Virginia Tech professors typically have prestigious resumes, but one new faculty member in the music department has quite the claim to fame.
Paul Langosch, who began teaching jazz improvisation classes and working with many of the small jazz groups at Tech last semester, has been a professional bass player for most of his life. He has played with countless jazz greats throughout his career, but his most notable job was serving as a member of Tony Bennett’s touring band for 20 years.
Since his father is a classically trained pianist, it is no wonder Langosch went into the music world professionally. He began playing drums at the age of four and learned guitar the next year, but it was his family’s move from Dayton, Ohio to Bethesda, Md. that brought Langosch to the bass.
“When I went into junior high school, we had a full-sized symphony orchestra that met first period,” Langosch said. “I wanted to play an instrument that could play in the orchestra, so I picked the cello. I wasn’t very good at playing the cello, but I was a lot better at pretending that the cello was a bass, so my band director happened to have (a bass) and loaned it to me. I felt at home right away.”
By the time Langosch was 16, he was beginning to play professional shows with much older musicians. As he continued working, he learned what a unique challenge it was to play jazz.
“I think (jazz) is the most difficult music to play in that you have to master improvisation as well your instrument,” Langosch said.
While working as a freelance musician in the Washington D.C. area, Langosch was able to work with many of the top names in the jazz world, including many artists who inspired him while he was learning to play.
“I’m still in awe of the people that I got to work with,” Langosch said. “Unfortunately, a lot of them are gone, and that’s hard because I miss them as friends and I miss them musically very much. And at this point in my life, I feel like I’m playing better than ever before and I wish I could play with them again.”
On tour with Bennett
It was during this time that Langosch received a call from Tony Bennett’s road manager asking him to leave the next day and play three nights with the Sacramento Symphony in California.
“I mean, you get a call like that and you’re going to pretty much do whatever you can to do the job,” Langosch said.
Langosch asked the road manager if he was looking for a sub or if the job was open. To Langosch’s delight, the road manager responded that they were looking for a bassist.
Although most people would be nervous going into their first performance with a world-renowned recording artist, Langosch felt his first show was a great experience.
“They didn’t put any pressure on me,” Langosch said. “They made me feel so welcome from the first beat that I was able to be relaxed enough that I really enjoyed the experience. I remember almost everything about it.”
After being asked to become a permanent member of the band, Langosch began touring with Bennett — a job he held for 20 years throughout a 25-year period. During that time, they would be on the road for an average of about 250 days out of the year, a unique challenge that comes along with being a professional musician.
“I think one thing people don’t understand about touring is it never gets easier,” Langosch said. “It only gets harder.”
During his time with Bennett’s band, Langosch had the opportunity to travel around the world, record numerous albums, and appear on many television shows and specials, including the Grammys show.
However, one experience in particular stood out for him. Langosch had the opportunity to be a part of the Golden Jubilee concert in London, which marked 50 years of the Queen of England’s reign; there were a million people there.
“It was just so overwhelming,” Langosch said. “The guys in the group were very experienced and had played with different people all over the world, and we all were just like, ‘Ah, we were just playing for the Queen of England.’”
From professional to professor
Langosch decided to retire when he turned 50 years old, the same year that he reached 20 years with Tony Bennett’s band. After years of playing accompaniment and living on the road, he was ready to try something on his own, which eventually brought him to Tech.
“I think he’s doing fantastic,” said fellow jazz professor Jason Crafton. “All the feedback I’ve heard from the students has been great. His colleagues, myself included, are really impressed with his dedication, and obviously his artistry is top-notch.”
Langosch is enjoying his time at Tech so far, especially getting to teach such a diverse group of students. He's has taught three ensembles this year and only had two or three music majors — everyone else was an engineer.
“(Engineers) do bring a different experience,” Langosch said. “There’s a joy that comes with playing for the fun of it, which I think a lot of times professional musicians forget.”
Crafton also feels Langosch’s experiences in the professional music industry are highly beneficial to his students.
“I think it’s an essential part of their experience to at least get some insight into that world,” Crafton said. “And that’s what I think is so rare about a guy like Paul. A lot of guys who live in that world and have the experiences that Paul has had aren’t necessarily interested (in) or dedicated to teaching in the way he is.”
Langosch hopes to be able to continue teaching at Tech on a long-term basis, not only because of the experiences that he can share with the students, but also because of what they are sharing with him.
“It’s incredibly energizing for me,” Langosch said. “I don’t want to sound like a cliche, but I think I’ve probably gotten more out of teaching them than they have (from me). I’ve learned so much this (past) semester, and I really can’t wait to do it again.”