Dan rusic

 Highly energetic teacher who loves teaching!! Dan is also our in-house Jazz, Blues and Improvisation piano teacher.

Instruments: Piano

Area of specialty: Young Beginner’s to Highly Advanced students. Beginners & Advanced Jazz, Blues & Improv.  Extensive experience with special needs students.

At the age of 4, Dan Rusic was mesmerized by the manic playing and vocal styles of Jerry Lee Lewis.  When his mother came to the living room to chastise him for sitting too close to the T.V., he pointed to the screen and said “Mommy, I wanna do that!”


At the age of 6, Dan began his studies of pop organ. From the ages of 7 to 18, Dan entered many different music festivals including the Technics Organ Festival, Kiwanis Festival, and the Canadian Keyboard Competition (CKC) Festival always placing first, second, or third.  At 14, he began studying classical piano and theory in conjunction with his organ studies under the guidance of Beverly Jamieson who encouraged his improvisational practice in addition to his core studies.  “I remember her saying how Bach was one of the first jazz musicians due to his improvisations.”  This had stuck with me ever since.  At approximately the same time, he started playing with Canadian Youth Synthesizer Orchestra (CYSO) which fueled his education on various styles of musics from around the world. Some of which include Avant Garde (John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen), Colombian (where he had the honour and privilege of playing with amazing percussionist Memo Acevedo), Jazz, Funk, and Fusion artists such as Spyro Gyra, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Cal Tjader.

Dan graduated from York University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours (B.F.A) specializing in jazz but also studied piano improvisation, electronic music, and world musics including South Indian Rhythm extensively.  During his period at York, Dan studied privately with both jazz pianist extraordinaire Mr. Frank Falco and with Hammond Organ genius Mr. Rodger Niznik.  Through his studies, Dan cites many musical influences including Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino,Otis Spann, Jimmy Smith, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly and Family Stone, Dr. John and the Meters, Depeche Mode, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Professor Longhair, Pink Floyd, Ravi Shankar, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and many others.


Over the course of his life, Dan has played with over 60 bands and recorded several CDs with a few of these groups.  He has learned to play not only the various styles of music that he learned with said groups, but  incorporates all of the styles into his own style including Balkan rock, Gypsy influenced jazz, rock, and “Evergreen” European musics, Funk, Classic R&B, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Electronica, and good ol’ fashioned rock.  Dan has worked on cruise ships traveling to many parts around the world befriending new musicians learning from them.  One of his most memorable moments was playing with Jeff Tamelier of Tower of Power fame while traveling through Mexico. “It was such a true honour playing with Mr. Tamelier.”


Dan started teaching young beginners at the age of 15 doing so throughout his high school career.  He resumed teaching upon completion of his degree pausing only to have taken the opportunity to work on cruise ships which which he feels he has more to offer his students with his experiences teaching Jazz, Funk, Classic Rock, Blues, Classic R&B, Pop, and Classical both as group and private lessons.

questions & answers

Top ten albums

My favourite albums that have really shaped my playing and which I simply love are as follows in no particular order:

  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, On the Corner

  • Jésus Chucho Valdes – Bele Bele En Havana, Briyumba Palo Congo

  • Dr. John – Gris Gris but any of his albums are stellar.

  • Anything by Oscar Peterson

  • Stevie Wonder – Fullfillingness’ First Finale, Inner Visions, Songs in the Key of Life

  • Parliament-Funkadelic (especially the keyboard stylings of Bernie Worrell), as well as other funk/soul/CLASSIC R&B bands such as Tower of Power, Chicago, The Gap Band, James Brown, The Fabulous Counts, Average White Band and Camille Yarborough.

Industrial music from the likes of Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Frontline Assembly and the experimental group The Legendary Pink Dots.  All incredible live as lal

In terms of just an all out amazing arena rock band… Pink Floyd do it for me as well as the metal stylings of Iron Maiden.

I also really like Dr. Lonnie Smith, Denis Keldie, Jimmy Smith, Michael Fonfara, and the 2 B3 albums are phenomenal.

Jerry Lee Lewis was the reason I began music and the blues boogie stylings of Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis are absolutely phenomenal.  No one combined Gospel, Blues and Country like Ray Charles did.  Being a music junkie, there are still a whole lot of bands and solo musicians from all sorts of stylings that really blow my mind! 

Best live music experience

When I saw Jesus Chucho Valdes play, I don’t think I breathed for the entirety of the show.  It was truly a transcendental experience.  Seeing the masters Ravi Shankar, Ray Charles, and Ray Brown perform also were nothing short of unbelievable.  Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, and Muse all put on technical shows that were incredible, multimedia experiences.  Honourable mentions go to Blue Rodeo and Tower of Power where not only were the shows themselves fantastic, but also Jim Cuddy had given me a shout out at the beginning of the show as did Jeff Tamelier (TOP’s former guitarist)… Thus making my mom proud on both occasions lol!!  I taught Jim’s youngest children a decade ago.

My favourite live music experiences playing included jamming with Jeff Tamelier, Robert Zuckerman and Greg Adams during a charted music cruise.  It was nothing short of thrilling!

Favourite Restaurant / Food

My favourite food is steak with sautéed onions and mushrooms, garlic butter mashed potatoes (although fries are up there), and a chocolate milkshake.  I can also eat chocolate like it’s going out of style.

Favourite scale

My favourite scales all depend on what I’m playing so I narrowed it down to 3. The Blues scale (when playing Blues and funk), harmonic minor scale, and the Dorian mode for not only the cool flat third and seventh notes… But that major sixth especially where there is a tonic minor to a major subdominant triad or chord… Just beautiful!

List all the instruments you can play

I play piano, B3 Hammond organ, a little pipe organ, tenor sax, and I can keep a funk beat on drums. 

First musical experience

My first musical experience was watching tv at the age of 4 and being absolutely mesmerized by the piano stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis!

Most influential artist

I have a few most influential artists… as picking one is far too difficult.  Jerry Lewis got me hooked on to music with not only his stage antics, but also with his boogie woogie/barrelhouse/blues stylings.  Trent Reznor influenced me with his aggressive industrial sound in conjunction with fantastic musical arrangements with synth technology; Not to mention, very cool non traditional playing as can be heard with his ballad “Something I can Never Have.”  Bernie Worrell of Parliament fame really influenced me with his groove and incorporating rhythmic lines that permutate against the groove.  Jesus Chucho Valdes, Oscar Peterson, and Stevie Wonder have always been musical geniuses that I have always looked up to.  David Gilmore of Pink Floyd influences me to really let notes ring out and Dr. John influences my groove playing.

I like to teach because…

I love teaching as it allows for human interaction to take place.  One of the most rewarding moments for me is when I see a student struggling with a concept or a passage and then all of a sudden… A light bulb goes off in their heads and they are able to execute what gave them such a hard time.  This then sets a chain reaction of the most wonderful things..  Their confidence and self esteem grow and their knowledge and capabilities have expanded allowing for not only their growth in music, but their growth in confidence as individuals as well!  It truly makes me so proud of them!

Favourite movie

My top 3 favourite movies are This is Spinal Tap (which every aspiring rock musician needs to see!), Latcho Drom, and Baraka.

Why is music important to you?

Music is important to me for several reasons.  To begin with, the sound.  I remember the first time I heard Sly and Family Stone’s If You Want Me To Stay.  It just made me stop dead in my tracks.  I was hypnotized by its groove, the chord changes, the soul in Sylvester’s voice, the patterns, and the horn lines.  It made my head nod and my heart rate slow down yet there was this uncontainable excitement.  From that point, I wanted to learn how to play it so I could play it with a band (which I did some years later).  When we played it, we wanted to recreate that feeling which we were successful in doing at our rehearsals/jam sessions.  After that, as a band, we wanted to share that good vibe with an audience and record it so we could hear it.  The audiences would get a chance to hear it done our way and when their heads were nodding, we know we succeeded in spreading the good vibes.

Different styles of music create different sort of vibes which makes me want to learn tons and tons more and again share it.  To learn the tunes/techniques, there is a cerebral process where you learn how to do it.. So, I’m challenged to learn about how the melody and chord changes work together as well as the technique utilized to execute the piece properly.

The last part is the creativity where once I learn the song, I want to learn how to solo over the changes and just add my takes on the song.  To extend this notion even further, I would compose songs that I would subconsciously (or consciously) utilise melodies, rhythms, chord changes… Simply groove… to create the environments I so love… Whether it’s a funk tune, a jazz piece, a rock song, a ballad, an industrial, an avant garde composition, a blues tune… Or even.. A hybrid of a couple or all of them (check out Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante for this sort of compositional mayhem).

At the end of the day, music enriches my life where I study it and I grow from practising.  It also helps me learn about various cultures and what’s happening in general around the world as a great song should tell a great story.  One of my favourite things about music, though, is the bond that it helps me create with people from all over the place and that is such a beautiful thing! 




In this tutorial, Dan Rusic from Snider School of Music, teaches the I, IV, V chord progression on the piano. He breaks down how basic triad major chords are formed and puts them together to play very popular chord changes heard in thousands of songs.
Dan Rusic performs and breaks down House of the Rising Sun made famous by The Animals on piano.