Musician and teacher Ari Gorman is a perfect fit as new director of the MSA Classical and Contemporary Music programs; he’s a professional musician in both musical styles who comes to the position from the Miramonte High School music program in Orinda.
“I decided a while ago that if there was a full time music position in Marin (where he lives) teaching at a high school level I would go for it. As luck would have it, I saw this position listed online, but there were just two hours left to apply.”
After working with our students over the past two weeks, he is impressed with their skill level and dedication.
“I definitely sense a high level of commitment from our students; they want to be here. The playing ability is really quite high,” he says. “And I want to find music that’s challenging.”
“We don’t ever want to play music we’re not emotionally attached to, otherwise it’s really hard to play. That’s one of the things students are telling me; they really want to have a feeling for the music,” he says. “I’m learning about every student and their abilities to see what kinds of skills they have, what their strengths are and what they want to play.”
At the same time, the classical program is working through hurdles, like securing hard to find practice space, balancing classical instrumentation and helping students become established into a full orchestra experience.
“Ari had all sorts of issues thrown at him his first week, but I was really impressed by his ability to handle it all so calmly. He’s definitely a wonderful addition to MSA,” commented MSA Director Peter Ornstein.
Mr. Gorman observes, “The beginning concert band is all freshmen students, so for them it’s challenging because there are no (upper classmen) for them to follow, and we are missing so many voices (instruments), but I feel they are a really dedicated bunch and I know we’ll work out all of the issues.”
Mr. Gorman is excited for students to experience local music festivals, including Analy, CMEA and Sonoma State ensemble and solo festivals. In addition, he will lead the student pit band for the fall MSA Musical, My Fair Lady.
“I think it’s really vital to have programs like this,” he says. “I went to Berkeley High School (known for it’s strong music program) and that’s what inspired me to do music professionally.” He continued at UC Santa Barbara where he earned a BA in music performance and bass before launching a successful career as a professional musician in popular and classical music.
His best advice for students: “Stick with it, practice a lot and go out and play as often as you can. Take every opportunity to work with as many people as you can. You have to think about the big picture; every opportunity leads to a new opportunity— it’s all word of mouth.
“I played on a song that I didn’t write or produce, but it went to the top five on the charts (“How’s it Gonna Be” by Third Eye Blind. Just having my name on that album opened a floodgate of other opportunities,” he says. “I was able to play Shoreline Amphitheater and the Greek Theatre. A lot of it is about the relationships I had developed over the years.”
Those relationships remain strong; Mr. Gorman stays busy performing and recording across the Bay Area. He is a member of the Mill Valley Philharmonic, is a musician with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra and is currently recording with comedian/musician Margaret Cho. “It’s a project she’s been putting together of songs she wrote with Roger Rocha. I spent a good part of the summer recording the album with her in Marin.”
Mr. Gorman lives in Marin County with his wife and four young children.