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I signed up for a Chris Potter workshop at the Jazz School in Berkeley. Here is how they described it:

"Chris Potter Workshop
Acclaimed saxophonist Chris Potter leads an ensemble workshop focusing on his original compositions. Participants play with Chris Potter in a rehearsal format. Additionally, there will be time for discussion of improvisation, composition, saxophone technique and other topics. This workshop is also open to auditors and non-musicians interested in observing the rehearsal process.
3:30 – 5:30 pm
$30 Jazzschool students/$45 others"

I'm not a big Chris Potter fan, but I figured I could learn a bunch in two hours of playing/rehearsing with a world-class player. So I juggled my schedule, imposed on a friend for babysitting (the third one I asked), rushed back from a earlier event, drove across town in the rain, and paid $6 for parking. I got there early, so I could be all set up. A few other sax players were walking in with horns, too.

At 3:20 there was a young (high school?) group playing - piano, bass and drums, who were quite good. There are about 30-40 people in the audience. 3:30 hits, Potter walks out with his horn, says "I like to start this casually, so I'll start with playing a tune." Turns to the band, they figure out a tune and start to play. They all play well. I am thinking this is an odd way to start the workshop; I'm missing out on 10-15 minutes of playing time here.

The tune ends, and Potter takes the mic, turns to the audience and talks a bit about his background, and asks if anyone has any questions. Someone asks one, and Potter answers, talking for about 5-10 minutes. I realize that it does not look like I am going to get to play. Now there are about 50-60 people in the audience, and Potter is clearly just going to talk and play. I think about talking to the Jazz School staff, but what are they going to do at this point? Potter clearly has something else in mind. I figure there must have been some miscommunication between the Jazz School and Potter. As a reality check, I ask a couple of the people near me with sax cases if they thought they were going to get to play. Both of them said yes, they came to play with Potter.

At the end, I approach the Jazz School staff, and tell him that, while what Potter is doing is good, it bears no resemblance to what I signed up for. He suggests I talk to the Jazz School office on Monday. I agree to do that, and say that it looks like no one told Potter what the program was supposed to be. He said, no, Potter knew the program, but just decided to do something else. So I say that I guess I should talk to Potter about it then. He looked disturbed, and said I shouldn't do that now, as it would be rude, but that he would pass it on, and that I could ask the office for a refund.

I don't know if it is true that Potter just decided to do this other thing, or if that was just an excuse. (If Potter made that choice, I am disappointed in him, as what he did was clearly less work than the workshop.)

In any event, I don't like that they didn't deliver what was promised. If they had just said, "Potter is going to show up and talk and play," that would have been fine. (He can most definitely play.) But I wouldn't have busted my *** and spent $36 for that. I am generally a big fan of the Jazz School, but this was frustrating and disappointing.

Okay, end of vent/rant. Thanks.
 

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I understand why you were disappointed since the ad says "participants play with Potter." At the same time, I've attended many workshops where the person lectures and plays and I've learned just as much as if I had some playing time. I don't expect a seminar to be a private lesson, so I don't know that its meaningful to me whether the horn is in my mouth or not.

But I do understand that YOU see some extra value in YOU playing, and I do understand why you were disappointed based on the advertisement.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If it was free, it would have been great! I did get some stuff from his talk, and I got to hear him play a bit. It is all about expectations - if they hadn't said I would get to play and rehearse, I wouldn't be upset that it didn't happen. Of course, I probably would not have gone just to hear him talk and play three songs with a pick-up rhythm section.
 

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Could the participant who play with Chris Potter just be the rhythm section? They don't really define that word.
Sounds like it was a "standard " Masterclass to me , but it should have been advertised as such .

"Participative Workshop" would have been a better desription , if they intended the delegates to play , and would have avoided any misunderstandings.

Blowhard2
 

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At the end, I approach the Jazz School staff, and tell him that, while what Potter is doing is good, it bears no resemblance to what I signed up for. He suggests I talk to the Jazz School office on Monday. I agree to do that, and say that it looks like no one told Potter what the program was supposed to be. He said, no, Potter knew the program, but just decided to do something else. So I say that I guess I should talk to Potter about it then. He looked disturbed, and said I shouldn't do that now, as it would be rude, but that he would pass it on, and that I could ask the office for a refund.
That's correct.

Technically, Potter broke his contract with the school, which then means there advertising was misleading.

In law, what happens you need to claim off the school and they need to claim off Potter.

It's the same if a car A crashes into car B, which then shunts into yours, your claim is with car B, who has to claim off car A.

That's why the staff member appeared perturbed when you said you might talk to Potter, that is their job.

At least they owned up to getting it wrong by allowing Potter to change the format, or by not making it clear that he couldn't. It could be either situation.
 

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At least they owned up to getting it wrong by allowing Potter to change the format, or by not making it clear that he couldn't. It could be either situation.
Or giving Potter the benefit of the doubt, the school may have misinterpreted what he intended to do for his workshop and covered their hindquarters by blaming him for the change.
 

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Sounds to me like they simply didn't understand how Chris works. Did they imagine that 20 saxophonists would play Rumples in unison, and then have Chris tell them something about how each of them played? The premise just doesn't make sense--and it is unfortunate that they charged $30-$45 apiece for it. Chris was just here in Des Moines, played a few tunes with students, talked, made some brief comments to a few of them--and it was a free offering through the presenter that brought him for the evening concert.
 

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Artstove, I'm sorry to say this but I think you expected way more than what was advertised. Although their wording was poor, to say the least. Obviously, the "participants" were the local (high school?) rhythm section and you watched them perform in a "rehearsal setting". Should you and others been charged $35 bucks for this? Well, I'd say no, but what do you expect for Berkeley? [rolleyes]

John
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Actually, I think during registration they distinguished between those signing up to participate and those signing up to watch. And I wasn't the only one - at least four other sax players showed up with their horns. I asked two of them if they expected to play, and they said "yes."

And even if you are right, he didn't actually "rehearse" anything. He played one tune, talked and answered general questions, played another tune. Talked and answered some more questions. Handed out a chart of one of his compositions, they played it, and he talked about it. Maybe the 30 seconds he spent talking with the drummer about how to treat the rhythm (the piece was in 15/4, I believe) could be considered rehearsal. Then I think he played one last tune.
 

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Actually, most workshops are rather general and one can't expect to learn too much from them. Furthermore, the person or persons doing the workshop may have already 'burnt out' on the workshop trail and are just going through their usual motions of turning up, playing a couple of tunes, answering some general questions and going off. Sometimes, their fame may give them the idea that just to be in same room with them is already the whole workshop right there.

I am reminded of a Pat Metheny workshop held here a few years back, which my friend attended but I did not. There was a guitar and amp set up, and Metheny walks in and doesn't even play a note. Instead he just sits down and talks to the audience about some general philisophies and stuff for an hour and then went off. I know my friend came back from the workshop all steamed up that he had been ripped off attending a non-workshop workshop.

i wonder whether Metheny was still suffering from the Kenny G green-eyed thingy, or perhaps he thought that the folks here were lucky just to be able to inhale the same musical air that he exhaled? Perhaps his stuff was far too deep for any of the audience to understand? Well, who knows why he did what he did on that workshop?

Unsuprisingly the one workshop I did attend in recent years , which was the Quartet West workshop a few weeks back, was rather poorly attended. It turned out to be not extremely informative anyway, though the fellas did quite a fair bit of talking and playing.

There is a tendency for people when meeting their musical heroes to gush, scrape, bow deeply, and just accept any scraps the heroes offer from their table like it was manna from heaven. Thankfully I am pretty much past that silliness now, phew!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Furthermore, the person or persons doing the workshop may have already 'burnt out' on the workshop trail and are just going through their usual motions of turning up, playing a couple of tunes, answering some general questions and going off. Sometimes, their fame may give them the idea that just to be in same room with them is already the whole workshop right there.
This is a distinct possibility. I doubt that the Jazz School would have come up with that workshop description on its own - someone likely talked to Potter about it, but then when the time came, he wasn't prepared to do that for whatever reason.

Here is the response I got from the Jazz School:

"Hi, Peter,

I'm so sorry that you had a disappointing experience in the Chris Potter workshop on Sunday and that the published description differed so much from the actual format of the workshop. I also don't know why this happened -- it seems like there must have been some kind of communication error -- but I certainly understand your reaction and I would be happy to refund your tuition. You should see the credit show up on your statement within 1-2 weeks.

Please feel free to contact me any time if there's anything else I can do.

Best,
Josh"

Pretty much as good a response as I could reasonably hope for.
 

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I can see where you were disappointed, and I'm glad they refunded you. However, from the description they gave, I would have assumed I wouldn't get to play, for the reasons drakesaxprof gave. I would have brought a horn just in case, but I would have expected it to stay in the case.
I am reminded of a Pat Metheny workshop held here a few years back, which my friend attended but I did not. There was a guitar and amp set up, and Metheny walks in and doesn't even play a note. Instead he just sits down and talks to the audience about some general philisophies and stuff for an hour and then went off. I know my friend came back from the workshop all steamed up that he had been ripped off attending a non-workshop workshop.

i wonder whether Metheny was still suffering from the Kenny G green-eyed thingy, or perhaps he thought that the folks here were lucky just to be able to inhale the same musical air that he exhaled? Perhaps his stuff was far too deep for any of the audience to understand?
Or, you know, maybe he thought that since it was a workshop, people would want to hear about what goes on in his head, how he comes up with his sounds and music, his philosophies of practice, improv, writing etc. I'd probably make that assumption, too, if I were doing a masterclass. I mean, if your friend didn't want that, why didn't he just go to a Pat Metheny gig?

Honestly, the Eddie Daniels example Grumps gave would have irked me. I mean, you can't be too mad about hearing someone great play, but all the best clinics I've been too were either mostly talking, or a masterclass with a small-ish group of students where there was real playing time for the students. Lovano, Steven Tyler, John Mayer, Paquito, Ravi Coltrane, David Dempsey, Harvey Pittel, etc.
 

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So everything turned out okay in the end.
 

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...but what do you expect for Berkeley? [rolleyes]
I wonder what that's supposed to mean?? How many cities in this country offer any kind of jazz program, let alone a Jazz School?

Anyway, art, you were right to ask for a refund and to its credit, the school gave you one and apologized. It's difficult to sort out who was at fault here (Chris Potter or the school), but I can sort of see both sides. The school may have been misled, or they had an 'enterprising' ad writer who made something up. Probably Chris should have checked to be sure just what they wanted, or better yet, told them exactly what he would provide.

The Metheny thing sounds like a different issue (maybe), depending on what was advertised. I can see where it might be difficult for a musician who is running a workshop to satisfy everyone.
 

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Honestly, the Eddie Daniels example Grumps gave would have irked me.
Trust me. Nobody was disappointed. It was one of the most intimate performances I've ever witnessed.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It's okay JL - jgreiner is in Wisconsin, the state that is making California (and even Berkeley) look sane...
 
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