; the students play at a really high level and are always thinking creatively. In the orchestra department we challenge the students to tackle professional level music, its fun to help young players step up to the task.
Q: What do you think makes a good musician?
A: A lot of things. Mainly playing at a consistently high level, being reliable and being generally easy going. No matter how good you are at what you do, in my experience people hire musicians whom they enjoy spending time with.
Q: How have you continued your musical development after formal instruction and schooling?
A: Formal education is a wonderful thing, but the beauty of art is in the process, and the process never ends. I’ll never feel like my development is complete, and I think most musicians, and artists in general, have similar feelings. I’m lucky to play in situations where I’m usually the youngest person in the band, so I’m always soaking up tips from more seasoned players. So far that has been as helpful, if not more helpful than my formal instruction.
Q: What do you feel has been the highlight of your career so far?
A: Last season I performed chamber music with Sir James Galway, recorded for Gloria Estefan, opened up for Tower Of Power, to name a few.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to with other Dreyfoos alumni?
A: There are a lot of us around; we seem to cross paths quite often. Recently I recorded on an EP for fellow bassist and Nashville songwriter Reed Berin. My brother Joe, also an alum, and I supplied strings tracks.
Q: What recommendations do you have for our current DSOA students?
A: Enjoy it while it lasts. Milk your teachers for every drop of knowledge they have. Take every single assignment seriously; they all matter in the long run.
Q: In a brief statement can you explain “What Dreyfoos means to me”?
A: To sum it all up, my Dreyfoos experience is one of my fondest memories. To be a part of that experience for so many current students is a real pleasure.
Where is Jeff playing tonight? Check out just a few of the groups he plays with locally:
Do you know an alumnus who deserves to be in the Spotlight? Email the Foundation.