Playin’ Around With Playbook: Lucas Pino
Hey everyone! As a studying musician, the various bands I play in often receive masterclasses. One of the most recent masterclasses featured Saxophonist Lucas Pino! Lucas had great energy and presence in his teaching.
For those of you who are not familiar with Pino: As a high school junior, Pino won the Downbeat award for Best Instrumental Soloist in 2004. He attended the Brubeck Institute from 2005-2007, where he studied closely with Dave Brubeck. Lucas then finished his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Jazz Performance at The New School in 2009. He attended Juilliard from 2009-to 2011, where he received a Master of Music
On Playin’ Around With Playbook, I was fortunate to interview Lucas about his concepts as an educator and performer. See below for an excerpt from our conversation on December 9, 2021. Click here to view the full interview.
This conversation was especially fun and special for me, so I know you’ll enjoy it!
TRISTA FORD: I know your group, the No Net Nonet is very well known and I’m a huge fan of it. How did you go about starting this group and was there an inspiration behind it?
LUCAS PINO: My vision behind starting that band was when we were at the Brubeck Institute, we were playing quintet and that was in California. So when I would look to New York, and the cats I wanted to play with, I sort of had this fantasy about like well I’m going to play with all my friends here at the Brubeck institute plus Ben Vangelder, Cory King, Andy Caraco, Peter Schlam. So I started adding people to my imaginary band. It added up to eight or nine people. I honestly didn’t know how to write for anything like that when I first started, so I kind of faked my way through it and cobbled together some charts. I guess the rest was history.
TF: So when you say “fake your way through it,” that reminds me of something we were talking about the other day when you mentioned failure. You asked: “How many times are you willing to fail to succeed?” Could you possibly speak a little bit about how this impacted you as a developing musician and how you developed that mindset?
LP: I have a very early memory of music, which was that I wanted to be in my elementary school’s jazz band. I started playing in fifth grade and I auditioned in sixth grade. Mind you, from the moment I owned a saxophone, my dad was giving me jazz recordings and saying check this guy and this guy out. As a ten-year-old, I really thought, wow I’m such an aficionado. When I auditioned for the jazz band, I didn’t get in and I thought it was terrible. I remember going home and telling my parents that I didn’t make it into the jazz band and it wasn’t fair because I actually liked jazz. I told my mom: I need lessons, I need real lessons. That was my first experience in music trying to get something and failing essentially. My band teacher said, you were really close, and if you get some more training… [you might make it].
TF: Do you have any other mantras for you when you’re feeling low or when times get tough gigging or especially now with such a busy schedule?
LP: One thing sticks out in my head. I remember trying saxophones with Seamus Blake at the Vandoren studio some year ago, and he said something that was just golden. At some point, I realized that sounds aren’t feelings and feelings aren’t sounds. “The way you feel isn’t the way you sound. I’ve played performances where I’ve felt wow that was really bad, and then I listen back and realize that was pretty good. I’ve played performances where I felt really good and I listened back and it wasn’t as good as I felt it was.” So it’s kind of about dissociating this belief that I feel good therefore I am bad, and I feel bad therefore I am bad. These things don’t always commiserate. Even when you’re feeling down, if you can remember that, you can kind of remember that, wait a minute, there might not be a reason to feel this way.
TF: Why do you think Platforms like Playbook are so important in today’s classroom?
LP: Frankly, when we are talking about technology and how rapidly technology is changing and adapting, that is the issue for young people to stay interested and focused and dialed in. There is something about music that’s kind of a solitary feeling. To be connected to the community and the world at large, and then also being tapped into this fluid evolving changing type of thing, is really going to aid… The thing that we must beware of is to hold too tightly to the past or to hold too tightly to what we think has been effective. As our environments change, especially digitally, we must be willing and aggressively adapt to those new environments. So that’s why I think that Playbook is so important. You can imagine that Playbook is going to hopefully ride the wave of that vanguard. It’s almost becoming the norm, adaptation.
Thanks to Lucas and to everyone for tuning in for this great dialogue! Catch ya next week!