Q: What got you to start playing music?
A: I started playing piano when I was 4 years old. My mom was a church pianist, and from what people told me, I was interested in listening to church music. I began to pick up on some chords and melodies fairly quickly. People who knew my mother told me that if I was already begging to pick up on these things that I should begin to take lessons. My mom then took me to a neighborhood woman, who said she had never taught someone so young. However, she agreed to teach me and from then on I always loved it and loved to practice.
Q: What is your favorite style of music?
A: I would have to say classical and jazz. I was around classical music all of my life and I got acquainted with jazz in college. I don't really spend too much time listening to pop music, but my wife likes Christian music, so I listen to that from time to time. My favorite composer would have to be [Johannes] Brahms and for jazz I would have to say my favorite artist is Thelonious Monk.
A: I would say probably taking piano lessons here with John Shelton. He is retired now, but I felt like I had a really great relationship with him. One time a family member of mine had an accident, so I had been up all night at the hospital. I had a piano lesson with him the next day, so I showed up to his office and I looked awful because I had been up all night. He actually let me take a nap in his office. He was also a great teacher who taught me a lot.
Q: When was the first time that you performed live?
A: I played in church a lot as a kid and I also had recitals through my piano lessons. I also remember doing performances when I was 7 or 8, and an article was even published about me at the time, which I'm sure I was really excited about.
Q: What is your major role as Southeast's collaborative pianist?
A: I am a pianist that specializes in collaborating with others. However, I still do solo performances. My main role is a collaborative chamber musician. What that means is when someone does a recital with another instrument, say a flute or even a vocal performance, the audience doesn't want to just listen to that instrument or that person's voice the whole time. So they have to have someone accompany them with a piano, which is me. This can be done with students, faculty or another musician that the school brings in. I also practice with and prepare the students for their recital. Music majors, depending on their degree, have to do one to two recitals to graduate. So they need someone to play the piano with them and even coach them.
Q: Who did you enjoy performing with the most?
A: I had the chance this last spring to collaborate with Ian Clarke. He is probably the world's greatest flute player and is from Great Britain. We got him to perform on campus last semester. I knew he was going to be in Cape and the faculty who got him here asked me if I would like to perform with him. I was excited to do so because it was a chance for me to perform with a world-class musician. He was here for about three or four days, and I got the chance to rehearse with him a lot, and he was actually a real down-to-earth guy.
Q: Why is music an important part of the average college student's curriculum?
A: One of the first things that I say to my appreciation classes when we're going through the syllabus is that music is one kind of art, and art is one part of culture. Music can be used as a metaphor to talk about other things like history and culture. It is a tool to talk about or describe other things that are relevant to everyone. It's used to discuss other bigger picture ideas.
Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to a music student?
A: Do things the right way. College is fun, which is good, but for every person who is coasting on their talent there are three to four people who are constantly practicing. There are times when you have to live in the practice room. You have to really be focused, you have to study hard and practice hard. This goes for music, athletics or even for an internship.
Q: Do you feel that there is a lack of musical knowledge in the average person?
A: I would say yes, but the bigger problem is that people expect less of the music that they hear. I don't want to sound like an elitist, but I think people have just been conditioned to not expect much from music. Classical music has survived for so long because it is great music that is the work of geniuses. People should try to just surround themselves with greater music than they currently do.