Chair of the Ear Training department at Berklee since 2008, saxophonist and composer Allan Chase has appeared as a soloist on over 40 jazz, pop, and classical recordings, in addition to several movie scores. Chase has taught a wide range of college courses in ear training, transcription and analysis, harmony, counterpoint, music theory, and music history, as well as ensembles and private lessons. He began his teaching career at Berklee in 1981, and has also taught at Tufts University and New England Conservatory, where he served as chair of jazz studies and dean of the faculty. From 1992 to 2000, he performed and recorded with John Coltrane's former drummer Rashied Ali, and he has been a member of Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet since 1981.
"I want students to have a seamless connection between their inner ear, their instrument, and notation. So when they hear something in their head, they can very easily sing it or play it on their instrument, and they can very easily write it down to speed up the communication process with their band or whoever they're working with. If somebody sings something, they know what it is. If somebody plays a chord, they recognize that chord and how it moves to the next chord, and they can respond to that."
"Ear training is a tool that allows you to express what you hear, what you want to play, and what you want to sound like. It allows you to interact with other musicians. If you're in a group that has any element of improvisation or surprise in it—which most popular contemporary music, jazz, and all sorts of world music have—ear training is what allows you to hear what somebody else is doing and respond to it with something that fits and isn't an accident, but is intentional and meaningful, and has feeling and confidence behind it. When you have a good ear it makes your rhythm better, because you're not hesitant, you're confident."
"Our students come to Berklee with all sorts of different backgrounds. Some have learned to play mostly by ear; others grew up like I did in a school band or orchestra program, where the first time they played a note they were looking at it on a page. Those are two really different cultural and musical backgrounds, and there's everything in between. I think an ear training teacher has to have empathy with the whole range of possible students and the ability to diagnose what each of them needs."
"We have some upper division electives that are very popular, but in terms of sheer numbers, most of the ear training sections are basic skills courses that students take in the first two years. Part of our work is showing students how to practice, helping them develop a self-teaching ability and the ability to pace themselves. I think probably one of the hardest things to teach at the very beginning of college is not to cram, not to postpone. There are some things you can learn that way, but learning a foreign language or ear training you cannot do two hours before the exam. It involves coordination, thinking fast and fluently, reading, and performance in real time. It's cumulative. Practicing fifteen minutes a day is better than four hours right before you go to your mid-term. I think students' success in ear training depends a lot on them learning how to build skills through regular practice, the same as practicing their instruments."