Yes, Long Time HYP student PATRICE LOUISE RUSHEN really practices here!
Grammy nominated and multi-talented artist, teacher, mom, wife and longtime HYP Yogi Patrice Rushen, shares the story and history of her 40 year career. I have been asked many times over the years, “IS THAT PATRICE RUSHEN?!” (YES IT IS!) She also has a OH Yoga practice that helps her feel grounded and the best version of herself. I asked Patrice if I could interview her as an example of #blackexcellence and to learn what so many students have been so excited about!
When did you start playing music?
I started playing piano at 5 years old after being part of a special program for Music Education graduate students, who studied an observed young children ages 3-5 yrs, who demonstrated an aptitude for music . This “early childhood development ” course became the basis for the Preparatory Division of USC’s School of Music. It exists today as part of the COLBURN SCHOOL of Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles. I was involved in the Preparatory program until I was 17 years old. After high school (Locke High in Watts), I went to USC. I was a Music Education major with a minor in Classical Piano Performance.
History of your career:
I wanted to be a composer/arranger specifically for television and films. I enjoyed the performance aspects of contemporary music, and I knew my goals required a wide “vocabulary” of musical styles. In the early 70’s, some public schools still had music programs. Locke High School had one of the most vibrant in Los Angeles. The focus was to keep the creative energy busy, and focused. At that time Locke’s student body was 90% black. So much of what we were taught about excellence and success was through the lens of the contributions of African Americans to history, art, literature … and that a part of that legacy rested with us to continue to be about that and represent that in our lives. Being “pro black” didn’t mean being “anti-anything” … it meant striving to be your best, and to see yourself as limitless, regardless of biased behavior on the part of others.
My peer group, teachers and professional musicians I had the good fortune to meet, gave me encouragement. We pushed each other to be capable of playing music at a level that we could play with anyone! Learning to play jazz (America’s “classical ” music) was the key to understanding the contemporary music palette, incorporating blues, R&B , pop , rock . All of this added to gospel roots and the music of LA which incorporated Latin music were beautiful challenges to becoming the comprehensive musician I wanted to be.
Ultimately I played on quite a few recordings, played with jazz luminaries like Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughn , George Benson, music directed television shows like THE EMMYS , THE GRAMMYS , THE NAACP Image Awards, composed the music for films, recorded several solo albums, and worked with pop icons like Stevie Wonder , Eric Clapton , Diana Ross , Smokey Robinson , Babyface, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Prince to name a few.
Certain aspects of the music industry are still very much male dominated. Sometimes, this would create additional challenges. But I continue to learn how to stay focused on the goal and the “bigger picture”. It takes work and discipline. Even now as I’ve had a professional career for over 40 years!! But the benefit of doing what you love, and the knowledge that in some way what you are doing feeds your personal joy and contributes to the joy of others, has made it well worth it to get through those temporary obstacles or perceived setbacks.
I learn as much from those as I do the successes!
The song you are known for?
The song I am best known for is FORGET ME NOTS. It was written in 1982 and first came out as the first single on my album “Straight From The Heart”. It was a worldwide hit, and continues to be played on the radio and in clubs today. It became the bases of the song “MEN IN BLACK” from the film franchise of the same name. Tik Tok picked up on Forget Me Nots, in a worldwide dance last year.
Between that, and the re-release of a compilation LP called YOU REMIND ME on Strut Records, my music from the 80’s has been introduced to a new generation of music lovers. It’s CRAZY !!! … and It’s a blessing. When I play concerts, it’s very humbling to see people 16-80 listening, singing and dancing to the same music . A songwriter/composer’s DREAM!!!
Any others we should know about or hits you had ?
I’ve had 3 Grammy nominations: Best R& B vocal performance (Forget Me Nots) , Best R&B Instrumental Performance (Number One) and Best Contemporary Jazz Recording (Signature)
I was on Soul Train as a just one of the “kids” a few years before I was on as a guest! (crazy huh?). Prince and I taped American Bandstand as musical guests on the same day ! The whole relationship to dance music goes back to high school . when a little-known band used to come in off hours to rehearse occasionally. That band was Earth Wind & Fire . (they played my high school prom!)
Still going? Playing concerts? Teaching? Family? Kids?
YEP! Still playing concerts. I will be touring some this late spring and summer.
I’ve been married for 37 years. Have two kids. (ages 18 and 24 ) When we started our family , I pivoted away from touring as much , and leaned into the television and film arena more . I loved performing, but still had aspirations to work more consistently as a composer and arranger.
I had worked hard to develop that skill set, and I did have opportunities to do more of that, which allowed me to stay home more. It worked out well for raising our kids.
Teaching came into the mix of activities in 2005. I received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music in Boston , where I’d become a visiting lecturer and performer. They created a position for me as Ambassador For Artistry In Education, a position I still have.
I am Chair of the Popular Music Program at Thornton School of Music at USC. This is really a “full circle moment” as my introduction to music started there as a child!!! Participating in the start of the Popular Music Program ‘s curriculum and it’s amazing success as a Bachelor of Music degree in Popular Music has been an incredible experience. The program has become the leader in college -level popular music education. We are entering our 13TH year. I enjoy it very much … and when you teach, you also learn!
What benefits do you enjoy from the yoga and what do you experience that keeps you coming back?
When I was introduced to HOT YOGA something clicked, and I LOVE it !! I wish my scheduled allowed me to practice more … but I get it in at least a couple of times a week!
I have so enjoyed the clear benefits of this practice for my body and mind. The studio, the teachers , staff and community of practitioners allow me that perfect respectful balance of safe space and camaraderie as we all work to better ourselves through the challenges and rewards of this practice. Some days I’m totally in the zone and other days it’s so tough. But ALWAYS it’s a great to come to the studio. Once I’m there, I can clear my mind, just listen, respond and appreciate how much this yoga adds to me being the best version of myself that I can be.
You can learn more about Patrice, see more photos and more at Patricerushen.com