Get to Know Todd Reid
"In order for me to teach, I have to continue to be personally developing as a musician…I can’t teach what I don’t know," Professor Todd Reid says.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Dec 14, 2021
Todd Reid was only 11 when he performed his first real gig on the Mississippi riverboat Delta Queen. Originally from Kettering, Ohio, Reid went on to attend the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he studied jazz and studio music, and later earned a masters of music degree in percussion. Reid has been active in local music scenes in Cincinnati, New York City, and Denver. Over the course of his career, Reid has played and/or recorded with a host of local, national and international jazz artists including Gerry Mulligan, Dr. Billy Taylor, Curtis Fuller, Charles McPherson, Darius Rucker, Dave Liebman, and Eddie Harris. In 2009, Reid began teaching at CU Denver. Now a senior instructor, Reid teaches drumset, electronic digital instruments, and upper-level music history classes in electronic music and jazz. He appreciates the forward-thinking faculty and administration of the College of Arts & Media who he credits with keeping everyone “constantly curious, creative and hungry to keep learning and innovate.”
1. What do jazz and electronic music have in common? How do they differ?
They both allow the individual to express themselves in different, but nearly limitless ways. They also require a person to take risks, which leads to personal and professional development.
Electronic music tends to have less group interaction because so much of it is done by a single individual; I’m trying to foster more group settings for students to learn how to work together in this arena. Jazz for me is the ultimate in community and musical conversations; it allows people who don’t even know each other to immediately make music with each other and have dialogue.
2. As someone who has performed extensively as well as studied in formal institutions, what would you say is the benefit of a degree in music from a school like CU Denver?
I love that we offer degree programs that are relevant to today’s musical landscape. Also, the possibilities for cross-disciplinary interactions in the arts (and other disciplines) is so great. We are beginning to see more of these collaborations spring to life, which I think is very important for our students to experience.
3. How has teaching impacted you, as a person and as a professional musician?
My students are constantly teaching me about new music ideas, trends and artists…things I might otherwise miss. I am sometimes surprised to find students who, like me, have such an interest in the music of the past…the jazz of the late 1950s-1960s for example…and their desire to immerse themselves in this music, in addition to the current music of their peers.
In order for me to teach, I have to continue to be personally developing as a musician…I can’t teach what I don’t know. So, I am challenged to continue my life-long journey of learning, striving to be better today than I was yesterday. My students really provide me many things to work on!
4. Tell us about the CU Denver Mobile Device Ensemble.
This grew out of my desire to make electronic music a part of our curriculum, something that was largely missing prior to 2011. I realized that so many of our students produce electronic music, yet there was this void in our course offerings. So, I approached our faculty and administration about starting a performing ensemble where we only use mobile electronic devices like laptops, iPads…even our iPhones (!) with which to make music. The students sometimes still are foggy about how to repurpose their music production skills to the performing environment, but that’s what I am there to help them with.
5. How do you personally get into a creative state of mind? Are there any rituals or rhythms you practice to cultivate creativity?
I find it crucial to remain curious about all facets of music, for this is what drives creativity. Although it’s comfortable to stay with what is musically familiar, I try to constantly explore music, traditions and artists that are unfamiliar to my musical experience. This exposes me to new, unexplored directions…and hopefully, refines me to continue to improve and be able to pass on to others what has been passed on to me.