The following is the text of Page's senior study from Goddard College. It was first "kindly made available to readers of the net" in 1992 by then-fan (later employee) Shelly Culbertson, who posted it to the then-nascent Phish.net mailing list, and is now reposted 19 years later in celebration of the 24th anniversary of its submission.
THE ART OF IMPROVISATION
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts at Goddard College
December 19, 1987
At the age of four I began taking piano lessons. For the next twelve years I studied with four different teachers. They attempted to teach me to read music, a skill I never fully developed. My dyslexic tendencies made the process very difficult and a good ear made it easier for me to play by ear. In my early years of lessons I had no problem playing the pieces that were assigned to me as long as I had heard my piano teachers play them for me. As the level of difficulty in the pieces I was playing increased, I was forced to learn how to read. I struggled with the process and didn't entirely enjoy it, though the ones that I did learn stretched my technical abilities. The most difficult piece that I learned was Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag."
During my ninth grade year I stopped taking piano lessons. It was during this next stage of my playing that I began to really enjoy playing. Obviously this was because I was playing for myself, not for my piano teachers or parents. I spent much of the next year listening to rock albums, playing what I heard, and taking my improvisation more seriously. Often I was just improvising the voicings to the songs that I was playing, but my ability to do blues improvisation increased also. My first introduction to the blues was a book I received in first grade called Jazz and Blues for Beginners. This book introduced me to blues progressions. These are progressions that alternate between the 17 and the IV7 chord and generally end with a V7-IV7-17 progression. Both rock and jazz find their roots in the blues, and in fact rock has never really left. The majority of rock songs written are a variation on the 17-IV7-V7 progression. Many do not vary at all.
I suppose that my main motivating factor for practicing during my high school years (other than the fact that I enjoyed it) was that...