For Fab Four fan, it gets better all the time
Thursday, April 28, 2011
LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY APRIL 28, 2011, 11:18 AM
BY BRYAN WASSEL
A former Paramus resident has accomplished a series of firsts at Berklee College in Boston: becoming the first woman to graduate the guitar performance program in 1982, the first female faculty member of the guitar department in 1984 and the first female to be promoted to full professor in the department in 2009.
Lauren Passarelli, who was born in Teaneck and grew up in Paramus, developed her interest in guitar at an early age, citing the Beatles as one of her biggest influences. She had a plastic guitar when she was 2, and was truly inspired by music when she saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show when she was 4.
“You know, the Beatles never said they were the best musicians or the best writers or anything, but they enjoyed it so much and they just said, ‘If we can do it, anyone can do it,’” Passarelli said. “So I thought, ‘Then I’ll do it too.’”
Nicknamed “George,” after Beatle George Harrison, by her students, Passarelli is not only a professor but the department’s resident expert on the Fab Four. In addition to her standard lessons, she created the Beatles’ Guitar Lab and Beatle’s Ensemble at the college.
Her formal education in guitar began in 1969, when she began taking lessons from Paramus guitar teacher Lou Sabini, who still gives lessons in the borough to this day.
“He’s a great, great guitar teacher and he got me off to an incredible foundation, a great start,” Passarelli said. “I studied with him for five years, from 9 years old to 14, and he got me using the guitar books that Berklee College of Music published, so that’s how I heard about the college.”
Passarelli’s musical talent goes beyond just the guitar, and while attending Paramus High School she played flute in the school’s marching and concert bands, as well as guitar for the stage band. She also sings, plays piano, bass and drums, engineers and mixes her own music, and has been writing and recording her own songs since 1970.
“I love it all,” Passarelli said. “Certainly writing the songs is a giant thrill, because I like sitting there with a blank piece of paper and a blank recording and knowing nothing is there, maybe not even a scratch of an idea, but within an hour there’s a finished song. It’s just the most amazing thing, it’s like playing with magic.”
After graduating from Berklee, Passarelli was immediately invited to join the faculty, but had to wait two years for an opening. She has taught at the college, sharing her love of music with students using a lighthearted approach, ever since.
In addition to teaching, Passarelli has recorded multiple albums, and played with other renowned musicians, including Melissa Etheridge, Leni Stern and Pat Metheny. She also performs live concerts online and has guitar lessons and labs on all aspects of the instrument available online.
“There’s ways for people to reach out, and the Internet brings everybody together these days,” Passarelli said.