Walking down the first floor hallway of the Morton Building at the Stevens Institute of Technology, approaching the door of an office near the eastern end of the corridor, sometimes it sounds as if a full choir is singing, or a big brass ensemble is performing. But that’s not the case. What’s really behind that closed office door is one man with a guitar named Carlos Alomar, a musician who has performed and worked with entertainers such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and John Lennon, and an assemblage of technology that he describes as the future of music.
Alomar, who is now the Distinguished Artist in Residence at Stevens, has combined the principles of “innovation,” a hallmark of Stevens, with his past experience as a musical icon, to come up a whole new way of making music.
Embrace the future
“I’m trying to teach the students not to be fearful of the future of music,” Alomar said. “They have to embrace it.”
With the flick of a button, Alomar changes the sounds that originate from his electric guitar. Hooked up to a system that he describes as “awesome”, the strums of the guitar equate to the sounds of Asia, vocals, big bands, rock, and even percussions.
The innovative approach alters and invents new ways of how music is played.
“No one is ever late, no one is ever absent, and everyone does their homework.” – Carlos Alomar
Alomar, who now lives in North Bergen, began teaching at Stevens five years ago, but is “extremely honored” after being named the Distinguished Artist in Residence.
“I’ve received a lot of titles but that one was a biggie,” Alomar said.
When a student enters Alomar’s class on the first day and is exposed to the “futuristic music” that he plays using a combination of synthesizers connected to his guitar, he says, “they go crazy.”
What you’ll see when he plays is the strumming of a guitar, but what you’ll hear is something different than the traditional sounds of a guitar strum.
“Don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain,” Alomar said referencing the Wizard of Oz. “This is the land of Oz.”
A popular selection
Alomar said his class is different when it comes to student participation.
“No one is ever late, no one is ever absent, and everyone does their homework,” Alomar said, slightly bragging about the popularity of his class.
He currently serves as the director of the music instruction program and the recital program. When he’s not at Stevens, Alomar stays active in the music community. Recently, he worked with Alicia Keys on her new album as a guitarist. He also co-writes music and produces albums.
In addition to work at Stevens, he enjoys performing at senior citizens centers.
“If you ever want to feel good about what you’re doing, go volunteer at a senior citizen center,” Alomar said. “I like to give back and do a little concert for them.”
Alomar said when he shares the futuristic performances of music that he teaches with at Stevens with senior citizens, “it’s like they’re seeing television for the first time, and a lot of them probably did see TV for the first time.”
Stories to share
He’s had his fair share of fame, including a performance as the youngest guitarist at the Apollo Theatre in New York City when he was 15. He also co-wrote the hit song “Fame” with David Bowie, and John Lennon. In addition to working with Mick Jagger, Alomar toured with Bowie for a large part of his career as his guitarist.
“When you tour with Bowie it’s private jets, sushi chefs, and open bars,” Alomar said. “Nowadays, when you say bands are on tour, it’s small busses and sandwich meats.”
Besides his experience as a guitarist, and great stories from the road, Alomar believes he brings another important lesson to the classroom.
“Professionalism and a dedication to your craft,” Alomar said are the two aspects that he can teach students. “Also, you should always be studying your craft. I learned a lot of things but I’m still studying.”
Over the years, the music department has grown exponentially and the music department has been given more attention by the college.
In addition, Alomar said he also has another role at Stevens.
“I’m here to demystify music and to break the code,” he said. “A lot of places teach conservatively, and that’s fine, but we embrace technology. There’s no other way to describe this but ‘awesome.’”
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com