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All That Jazz

All That JazzBen Roseth connects jazz music and international relations through his studies and work abroad in the Tufts/NEC dual degree program.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.06.07] Ben Roseth came to Boston to be in "the epicenter of jazz education." What the 22-year-old saxophonist didn't count on was discovering in his music a way to solve the world's problems.

"Being an improvising jazz musician, you're put in critical problem-solving situations every time you take out your instrument," says Roseth. "It's a game of perspective. You're improvising with another human being who doesn't think the same as you, doesn't know the same things as you and doesn't have the same hopes, expectations and current feelings as you do. But, you're in constant negotiation, constant communication towards a goal."

Read Fascinating Rhythm, a first-person account of
Ben Roseth's time in Colombia, in Tufts Magazine.

Hear Ben Roseth's music: MySpace | SoundClick

The Seattle native, who is graduating early from the Tufts/New England Conservatory (NEC) five-year dual degree program, coupled his music studies with an international relations major at Tufts. As Roseth has taken advantage of opportunities to study and perform abroad, the two paths have intersected more than once.

Roseth's interest in jazz began when he fell in love with the saxophone at age nine after attending a John Coltrane retrospective concert. He took up the instrument and succeeded as a soloist and band leader throughout middle and high school. When he came to Tufts and NEC, he continued the difficult task of balancing his varied academic interests and his personal life.

rosethlrg2"During that time, I was very split, like 50-50 right down the middle-very serious about my international relations studies and very serious about my music," Roseth recalls of his early time at Tufts. "The difficult thing was being in two places all the time, especially socially, because everyone else you're with is in one environment almost exclusively."

Roseth eventually found solid footing, both socially and academically. It was an introductory international relations class with Associate Professor Malik Mufti that, Roseth recalls, "rocked my world."

"[International relations] is just the foundation for a fundamental understanding of the world," he says.

At the end of his sophomore year, Roseth won the Anne E. Borghesani Memorial Prize, a grant that provides juniors studying abroad with the opportunity to conduct research related to international relations.

Through the Borghesani grant, Roseth traveled to Buenos Aires to apply his knowledge of Spanish and interest in Latin America. His research project, entitled "The Role of Music in Post-Economic Collapse Argentina," examined how music was helping to repair the fabric of Argentine society, which was ripped by the nation's economic woes in 2001.

This past spring, Roseth returned to Latin America to intern as a Spanish translator in Bogotá, Colombia, where he immersed himself in Colombian culture, most of all the music. There, he began writing new compositions and held the most memorable concert of his life-a showcase of his own work.

After he graduates in December, Roseth hopes to move to New York City and experience the rich jazz community there. He will carry with him his unique insight into the intersection of international relations and music, forged from his range of experiences at Tufts and NEC.

"I have a theory that 99 percent of the problems that we have in front of us both on a global and personal level are a result of misunderstandings or a lack of communication," explains Roseth. "Given the right information and the state of mind in which we can use this information effectively, we can almost always solve the problems."

Profile written by Mary Jo Pham (A'11)

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