CYM Student Gleans from Jazz Great Antonio Hart
Student Gabi Götz took advantage of the Antonio Hart workshop, and had an excellent experience. Here are some reflections written by Gabi’s dad:
We got there early, and Gabi was messing around on the piano, and when Antonio showed up he gave Gabi a little 1-on-1 session on jazz/piano. That was pretty cool. Once the official session started, Antonio told us that he wanted the event to be interactive and not just him playing or teaching. He asked people to ask him questions. One of the questions was about his background, and Antonio gave us a long story of how he got into music, how it gave him hope and kept him on the right track as a young kid. But all through his experience the recurring theme was that you really have to love what you’re doing because it takes a lot of dedication and work. He illustrated this with his personal stories of how he fought bad influences growing up in a difficult setting in Baltimore, to how he continued to study music when his high school stopped supporting it, and to his challenges at Berklee and how he was able to rise to the top at Berklee through discipline and hard work in the face of challenges. It was a very inspiring story. He talked a lot about playing/learning music and had a recurring advice to Gabi and to the rest of the young students in how important it is to study the history of music and musicians. He advised the students to look at their contemporary musicians they listen to, then find out who those people listened to, then who those people listened to, and keep going back until there is nobody else. Then research them and understand what they did, how they played and why. That’s the only way you can really play jazz and understand it.
As far as actual playing, he told us that you can tell if someone can play jazz by asking them to play two things: a ballad and blues. He said blues is not different from jazz, it’s the same family. And with ballads, he said when you play a ballad, you are “naked” and exposed. You can’t hide shortcomings as you can when you play a fast solo for example. You can hide behind the quick notes and the technical playing, but when you play a ballad, you have to be able to demonstrate your own feeling for the piece, your ability to bring out the melody and phrasing without guards. He demonstrated this by playing a solo very technically but not very musically, then playing in a way he normally plays, which was very musical. It was cool.
There were a lot of other topics discussed, relating to the history of jazz, how it impacted the black culture and their challenges, especially in the 50’s, 60’s etc. It’s hard to remember or summarize all the stories but it was very interesting and captivating. Of course he also played some pieces and demonstrated some musical ideas, with Howie Alexander jumping on the piano, and Howie even played drums! (Howie is a very talented Pittsburgh based jazz pianist, who happens to be teaching at the Institute there.) Antonio is passionate about teaching also, he’s teaching at Queens College (I think he’s also a director there), and he said he wanted to come back again to the Institute for more of these sessions. I bet he would be willing to come to CYM as well if he’s in town.
On another cool note, after Antonio left, Gabi got to play some blues together with Howie Alexander in a separate room with multiple pianos. That was a great and fun opportunity.
Yesterday evening we also went to see the Antonio Hart concert at the Hazlett Theater, which was totally awesome. He played with his sextet, which included Miki Yamanaka on piano, who used to be one of his graduate students. She’s an up-and-coming piano player in New York. The musicians were each incredible, (included Robin Eubanks on trombone) and the concert was amazing. At the end Antonio split up the audience and had each section sing a different blues phrase while they were playing. It was a great way to end the evening.
…Thanks again for letting Gabi attend this, I think it was very impactful for him, in fact, it gave us an opportunity to connect with some people at the Institute, which will help further Gabi’s jazz studies!
Thank you, Viktor, for this wonderful depiction of the experience! We hope this inspires others to take advantage of these workshops and activities! Congratulations, Gabi, for seizing the opportunity- all the best to you on your musical journey!