Playin’ Around With Playbook: Tanner Guss
Hey everyone! This week on Playin’ Around With Playbook, we had the opportunity to talk to Tanner Guss, drummer, educator, and composer.
Tanner graduated from Indian University Jacobs School of Music in 2019, as a recipient of the Kenny Aronoff Scholarship program. He was also awarded the 2017 Hal Leonard Collegiate Scholarship by the Jazz Education Network. Since then, Tanner has founded the uplifting podcast, The Happy Musicians in 2019, and continues to share his music with the New Orleans community.
Below are some snippets from our conversation on March 31, 2022. Click here to view the full interview.
TRISTA FORD: What have you been listening to lately?
TANNER GUSS: Oh, I’m doing this rock record. I confirmed it all yesterday. We’re gonna do a whole week of rehearsal and three days in the studio, so there’s a couple of records in that vein that I’ve been really into. There’s this collective Black Country new road from England. There’s this other record by a group called Big Beef, which is another kind of supergroup.
TF: I’m sure you get this question quite a lot. What inspired you to create the podcast?
TG: Trying to be a musician and feeling completely overwhelmed, and desperately wanting some kind of direction from someone who had done it already. Everyone told me in school that the message was just about getting the gig. I was getting gigs and seeing people who had gotten gigs for a long time. That didn’t seem to actually make them happy. I didn’t feel any sense of completion. When I got gigs, I felt more anxious. I needed to get more and better ones. I saw something wrong with that equation. I tried to find a podcast or something out there, and I couldn’t find anything. So really, the podcast has been asking questions that I really need the answers to.
TF: Do you have a particular episode or a few slew of episodes that you’ve recorded that have been, the most insightful or particularly stand out to you?
TG: Yeah, I have, there’s actually a page if you go to the happymusicians.com/categories, I do have some favorites listed there as well. You might just start with Kenny Werner. We talked about his new book. There’s one with Michael Patrick Avery that I really loved. The one with Josh is awesome. We talk about technique and embodying emotion. They’re very structured and tailored to people with specific answers that I’m looking for.
TF: Do you have a particular educator or musician that inspired you when you were younger to pursue music?
TG: I finally found some educators that were incredibly supportive and good when I got to music school. It opened up a new world for me. My parents certainly gave me a lot of encouragement. But Utah’s a small community and especially like with jazz music, it’s hard to find there. So I would give a special shout-out to the teacher that I found at school that I studied with, Steve Houghton, who was the exact person I needed even to this day.
TF: Between gigging, practicing, and creating the podcasts like scheduling everything, I’m sure you know, times get tough, times get busy. It’s easy to feel down. Do you have any specific mantras that have guided you?
TG: The theme of the show is: it’s not about getting the gig, it’s about enjoying it. When I finish up playing, I try not to launch in whatever’s next, and actually take a second to evaluate what just happened and kind of sit in the music that we made, and enjoy it for a minute. I keep coming back to: how do I stay with what I’m doing and give myself credit for it and enjoy it as it’s happening. I find it really hard to devote energy to that, as opposed to putting all your energy into the thing that you want to do in two weeks or five years.
TF: Why do you feel platforms like playbook and other digital learning platforms are so important in today’s classroom?
TG: Getting a music degree is really hard. You have to learn how to teach so many different things. I do think jazz is the one that gets neglected a lot, so a lot of people in high school just don’t have access to an educator who has had enough time with black American music to teach it at a level that could inspire musicians doing that. So I do find this really exciting. This is also kind of the comprehensive benefit of bands finding different opportunities to spread the community and the connection that they have with each other. I prefer the person to person things. You’re thinking like, how can we try to bring that to the digital model? Because one thing I am wary of right now is a lot of people are trying to create a digital platform and reach as many people as possible. At the same time, there are people in their local communities that are like looking for a music teacher. So there’s kind of a disconnect there. I appreciate that at Playbook, y’all are aware of that and are trying to make it personal.