I am currently director of music programs at the San Francisco Waldorf High School
where I have led the orchestra and jazz ensemble since 2006.
I also teach classes and workshops on improvisation and lead the
Phillip Greenlief Ensemble at the California Jazz Conservatory
KQED on GREENLIEF, IMPROVISATION, AND ONLINE WORKSHOPS
For the past few decades, I have been teaching workshops at schools, colleges, universities, galleries, and other arts-oriented spaces. I started out exploring ways to teach free improvisation and over time that led to composing works where I could invent my own tools and systems. For examples of this activity, you can find images and instructions for my MAP SCORES and BARBEDWIRE scores in the STORE section of this website.
Lately I have been calling these workshops COMPOSING FOR IMPROVISERS, where I introduce open works by other composers and myself, and get the participants to think about how they might create their own language and notation systems. A more recent interest is opening up the dialogue across performance disciplines, in order to create scores that any kind of artist could use. In this way I hope to inspire composers to engage in multimedia performance.
It is my aim in this work to enable artists to create works where each performer has agency to act as a leader. I am interested in providing models for our society to listen, and engage in playful activity without hard and fast rules on how to behave. If there is a political aspect to this work, it is to encourage independence, agency and responsibility for one’s actions.
More recently, I have been teaching solo improvisation, composing for improvisers, and leading the PG ensemble at the california jazz conservatory (CJC). check out the cjc website if you are interested in attending such a class. the phillip greenlief ensemble (new) will be featured in the fall 2021 semester, starting mid-september 21st.
leading a workshop with western oregon university's western hemishpheres ensemble photo by keller coker
I have been teaching privately for over 30 years and I truly enjoy it. It’s not something I do on the side to make money. I view teaching as important aspect of music - not only to conceive and to create it, but to instruct and inspire the next generations of composers and musicians.
I am a recommended teacher on the Berkeley High Jazz website:
My sliding scale rates are $60 - $90 for an hour lesson - pay what you can afford. The lessons are taught in my home studio on weekday afternoons.
UPDATE: since the shelter in place orders that have affected so many of us, i am now offering private instruction via zoom, skype, etc. and welcome students from all areas to study with me.
I want to help students realize their goals as a musician, and sometimes that means helping them to articulate those goals. I have a general outline of what I like to cover - a sort of tool kit of basic skills that every player should possess. I try to leave the repertoire up to the student - often they have pieces they are playing in school or out on the club scene, but I am also keen to help them develop a wider appreciation for music through listening to new works. Here is a checklist of things a student would cover in the lessons:
Long tones (holding a note for an extended period of time) for beauty of sound and tone, dynamic control (loud and soft volumes) and intonation (playing in tune)
Scales - Chords - Intervals for a command of the basic areas of tonal harmony
Rhythm: understanding meter, pulse, tempo, rhythmic notation, polyrhythms, creating motion
Etudes - for technical dexterity and sight reading skills
Repertoire - enables you to have an understanding of the material you need/want to know
Composition - the surest way to reveal or discover your voice as a musician
Improvisation - composing in the moment on your instrument
here are some testimonials from parents, fellow teachers and former students ... names are not revealed for confidentiality, but references are available upon request.
Phillip is an exceptional saxophone instructor. I run a teacher learning program and believe that central to strong teaching is the ability to be curious about a student and how they approach learning. Phillip takes this inquiry approach to his work; he is an exquisite listener. While our daughter's saxophone skills have grown tremendously through her work with Phillip, the most inspiring part of Phillip's instruction for the past four years is the way he supports her to cultivate her own musical passions. In turn, he encourages her agency, values her ideas, and nurtures her creativity. When I asked my daughter her favorite thing about working with Phillip she said without hesitation, "Phillip balances challenge and fun. So few teachers are able to do this. They either are all about fun and I don't learn as much or it's all about the challenge and learning feels like a chore. Phillip finds the balance." Phillip is incredible and I hope her will share his inspired approach to teaching music more widely.
- parent of berkeley high saxophone student, who studied with me throughout the four years she attended berkeley high and played lead alto in the A band.