We learned of Jim Stinnett while putting together the second edition of The Phish Companion, which had forewords from those who were music teachers to Phish: Jane Ambrose, who taught Trey at the University of Vermont; Paul Asbell, Trey’s guitar teacher at the University of Vermont; Dave Hanlon, Fishman’s only music teacher; Lois Harris, who taught all of them but Mike; and Jim Stinnet, Mike's bass instructor.
Jim taught hundreds of other students, primarily at Berklee College Of Music, before he passed away last Sunday. His family has invited celebration of his life on a Facebook post, and JamBase has assembled some videos including Mike's rememberances and Jim's guest appearance 12/29/95.
Here, we'd like to share Jim's part of that education-focused Foreword from nearly 17 years ago:
My association with Phish began long before Phish itself was born. As a student myself at the New England Conservatory of Music, I began teaching bass and guitar at a high school outside Boston. One high school student in particular was very dedicated, and studied with me for a number of years. Little did I know that Mike Gordon would go on to form a band that would become one of the major influences on contemporary music.
At my first Phish concert in 1995, I was awe struck. The music was so powerful, the synergy level high, the musicianship excellent, the group improvisation mesmerizing, the professionalism first rate, and the love of sharing deeply felt. This show was more than a concert. It was pure communication at a most basic level. There is no mystery as to why Phish’s influence on young musicians is so strong. Who wouldn’t want to create music, and in the sharing of that creation, receive such energy in return?
While the Phish phenomenon is genuine, it did not come overnight. I watched Mike practice, and listened as he told me about Trey, Jon, and Page working to improve their skills over time. I remember once when Trey came with Mike to his lesson. Trey asked me how to play be-bop. I simply gave him a Charlie Parker recording, and Trey just took it from there. I can also hear Mike and I working on Bach pieces for a few years. The quality of Phish’s music today is a result of dedication, much training and, of course, big dreams.
As a veteran teacher at Berklee College of Music, I have known countless young musicians who were inspired by Phish to pursue a career in music. Many of these students cannot say exactly what it is that so moved them – but the Phish experience did move them. I suspect music schools around the world are full of young Phish-heads just like them.
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