Professor to perform at music festival

by Beacon Staff • February 28, 2007

So, instead of spending his spring break grading papers from his History of Jazz class, Hofbauer will be preparing to travel to one of the nation's largest music festivals, South by Southwest, where he will be performing original work.,Professor Eric Hofbauer doesn't just teach jazz. He plays it.

So, instead of spending his spring break grading papers from his History of Jazz class, Hofbauer will be preparing to travel to one of the nation's largest music festivals, South by Southwest, where he will be performing original work.

"I am very excited and honored to be there," Hofbauer said.

On top of his preparation for his debut at the annual Austin, Texas, festival, Hofbauer is busy with his three teaching jobs. In addition to his commitment at Emerson, Hofbauer also teaches at The New England Conservatory and the University of Rhode Island.

One of his current History of Jazz students Casey Shane, a freshman broadcast journalism major, speaks very highly of Hofbauer and his teaching methods.

"[His] class is not only educational, but it's fun because you're learning about music that has revolutionized America, for jazz made America what it is, which Hofbauer expresses in every single way," he said.

Hofbauer also owns a record label called Creative Nation Music, which focuses mostly on the artists of the Boston jazz scene. His own music is produced under the label along with other bands like CK5 and Dead Cat Bounce. He says the label has had some success, as some of the musicians have been critic's picks and made it onto top ten record lists.

His own music has also done well. Over the course of his career, he has produced over ten records with numerous groups and his own band of ten years, The Blueprint Project.

In 2004, he came out with his first solo album titled American Vanity.

The record features songs like "American Eulogy," "Better Get Hit In Your Soul," and "American Innocence," and comments on the arrogance and gaudiness of American pop culture along with its apparent lack of compelling music.

"It is based around vanity and how it manifests our culture, particularly pop and politics," said Hofbauer. "It is a celebration of trying to discover that hidden gem in pop culture to show that not everything is completely watered down and force fed to us."

With firm plucks on his guitar strings, Hofbauer plays a percussive style of jazz that draws on multiple elements to create what he calls "post modern jazz."

"My type of music has a lot of individuality, which includes a sense of humor, mixed with social commentary," said Hofbauer.

His solo act also features his own deconstructed interpretations of pop tunes like the "Dukes of Hazzard" theme song, a slower version of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit," and the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." Hofbauer says he plans to take this theme of American vanity to South by Southwest.

This will be the festival's twenty-first Music and Media Conference. The entire event runs from March 9-18 and converges three media industries into one big, Texas-sized festival. The first five days of the festival are dedicated to the film industry and interactive media. It wraps up with the music section running from March 14-18.

Hofbauer will be among over 1,400 showcasing acts, with a lineup of performers from just about every continent, and almost every type of music imaginable ranging from electronic to reggae, indie rock to hip hop. Some of the more notable performers include The Bravery, Straylight Run, Armor for Sleep and the recently reunited Stooges.

Grayson Pauroso, a freshman cinematography major and a current student of Hofbauer's said he understands the enormity of this opportunity having previously lived in Texas and witnessing the hype that surrounds South by Southwest.

"I think it's cool to have a teacher that plays, and it's even cooler that he's going to be playing at such a huge festival," said Pauroso. "I haven't heard him play, but to be playing at South by Southwest, he must be pretty good."

Hofbauer will also have no trouble standing out from the rest of the acts, because he claims that jazz performers at the festival are scarce, making his acceptance especially exciting.

"The jazz community is often underrepresented at the festival," said Hofbauer. "Most jazz musicians I know have never even heard of South by Southwest."

Pauroso agrees that the festival isn't exactly notorious for jazz music.

"The music played there is generally more mainstream than jazz," Pauroso said.

While many new artists play South by Southwest, because they believe the exposure will help them land a record deal, Hofbauer is hoping to network and find some additional help with his solo career.

"I'm in a point in my career where I want to take it to the next level and for that, I need the help of a manager and an agent," Hofbauer said.

Hofbauer will be front and center on the final day of the festival at a venue called The Elephant Room, which features live jazz music nightly. He says he will be playing a lot of tracks from American Vanity, along with some new material that follows the same general theme of American pride and arrogance.

Following the festival, Hofbauer has plans to work on several projects. First, a new record from The Blueprint Project is planning to be released in May. He is also going to work on a duet with another guitarist and then after that, he'll go back to the recording studio for his follow up solo album to American Vanity.

He is not, however, planning to leave teaching for the life of a wandering musician.

"I would like to balance out performance and my teaching career. I would like to be 70 percent performing and 30 percent teaching," Hofbauer said. "This is America, and I do play jazz, so I'm not delusional about some rock star lifestyle."