Ned Ferm, a Mount Desert Island native, now lives in Copenhagen and works as a bandleader, studio musician, composer and educator. PHOTO COURTESY OF ESTA FROSCH

Who knows where middle school jazz band might take you? Ned Ferm on learning and teaching music

By Jack Sasner

COPENHAGEN — Ned Ferm credits his time in the music departments of Mount Desert Island schools, as both a student and a teacher, for some of his success as a professional musician and his love of teaching music.

The Pretty Marsh native now resides in Copenhagen with his wife, fellow saxophonist Maria Faust, performing, recording and teaching music. He is a bandleader, studio musician, improviser, composer and educator.

“Teaching continues to be one of the best things in my life and very rarely feels like ‘work,’” he said, “which is a testament to how great the teachers and students at MDIRSS were to me while I was there.”

Ferm specializes in saxophones, clarinets, flutes, vocals, keyboards/synthesizers, piano, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, violin, banjo and mandolin, just to name a few. He has contributed to more than 40 recordings released internationally, and released his first record as a bandleader, “Spent All The Money,” in 2014 on Stunt Records.

“I’m equally at home playing jazz … pop, rock, hip hop or country,” Ferm said. “I’m best known [on MDI] as a saxophone player playing jazz music, but I also do other stuff as well.”

Ferm knew he would become a musician after a waking dream he experienced at the age of three.  At four, he learned to play the violin and quickly progressed in his technique and grasp of theory. That background put him a step ahead of classmates learning the saxophone in middle school, he said.

In his first two years at Mount Desert Island High School, he studied under Dick Ordway during Ordway’s last years before retirement. Ferm, as a sophomore, was one of two students chosen to be a part of the hiring committee for Ordway’s replacement, Dan Granholm.

On top of refining his craft in MDIHS’ strong music department, Ferm also attended the Maine Jazz Camp, where he became close to Ryan Blotnick, a guitarist who was a student at the Wayneflete School at the time.

Blotnick and Ferm found a quirk in the admissions process at William Paterson University. It said any student with an exceptional talent in a specific area could spend their senior year of high school at the university. Both students were accepted, and they studied alongside the likes of Mark Guiliana, who most notably recorded drums for David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar.”

After his time at William Paterson, Ferm applied to the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (RMC) in Copenhagen. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from RMC, the first American to ever be admitted to the school.

After completing his master’s degree, Ferm returned to Maine to teach. From 2006-2013, he taught jazz groups at Mount Desert Island High School, Mount Desert Elementary School and at the Ashley Bryan School on Islesford.

He also regularly teaches music both for private clients, and at RMC, and elsewhere. With growing fame around the European jazz scene, students often come to him to pick his brain about certain projects, or to learn the particular skills they admire in his playing.

After completing his master’s degree, Ferm spent time teaching back on and around Mount Desert Island. From 2006-2013, he taught jazz groups at Mount Desert Island High School, Mount Desert Elementary School and at the Ashley Bryan School on Islesford.

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