By Deb Walsh
Grammy-nominated producer Jason Halbert has traversed the globe working with some of today's top-selling recording artists. And it has been a meteoric rise for the Nashville-based producer/keyboardist. Since being selected in 2003 by American Idol judge Randy Jackson to act as music director for Kelly Clarkson and other Idol winners, Halbert has toured with Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys, Paulina Rubio, Clay Aiken, and Reba McEntire, to name just a few. He co-produced Kelly's 3rd release "My December" and has co-writing credits for two songs on Clarkson's latest record. His television performance credits read like a "who's who" of network programming: Jay Leno, David Letterman, Good Morning America, the Billboard Music Awards, the MTV VMA Awards, 20/20, and Saturday Night Live.
Though he is a multi-platinum selling producer, Halbert still felt there were gaps in his musical knowledge base. "Last summer I was hiring a horn section for the tour, and realized I knew very little about the instruments and arranging techniques," he recalls. "Though I was able to hire an incredible horn arranger, I was reminded that there was still more to learn in my field. There were gaps in my learning-and I knew filling them would benefit me musically."
So he contacted Berkleemusic and enrolled as an online student in Songwriting for Film and TV. "After talking to the advisors, I decided that the flexibility of the online program was best suited to my current career and travel schedule," he says. "Many of the musicians I have hired over the years have been Berklee graduates, and I've long been a fan of the quality education the school provides."
Schedule flexibility is critically important to Halbert, as his upcoming calendar includes not just the start of his online classes on September 28, but also a 30-stop U.S. tour with Clarkson, followed by Europe, Asia, and Australia in 2010.
To top it all off, Halbert's commitment to education and collaboration with Kelly will be featured in a new television documentary called "Get Schooled—You Have the Right," premiering Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:00 P.M. EST. The special is the first programming "roadblock" of any kind across all Viacom networks, including BET, MTV, VH1, CMT, COMEDY CENTRAL, Spike TV, TV Land, and Nickelodeon. Jason and his wife will be watching the world premiere from the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood during a red carpet screening event for the show.
The special was co-produced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom to show how a commitment to education and a drive to overcome challenges can pave pathways to success. (Gates dropped out of Harvard more than 30 years ago to focus on Microsoft, and Clarkson and James both skipped college to focus on their careers.)
In the broadcast, three leading figures from the worlds of politics, sports, and entertainment are shown alongside their trusted behind-the-scenes colleagues: President Barack Obama and his speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz; NBA MVP Lebron James and his sports marketing exec Latesha Willliams; and Clarkson and Halbert. Filming took place over a three-week period while the band was on tour in New York, Indianapolis and Syracuse. "It's like reading People magazine, but I get to live it," says Halbert in a promo spot for the program.
"It's an incredible honor to be part of the same program as our President, and amazing talents such as Kelly Clarkson and Lebron James, yet alone to be featured," says Halbert.
In the show, President Obama says, "Education is the key to living out your dreams," a comment that also resonates with Halbert. "My education has given me the confidence and the tools to meet the demands of my field," he says. "Even courses that may not seem relevant to what I do now, taught me a process of learning that is applicable in almost every situation I find myself in."
Halbert's outlook on education carries over to his advice for anyone looking to make it in the industry. "Listen often, speak little. And be around people that inspire you," he says. "Especially in my career, you have to be at peace with being the 'sideman.' There can be a rush just by serving people, which I think is equal to the rush of being the star. Never believe you're the best guy/gal in the room, because there is always someone better, and always more you can learn."
Halbert plans to continue his academic path by completing his Master's Certificate in Orchestration for Film and TV online with Berkleemusic. In hindsight, did he envision coming this far, this fast? "Somehow," he says, "I always naively believed that one day it would be a reality. But I can honestly say, it still stays exciting and fresh every day."
There's a phrase that goes "allow the journey to determine the destination," a philosophy that Halbert and Clarkson talk about often as a group. "Often, we can be so focused on the destination, we miss out on the wonder and joys of the journey," he says. "I try not to set firm expectations in my career, so that I can always be open to new and exciting opportunities that I may have otherwise missed."
in Orchestration for Film and TV
- Arranging 1: Rhythm Section
- Songwriting for Film and TV
- Orchestration 1
- Orchestration 2
- Film Scoring 101