The Maestro – An Interview with Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater Part 3: Improvisation & Writing

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Click the video above to play the interview.

Jordan Rudess at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019
Jordan Rudess at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019

Jordan Rudess, the virtuoso keyboardist from the progressive metal band, Dream Theater, sits down to demonstrate his approach to writing music and his improvisation skills.

Jordan Rudess has always had an exceptional ability to play the keyboard. As a nine year old he started going to the Juilliard School of Music Pre-College Division for classical piano training. By his late teens, he wound up pushing against the establishment at Juilliard with his improvistations on the classical pieces he was asked to learn.

It’s a bit stunning to me that the educators at Juilliard were so focused on training Jordan a certain way that they seem to completely miss his musical genius for being able to riff on a style off the top of his head.

“There was a point when I went ‘Oh, you mean everybody doesn’t do that?'”

Throughout the three-part series of interviews, Jordan was constantly creating new music on the fly. As he said, it’s actually easier for him to play music than to talk. It’s also quite evident that “his thing” is to not only play music, but to take a basic chord or musical line and expand on it in any style that comes to mind.

It’s quite remarkable that it happens so quickly and beautifully.

Jordan goes in to detail how he writes music both with his band mates and on his own. A very instinctive, intuitive approach, creating and discarding as things come in to his head in an effort to find something that resonates. I loved how he seamlessly, and instantly, took a motif he was playing with into another key.

Jerry LoFaro Relationship

Jordan takes some time to talk about his relationship with Jerry LoFaro, the host of the house concert and the graphic designer who has produced several album covers for Jordan. Jerry also customized Jordan’s Roland AX-Edge Keytar.

Large & Small Venues

Jordan also juxtaposes what it’s like to play in a small venue versus a large stadium. I thought his answers quite revealing – not the stock answer you would anticipate from a seasoned performer.

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Jordan Rudess at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019

Check out other episodes in the Rock Music Series, including Roger Fisher talking about “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” and “Barracuda

Jordan Rudess and Judith Stillman at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019
Jordan Rudess and Judith Stillman at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019.

Check out part 1 and part 2 of the Jordan Rudess interivew!

Jordan Rudess and Jerry LoFaro at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019
Jerry LoFaro and Jordan Rudess at the LoFaro Center of the Performing Arts, August 17, 2019

A Big Thank You

Interviews like these never happen without some significant help. Many thanks my friends Jerry and Kathleen LoFaro for hosting Jordan’s double house concert and for making the introduction to Jordon. As always, their generosity and genuine warmth is very appreciated.

And, of course, many thanks to Jordan Rudess. Jordan was very gracious with his time and patient with my questions. I was very honored to have the the extended one-on-one time with him, and very much enjoyed getting to know him better.

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