I have been very fortunate to encounter many amazing teachers throughout my life, both music teachers, and spiritual teachers. In general, it made more sense to me to search out particular teachers for who they were and what they had to offer, rather than just accept whatever teachers a particular institution assigned to me. I managed to avoid institutions for the most part, even though i spent some time in two different music conservatories. Here are the teachers who had the most impact on me, in no particular order. I also found, in every case, that in order to complete the process i needed to graduate, back to myself, but i have a deep gratitude to all of these beings.
I met Osho in 1978, and spent around a year altogether with him in India at his ashram, in the late 70s, but my affiliation with his community has lasted to this day. He was a very controversial character, to put it mildly, but his presence in person was atomic powered. Really, it was obvious, at least to me, that this man had passed through some kind of metamorphosis that is rare indeed in human beings. Love him or hate him, he was the instigator for some massive transformation on the planet. The minute i found out about him, i knew i had to do what ever it would take, to spend time with him in person. For me this was clearly an opportunity not to be missed. It's not every lifetime you get the chance to meet a Buddha.
Adi Da Samraj was a parallel force in my life, along with Osho. I am not sure why, but both of them played a major part in my spiritual development. If i were to say who is my "root guru" , as the Tibetans call it, i would have to say both. Sometimes i think of it as Osho being the Alpha, and Adi Da the Omega. Although i had been studying his amazing teachings since the 70s, i didn't get a chance to spend time with him until the early 2000s. As luck would have it, i managed to sit with him many times over the course of several years. In these darshan occasions something completed for me, a kind of sunrise in the heart, that made it perfectly clear Who I Am.
Charlie Banacos was one of the greatest music teachers you've probably never heard of. When i lived in New England in my 20s, i knew many musicians who were studying jazz improvisation with Charlie. They all had a recognizable improvisational facility, and i could see them improve dramatically, thanks to him. He never taught at an institution, he always taught privately. At that time he had a six month waiting list to be his student. His students include many of the greatest names in jazz, including Michael Brecker and Mike Stern, among many others. But i didn't become his student until the 90s, while living in California. Thanks to his correspondence course, i was able to spend 5 years working in depth on jazz improvisational vocabulary with him.
I have never experienced such a thorough and common sense method to learning the language of music. His method is so much simpler and more direct (while at the same time embracing the complexity) than anything i learned in music schools. One of the main things i took away from studying with him was that whatever you input, will eventually come out in your playing. So if you put in intelligent, well thought out musical form, it WILL come out in your playing. Charlie was an enthusiastic teacher, who loved teaching. I had the good fortune to have one lesson in person with him, and found him to be a kind and supportive being, very down to earth, with a very infectious enthusiasm.
Mme Chaloff was also a major influence in my musical and spiritual development, even though i studied with her a little less than a year. The piano technique she taught had been passed down through generations of famous pianists and composers. It involved use of the breath to create tone, and had a very metaphysical component to it. Mme Chaloff was clairvoyant, deeply psychic, and had also obviously passed through some kind of spiritual awakening when, in her 60s, she died, and then came back to life 40 minutes later. My lessons with her were a real treasure. Her students included many of my favorite pianists in jazz, including Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Werner, Alan Pasqua, to name a few. At the link below i have written a piece about my experience with her.Chi Touch ~ integral music practice
Faisal is another beautiful being who i had the good fortune to know in the 90s. He helped me a lot in my process, in the part where i began to realize i was waking up, and all the concomitant work one needs to do to fully accept that there is a higher purpose taking you over. Faisal is very kind and had a very endearing way of laughing at all my problems, in a way that would make me laugh at them too. He always told me that realization is the easy part, it is actualization, i.e. making it real in the physical plane, that is the challenging part. He also says that awakening happens in the mind, but enlightenment happens in the heart.
Hameed Ali is the founder of the Ridhwan School, in Berkeley CA. In the 90s i spent 7 years involved with the Ridhwan School in their very first Diamond Heart Training, which was a key element in my process at the time. The course was a very in depth method of self-inquiry, a blend of meditation and psychotherapy that was and still is a very effective method of therapy. The course included weekend intensives, group work, and private counseling as well. We left no stone unturned. Hameed, along with Faisal, founded the Ridhwan School. I have never met anyone with such a balanced love for the truth. With this as the only motive, to know what is true, we can penetrate all the way to Source Itself.
In the late 80s and early 90s i spent about 5 years involved in the Tibetan Buddhist practice, which included many meetings with many beautiful lamas of the Tibetan tradition. Chagdud Tulku was the lama i felt most affinity with. He was responsible for initiating the flow of Tibetan Buddhist teachers to the US. I received many empowerments from him and various other lamas, and spent those years in a dedicated process of Vajrayana and Dzogchen practices, absorbing the beautiful and magical teachings of the master technicians of the sacred, the Tibetans.
I had the good fortune to be able to spend time in the early 1970s with one of the founding fathers of Afro American music and jazz, master drummer Max Roach. He was teaching in the jazz department of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst MA at the time, and i played in his regular jazz ensemble classes there, although not formally enrolled as a student. It was a wonderful opportunity just to hang out with this great being, who had a deeply spiritual approach to music. It was a very rich period for me, when i really took on learning the jazz vocabulary and tradition. Max brought many off the great Afro American masters to the University for workshops and concerts, many of whom made a lasting impression on me.
Brian Jones was the music teacher at my high school. I am grateful to Brian for recognizing my musical talent, and encouraging me to develop it. Brian is a world renowned pipe organist, (not to be confused with the late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones) and it was at his suggestion that i took up the pipe organ. It was as a pipe organ major that i entered both music schools i attended (Oberlin Conservatory and University of Michigan School of Music). Brian has had a very successful career as organist/choir director, including a long tenure at Trinity Church in Boston Massachusetts.
OK, I am going to have to include myself in this group. After passing through so many modes of learning i gradually developed the capacity to be my own teacher. I developed the ability to discern what is useful and relevant, and what is not. I learned when to move on. And i pursued many courses of study, both in music, and in spiritual practice, that involved just my own perseverance and focus. I read hundreds of books, and on my own worked with many processes, including for example, the study of counterpoint in musical composition. Whenever i could not find a mentor that could help, i applied myself to learn whatever it was. Being one's own teacher is a must, if done in the right spirit. This way, one can maximize the learning of anything one needs to know.
Perfect Consciousness ~ Adi Da Samraj
“There Is Perfect Consciousness, Radiant and Prior to form. The 'world', the body, and every thought or presumption or perception, and even the sense of independent identity, all arise in every instant, prior to all ‘causation’ or meaning, as modifications of That Radiant Field. There is no necessity to any of it. It is all a ‘Play’ that makes its own meanings and apparent necessities. Meaning and necessity are not 'caused', or generated, by the Real Condition Itself. Once this Intuition exactly flashes, all summary and eternally obvious, true humor suddenly returns, and the game (or process) of everything is released of the burden to fulfill and to solve--and also to reveal Truth Itself and Happiness Itself.” ~Adi Da Samraj