A Conversation with Barry Long

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If you are ever floating around the Sigmund Weis Music Building, the Weis Center or Hufnagle Park for a downtown performance by Bucknell’s Jazz Band, you’ve probably seen Professor Barry Long, who was gracious enough to provide Campus Vinyl with an interview this week! Barry Long is a dynamic teacher, offering courses in jazz history such as “Jazz, Rock & Race” or “History of Jazz”, courses in jazz theory, as well as directing the Bucknell Jazz Ensemble. Holding both a Masters and a Doctoral degree in Jazz Studies, Professor Long earned his B.A. in Jazz Composition from Berklee College of Music in Boston and is a proficient trumpeter who has performed with a number of notable artists during his career.

Video of Barry Long in Freedom in the Air.

Check out the interview below:

Could you tell us a little bit about how you came to teach at Bucknell, and what you like about teaching here?

I previously taught at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland but was attracted by Bucknell's reputation, larger music department, and the jazz-focused position.  I love that our students are extremely bright and curious and willing to think open-mindedly across disciplines.

What is your favorite class to teach? 

I do enjoy all of the classes I teach but my favorite is Jazz, Rock, and Race.  It's a course I've developed for quite a while and it addresses my own research areas quite a bit.  Plus I get to spend three hours a week listening to Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin with students.

As a fellow instrumentalist, I know I have learned many lessons from each instrument I've learned to play. Could you discuss what draws you to the trumpet in particular, some of your influences, and something you've learned from playing it?

It's funny, when they brought the instruments around for us to try in fourth grade, there was just something that drew me to the trumpet.  Among so many that I look up to, I've always loved Miles Davis as well as a modern player, Kenny Wheeler.  Broader than just playing the instrument, musicians should follow their instincts and chances are their work will be more authentic to who they are.  It's important for students to learn certain things, especially in a university setting, but at the end of the day you have to play what you believe.  

Are you currently working on any research, and if so could you tell us a bit about what you are doing?

I've been working on a project that incorporates iconic Civil Rights images and freedom songs as inspiration for live, improvised performance.  We released a live CD last year and will be performing and recording new work next month (3/19) at the Campus Theater.  More info is at the project's website.

If you could see any musician perform, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I'd love to be able to go back and see John Coltrane in 1964.  He was at such a transitional moment in his career, and to hear his sound live would just be something else.

Finally, what is your favorite thing about the music scene at Bucknell, and what is one thing you see that could use some improvement?

I love the musical diversity.  I'm constantly learning about new music from students in my classes, and there are countless students involved in all of the vocal and instrumental groups.  It'd be great to see more students out at concerts and I'd love to see more jam sessions - students just getting together to play for the sake of playing.

To discover more about Professor Long, including recordings and future gigs, check out his website.

Thanks again to Professor Long for the interview!