Billy Smolen, of Glen Ridge, NJ, shares about his experience at Berklee’s Bass Lines program. Bass Lines is a summer program that brings together bassists of all styles for three days of learning, networking, and jamming. This year’s Bass Lines program took place from June 8-10.
How long have you been playing the bass?
It’s been around three years since I first picked it up, but only two since I began seriously practicing.
What is your favorite style of music to play?
Picking a favorite style is a tough choice, but I guess I’d have to say funk. There’s something so fun and rhythmic about it, and I definitely got to play a lot of it at Berklee!
How did you hear about Bass Lines? What made you want to attend?
I was looking online for a summer program to enroll in, and a close friend of mine is a student at Berklee. He gave it his highest recommendation, and I’ve always known the schools reputation for being one of the best music schools in the country, so I couldn’t say no.
What was the most interesting thing you learned at Berklee?
In the four days I was at the school, I learned so much. The people were amazing, talented, and supportive, from [the students] attending the program to the staff. I think the most interesting thing I learned was simply how much there is to be learned, and how many people have the same musical mindset that I have. From theory classes with new exercises and practice routines, to learning how to listen and collaborate with other musicians in an ensemble setting, I was constantly reminded of my own drive to grow as a musician. It amazed me to see that everyone else felt the same way. This was one of the most musically supportive things I’ve ever experienced, whether purely as a bass player, a musician, or a person. I’ll never forget it.
What is your favorite memory from Bass Lines?
My favorite memories of Bass Lines came from the people. Getting to see Bootsy Collins live at the House of Blues, getting my bass signed by Steve Bailey, and speaking to Victor Bailey were all great memories. However, they can’t compare to the sense of friendship and camaraderie I felt during the program. No matter where I was, I was surrounded by other like-minded and amazing individuals. They made my experience fun, meaningful, and memorable. I truly loved talking to, jamming with, and learning from other bass players.
What advice would you give to someone who was interested in coming Bass Lines?
The only advice I could give to someone wanting to come to Bass Lines is this: don’t hesitate in applying. Go for it, and know that the people you will meet will only serve to improve your musicianship and your life. If there is a community like this for everyone, they deserve to be a part of it. Also, bring an amp for practice, and know that you’ll make plenty of new acquaintances when people ask to borrow it!