When the road stretches into the horizon and your legs are weighted by weariness, SUNY Broome music instructor Laurence Elder wants you to “walk another mile.”
That’s the working title for his second album, a jazz-pop hybrid with a positive message.
“Some of the themes are struggling through resistance and gravity to achieve a worthwhile objective, and never giving up on your dreams,” he said. “Keep going when things seem to be the darkest.”
The recording process has taken him to multiple locations, including New York City and Costa Rica, where he recorded drummer Carlomagno Araya. Other featured artists will include notable guitarist Mike Stern and Randy Brecker, a trumpeter who won six Grammies and is considered one of the elder statesmen of jazz.
Elder forged connections with the jazz greats throughout the course of his education and career. A native of New York City, he holds a bachelor’s in music, with a focus in jazz studies, from the Shenandoah Conservatory and a master’s in jazz piano performance from the University of Miami. Through the years, Elder’s music has received considerable international attention, and he and his band headlined at venues both domestically and globally. He has also opened for artists including Al DiMeola, Livingston Taylor, Jesse Harris and Betty Buckley.
As an undergraduate at Shenandoah, Elder first met Brecker decades ago, when the latter was a visiting artist with the school’s jazz ensemble, Brecker in turn introduced him to Stern. He met Araya in graduate school at the University of Miami, and the percussionist co-produced Elder’s first album, Surrounded, in 2005.
After a decade in Miami, Elder decided to relocate to Binghamton to be closer to his parents. He teaches both at SUNY Broome and Binghamton University, performs locally, and also has a recording studio downtown.
Binghamton might be small, but don’t underestimate its music scene. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in this town. There are incredible musicians here in this area,” he said.
Summertime is for recording. During the semester, much of his creative energy goes into teaching, although he finds way to combine both tracks. In his songwriting and sound engineering classes, for example, he shares his own process with students – and sneak previews of the developing product.
In an emerging piece of music, a composer must sometimes listen for the missing element – the instrument and melody that turns a good song into a piece of art. For Laurence Elder, that resolution comes through teaching.
“I could not have foreseen how fulfilling teaching has been. It completed something for me,” he explained. “It’s a great way to give back and pass on and share everything, and it also makes me better at what I do. When you teach, you reinforce what you already know.”