JAZZ AT SEA
The Juilliard Jazz Program
on Queen Mary 2
by Richard H. Wagner
Since April of 2010, Queen Mary 2 has played host to members of the
faculty, graduates and students of the Juilliard School Jazz Program.
The Juilliard musicians not only perform onboard but interact with
guests in workshops during certain transatlantic voyages. Thus, this
unique program is both entertainment and educational.
According to Entertainment Director Paul O'Loughlin, Queen
Mary 2 and the Juilliard School are natural partners. "Our guests are
quite discerning and we like brands and organizations that will match
our image. Like London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and
Cunard Line on the transatlantic is a lovely marriage. The Juilliard
School of Music and Cunard Line is a lovely marriage as well. Our
guests expect a very, very high standard."
Indeed, the Juilliard School, located in New York City, is one of
the most prestigious performing arts conservatories in the world.
Founded in 1905, the school's focus for many years was on classical
music. However, in 1951, it opened a Dance Division and in 1968, it
opened a Drama Division. Most recently, in 2001 it began its jazz
Jazz is a two-year masters program at Juilliard. "We take things
like jazz theory, jazz composition and arranging, jazz history, private
lessons, small ensembles, big band rehearsals, music technology,
business and music classes" said Tony Lustig, a graduate of Juilliard
who has appeared on two QM2 crossings.
"You still are pushed to pursue classical music too, just not as
intensely as if you were majoring in it. So some of the classes use
classical teaching methods and classical techniques but it is a jazz
major," added Joe McDonough, a second-year student in the Juilliard
At first glance, there would seem to be a tension between such a
structured program and jazz's improvisational nature. However, this
tension is illusory, Lustig explained. "There is a lot of structure in the
music that we play. In the freedom of improvisation, there is a lot of
structure. There is very finite form, very finite harmony, which we can
step out of, but you have to know exactly what you are doing before
you get outside of it."
In addition, McDonough pointed out "the music is derived from
western harmony so you can't really understand George Gershwin's
songs or Thelonious Monk's music without understanding Bach,
"Then there is the whole technical approach to playing a musical
instrument, which you cannot escape by playing jazz. To be a great
brass player, you still have to go through all the same barriers that any
trombonist or trumpet player goes through regardless of whether they
play classical or salsa or jazz. Juilliard really works to combine the
freer element of jazz with the more structured approach that any master
has to take to complete their craft."
The Juilliard program on Queen Mary 2 features performances by the
jazz musicians in the Chart Room bar and in the Illuminations theater.
The Chart Room is a sophisticated lounge popular for before and after
dinner drinks. Illuminations, decorated in art deco style reminiscent of
New York's Radio City Music Hall, serves as a concert and lecture
"We try to gear each performance towards our audience," noted
Lustig. "We went into the Chart Room knowing that there would be
people talking. We go into gigs like that all the time. No matter how
many people are there to listen, there are going to be people there to
drink and talk. So that show, a lot of it was just tunes we enjoy
playing. [We] have some freedom to play it freely. In Illuminations, it
was a little more structured. We thought about what tunes should we
play and when. What would people like to hear at this point? While it
was a bigger space, it was a little more sensitive of a performance."
Gearing the performance to the audience impacts not only how the
music is played but what music is played. "There is a specific
demographic of people who are here. [They] like the more classic
tunes like Mack the Knife or Fly Me to the Moon - - things that people
would recognize. We would not necessarily want to do some type of
crazy free jazz piece that we might have fun doing somewhere but this
is not the venue."
The music selected for performance, however, does range over a
variety of jazz genres. During their crossing on Queen Mary 2, Lustig
and McDonough played pieces by Charlie Parker, George Gershwin,
and Gerry Mulligan amongst others. "We play things in the style of
Louis Armstrong, a much earlier jazz. We play things like standard
tunes from the American songbook - - we have been playing a lot of
those this week," noted
Although Juilliard has had as many as five musicians on QM2 at
one time, usually there are only two Juilliard musicians on a voyage.
Consequently, the Juilliard musicians are often backed by QM2's house
jazz trio, the Mark Hodgson Trio. Most times, the musicians have
never played together before the voyage but, as McDonough explained,
that is no problem.
"It happens all the time in jazz. That's one of the reasons why it is
so important to approach jazz from that structured educated view. It is
a language. It does not matter whether you are from England or
Colorado or whatever, you get together and if you know that set
language and some of the repertoire that is commonly played you can
get together and develop a set. Then you really start to delve into the
intricacies of the music because you start to notice the subtleties and
the sensitivities that each musician has. So you may be playing the
same song with 10 different bands and it will be different each time.
That is one of the great things about jazz."
In addition to performing, the Juilliard musicians do an afternoon
workshop where guests can ask questions about jazz, Juilliard, the jazz
program, the musicians and their influences. As with the
performances, the workshop is typically standing room only.
Indeed, both Lustig and McDonough reported that guests would
frequently come up and talk with them off-stage when they were in the
dining room or just walking around the ship. "Music really brings
everyone together. So does cruising. The two concepts go really well
together," observed McDonough.
Above: Tony Lustig (saxophone) and Joe
McDonough (trombone) performing in QM2's
Below: Lustig and McDonough in concert in
Juilliard jazz musicians Tony Lustig and Joe McDonough.
Fielding questions during an informal workshop.
Cruise ship article - Queen Mary 2 - Cunard - Juilliard Jazz Program