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Teacher Q&A: Charley Pagani

Jazz player Charley Pagani captivates OLLI 'audience'
 Posted: 2:00 AM September 24, 2012

People in Ashland know Charley Pagani as a jazz musician. Classically trained from age 6 and a music major in college, he explored everything from classical organ compositions to garage band rock before settling on improvisational jazz.

Though a lifelong musician, Pagani never really quit his day job: a 40-plus year career in computing, doing applied programming, system design, telecommunications, technical support, and management in industries that included science, health care and finance.

He and his wife, Nancy, moved here in 2001 from the Bay Area, and he started teaching jazz history, music theory and the Great American Songbook to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members in 2005.

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What are your favorite aspects about Ashland?: The great natural beauty of the area; the consistently friendly, bright people; the cultural opportunities, especially the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the good restaurants, the parks, the charm of the town itself, and"… and"… and"… career.

Give us a few career highlights: After a stint in the Navy, I stumbled into computer technology in 1964 and did a wide variety of things over the next 37 years. It was a great ride, covering almost the whole history of computing, from punchcards to mainframes, to personal computing and the Web.

At the same time, I have always had music as my friend. I have played piano since age 6, studied music theory and organ in college, played rock in garage bands, and finally discovered improvisatory jazz at around age 50. I had superb teachers, and was willing to risk my livelihood to become the best player I could be. I've played with lots of fine players and have deeply enjoyed the process of discovery and growth.

What facts about music gets your students' attention?: Each class covers many subjects. But generally I'd say that the people who benefit most are those who love music and are open to exploring various aspects of composition, improvisation and performance.

Most people's favorite is the class on the Great American Song, the period of about 1930 to 1960 when all the standards were written. It resonates with their lives.

What do you like most?: What I most enjoy are the experiences, stories and knowledge that people bring to the class. I learn at least as much as I teach.

How do you introduce yourself to your class?: I try to approach that with the same intent that I have for the course in general: to be open, respectful, informative, to try to keep things on the light side and create a space where people are comfortable asking things and sharing experiences.

What do you like to do in Ashland during your time off?: Walk, bicycle, exercise, practice, read, garden.

What's still on your To-do list?: I have no list. We pretty much enjoy life's opportunities as they come.

How can we learn more about you? Do you Tweet, post on Facebook or maintain a website?: I'm not into social media and am happy to keep a low profile.

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