We had the good fortune of connecting with David Roitstein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, what do you attribute your success to?
Shoutout LA “What is the most important factor behind your success / the success of your brand?” I have taught at CalArts for 38 years, and believe that I am the luckiest person with the best job in the world. I love what I do and the people who I work with, and am always grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by creative, original, fascinating artists who are passionate and independent. When Charlie Haden and I started the jazz program, it was very much underground, but gradually over the years, it seems like our reputation as a unique alternative to most university and conservatory programs is well established throughout the worlds of jazz, creative music, and education. The most important factor in our program’s success is our extraordinary team of faculty and students. We take great care in selecting students every year, and they know that we respect and admire their talent and will do everything possible to support and encourage them. If we choose the right people, everything else goes very well, so it is worth the extra effort and time to get to know the students even before they come to CalArts. Our team of faculty has been together for a long time. That is because we each have something different and special that we bring to our community. There is no competitive element to our work – we all collaborate and communicate constantly, sharing ideas and exploring new ways of teaching and making music together. Everyone in our program knows that they are important, and that their work is valued. Of course, we are all thankful to be at CalArts, where the small size of the school makes flexibility and responsiveness possible, and the spirit of creativity and exploration is always so alive. David Roitstein, CalArts jazz program director
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
At CalArts, all of the faculty are busy, active, creative artists as well as educators. I have the opportunity to perform, record, and compose my music with exceptional collaborators at the highest level all of the time. Everything that I do as a teacher, mentor, and program director is closely related to making music, and virtually none of what I do is bureaucratic or purely academic. It is very hard, intense work, but very rewarding and satisfying, both in the music that is produced by our students and alumni, and in my own creative production. I am absolutely proud of what we have accomplished, and it is tremendously gratifying to see so many success stories among people who we’ve taught and mentored over so many years.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Of course, I’d show them CalArts campus when it is full of people and creative energy. I’d also take them downtown, to Walt Disney Concert Hall and REDCAT, and the Blue Whale (which unfortunately has closed now because of the pandemic but will hopefully be resurrected as soon as possible). The creative music scene in Los Angeles is healthy and vibrant! Maybe we could visit the legendary Capitol Records, the best recording studio in the world, where I have produced 30 years of recording projects featuring original compositions by CalArts students. We would eat at different international restaurants all over the city – I have a long list of favorites. And at some point, I always like to drive guests through the mountains ending up at the beach. It is such a miraculous feeling to see the Pacific Ocean emerge suddenly after winding through mountain roads! Then some beach time, and down to Santa Monica and Venice to watch all of the universe of people.Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There is no place like CalArts. I recognize all of the individual faculty, staff, and students who have made such a great commitment to this rare and wonderful community of artists.
Other: jazzarchive.calarts.edu (30 years of original compositions by CalArts students recorded at Capitol Records)