This interview appeared in the January 2010 issue of Jazz Inside NY, which is a sister publication to Jazz Inside magazine---a unique and very useful publication. You can find it on the web at http://www.jazzinsidemagazine.com.
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  Interview  
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January 2010 Jazz Inside NY www.jazzinsidemagazine.com
73
Chuck Sher
  — Creator of Educational Jazz
Publications including The New Real Book Series
By Eric Nemeyer
The founder of Sher Music and creator of The New
Real Book series shares his perspectives about music
and business
JI: Could you give us a synopsis of the driving fac-
tors that led you to create Sher Publications and the
various New Real Books that you’ve published?
Chuck Sher: In the late ‘70s, I had an extended pe-
riod of tendonitis which prevented me from playing
for about a year. In order to make lemonade out of
lemons, I gathered the notes I had kept from teach-
ing bass and created my first book, “The Improvi-
sor’s Bass Method.” So my becoming an author and
publisher was an accident in a way, but my ability to
organize a lot of material has always been my strong
suit and it certainly comes in handy in writing and
publishing books.
JI: What do you see as some of the shortcomings
and strengths in the arena of institutionalized jazz
education - both in schools and in the area of pri-
vate instruction? What suggestions do you have for
improvements?
CS: I am not all that familiar with the institutional
academic world, but it seems like getting students
ready for performances rules the roost, sort of like
“teaching for the test” in other academic domains.
While that has its benefits for the student as well
as the teacher, my intuition is that it doesn’t leave
enough time to focus on helping students figure out
how to access the music that is latent within them-
selves. I know as a teacher I try to get my students
to play what they hear internally, above all else. I’ll
show them licks to get them familiar with what
certain scales or rhythms are capable of, but sooner
rather than later I like to have them find their own
voice, using the specific material at hand. This has
seemed more and more important to me as time has
gone on, because I find in my own practicing that
this is the key to really enjoying learning. I’ve had
some moments of real bliss lately just practicing the
C mixolydian mode, for example, and actually hear-
ing internally what I wanted to say before it came
out of my fingers. Big fun!
JI: How has the rise of downloadable and digital
media affected your business? What changes have
you had to make to survive and thrive in these
changing times?
CS: Don’t get me started! The phenomenon of
people scanning our books and then illegally sell-
ing CDs with our books (and 40 other fake books
on them) on eBay, or putting them on sites where
people can download them for free has basically
put me out of the fake book business. We still sell
our current books but I can’t justify the expense of
putting out new fake books if people will simply rip
me (and the composers) off as soon as the book is
released. So I’m in the position of not being able to
afford to put out new fake books and the whole jazz
world is the loser. Why would anyone participate
in something so obviously unethical? One explana-
tion is that people raised primarily by television sets
have a tendency to have an atrophied sense of right
and wrong, since TV programming certainly has no
shame and people have unfortunately picked up on
that as a role model.
JI: Talk about the value of copyright and protecting
intellectual property - i.e. in our case printed music,
recordings - and the need to inform both students
and people in our society of how it benefits them.
CS:As I wrote in my essay “On Piracy” (on the home
page of www.shermusic.com), you wouldn’t walk
into Wayne Shorter’s house and rip off his stereo,
even if you knew you could get away with it, right?
Well, ignoring any artist’s right to benefit from their
compositions (or sales of their recordings) is no dif-
ferent. On principle, I can see no other moral choice
but to refrain from any use of someone else’s work
without their being compensated. In an ideal world,
where money wasn’t an issue, then we could all be
creative and skip the benefits thereof, but that’s just
not the reality we live in, so I would recommend that
people really think and use the Golden Rule before
taking actions that affect others.
JI: Talk about your own ongoing education - which
started with lessons, continued on the bandstand as
a performer, and then as an author and publisher?
CS: I am pretty much a self-taught musician and
“…getting students ready for
performances rules the roost,
sort of like “teaching for the test”
in other academic domains.
While that has its benefits
for the student as well as the
teacher, my intuition is that it
doesn’t leave enough time to
focus on helping students figure
out how to access the music that
is latent within themselves.”
“…as time goes on I find myself being less judgmental of others,
which I find to be a great relief. … I’ve been finding that radical
self-acceptance and radical acceptance of reality in general,
exactly as it is, is the key to a positive outlook on things…”
“Why would anyone participate
in something so obviously
unethical? One explanation is
that people raised primarily by
television sets have a tendency
to have an atrophied sense
of right and wrong, since TV
programming certainly has
no shame and people have
unfortunately picked up on that
as a role model.”
Continued on Page 74

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  Jazz Inside’s Education Workshop  
spent many years in the trenches playing every jazz-
related gig I could. One thing I’ve learned in the
40-some years I’ve been doing that is that it matters
what shape my internal world is in. I don’t mean
what mood I am in, but rather to what extent I have
some internal presence, some internal mechanism
that reminds me to be in the moment, to appreciate
whatever life has brought me at this point in time. I
have been fortunate to have been studying the teach-
ings of G.I. Gurdjieff for several years now and it has
really helped me see how things actually work in my
world. I find it immensely useful to have some way to
gain a broader perspective on things.
JI: Why is it important for artists and musicians to
understand business? And, what are a handful of the
more essential aspects that will help ensure success?
CS: Artist or not, we all have to figure out how to
keep body and soul together. Even though it may
seem to be a distraction from being a musician,
I try to live by the old saying, “Nobody can waste
your time but you.” From that perspective, all life is
art, all of it is music, in the broadest sense. So I try
to have fun improvising my way through whatever
tasks my daily scene needs, just like I would playing
music.
JI: What have you learned about human nature
from being a musician and a business professional -
and how have those discoveries impacted you?
CS: To me, human nature is immensely variable -
from the greatest geniuses to the most decrepit, ru-
ined lives. What an amazing range ‘human nature’
contains! For myself I know I have all those possibil-
ities latent within myself, so as Santa says, “Be good
for goodness sake!” The business world is not all that
different from the music world - again a great variety
of behaviors, from great to terrible. To me, the cru-
cial thing is which side of myself I am putting out at
any point in time - hopefully, more of the good than
the terrible. One thing that I find to be very helpful
in that regard is that, as time goes on I find myself
being less judgmental of others, which I find to be a
great relief. We’re all brothers and sisters under the
skin and we all deserve to be given the benefit of the
doubt, whenever possible. And on a related question,
I’ve been finding that radical self-acceptance and
radical acceptance of reality in general, exactly as it
is, is the key to a positive outlook on things, at least
for me. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t work for
change, but rather that those efforts are more effec-
tive when you are digging being alive in the middle
of it all, regardless of how things turn out.
JI: Out of all the books you’ve published over the
years, which would you put in your top 5....which
will stand the test of time the most, and stand out
from the crowd?
CS: That’s tough, since each one is the most useful
book ever published on its own topic, in my humble
opinion. Mark Levine’s books will certainly be clas-
sics long after our generation is all gone from this
world, as will The New Real Books, The Standards
Real Book and The Latin Real Book, I’m sure. I’m
also very proud of my latest book, “Foundation Exer-
cises For Bass,” which I hope will inspire bass players
to really dig in and learn their craft from the bottom
up, long after I’m gone.



Chuck Sher Continued from Page 73