Jim Oshinsky - Sound Bites

Sound Bites: A Q&A with MfP Charter Board Member Jim Oshinsky, Part I

In About Music for People, Interviews by jan_mfp

Paul Winter Consort

David Darling, third from right, with the Paul Winter Consort

Jim Oshinsky was a Ph.D. student at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the mid-1970s, when he attended a concert by the Paul Winter Consort. By then, the group was taking world music mainstream, combining elements of jazz and classical with the sounds of animals and nature.

An amateur guitarist, Oshinsky was particularly struck by the Consort’s virtuoso cellist, David Darling. “He soloed like Jimi Hendrix, complete with wah-wah pedal and delay effects. I became an instant fan,” recalls Oshinsky, speaking from his home on Long Island. “The band created an atmosphere that I wanted to be part of. But how?”

The answer appeared multiple times over the next decade, as Oshinsky got to know Darling and the rest of the Consort at various workshops and concerts, including the “Living Music Village” series at Winter’s barn in northwest Connecticut.

It was at one such outing that Oshinsky met his future wife, Emily Metcalf, a classically trained cellist who was one of Darling’s first improvisation students. When Darling co-launched Music for People (MfP) in 1986, the couple became charter board members.

Jim OshinskySince then, Oshinsky has held numerous roles with the organization, including board president, program director, facilitator and consultant. He also is author of the seminal book, Return to Child: Music for People’s Guide to Improvising Music and Authentic Group Leadership (MfP, 2008).

We recently caught up with Oshinsky, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of music and psychology at Adelphi University, to discuss MfP’s long and winding road. The following is Part I of our interview:

Even though David Darling left the Consort in 1978, he and Paul Winter have remained friends and colleagues. How did their relationship set the stage for Music for People?
Between their summer workshops and concerts in the New York City area, I was in the loop with the Paul Winter Consort. When they announced a weeklong “Living Music Village” event at Paul’s farm [in 1983], I was offered a work-study position. This meant preparing the grounds for an influx of 60-70 campers, getting to know the band’s office staff and logistics people, and taking in the vibe of the group.

Everyone appeared to walk their talk, being eco-aware and working hard all day and playing music all night. They also embodied an inclusive spiritual component, starting each meal with singing grace and marking key events with musical rituals.

In the early Eighties, David began leading his own workshops called “Music for Everyone.” For those of us wanting more of his teachings, he responded with a series of “Next Step” workshops.

While David and Paul taught similar content about small-ensemble improvisation, they had different styles. Paul’s work seemed spontaneous but was highly structured. David, on the other hand, embraced improvisation both in his presentation and content. He worked without a net.

Who else was there in MfP’s beginning?
Before she passed away from cancer in 2008, Emily was a key figure in Music for People. We got married in 1990 at [musician] Joanie Spear’s barn in Connecticut, where David held his “Next Step” workshops.

In its formative years, Music for People was a two-person operation. David was the artiste, presenter extraordinaire and star-power who attracted everyone, because of his cello concerts, recordings and [Young Audiences] school residency programs. His colleague Bonnie Insull did everything else. For 10 years, she organized workshops, handled publicity and registration, booked venues, published the newsletter, oversaw the budget and ran the training program.

When Bonnie left, it took three people to replace her — a teacher-training staff person, an office manager and an executive director.

You have described some of the early staffers and board members as “visionaries.” Care to elaborate?
Music for People has been held together by people who love the mission and the work enough to do jobs out of their respective comfort zones.

As the organization matured and its Musicianship and Leadership Program [MLP] began turning out talented facilitators, some of our graduates stepped up to become leaders of exceptional quality—Mary Knysh, Clint Goss, David Rudge and Ron Kravitz, to name a few.

As David [Darling] took smaller and smaller roles, Music for People began to change. The biggest shift occurred in the summer of 2012, when, for the first time, we put on the “Art of Improvisation” workshops without him. From that point on, the transition from one generation to the next was clear — Music for People had a life of its own, independent of its founder.

Author: Rob Enslin