In 2016 after returning from several years playing and performing abroad I decided it was time to lay down some roots and open Seattle Jazz Academy. I have always taught a roster of private students over the years, even as I was traveling abroad. I have had private students from all over the United States, Asia and South America. I have trained and sent countless students to study music in conservatory, and many of my private students are professional level pianists gigging in various jazz scenes around the Pacific Northwest, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
I grew up studying the piano from the age of three, following a traditional classical music education. I am extremely grateful to my early instructors and to this day I love classical music and practice it regularly. My study of the instrument in the traditional way lead me to have great technique, a strong sight reading ability, good ears and a world of music appreciation. As a teenager however, I felt that something was missing. Music was not filling the part of my life that I knew it could… even as a twelve year old kid I would see my friends play the guitar with each other. They were having fun together. I could hardly play a piece at a party if I was not currently preparing it for a recital or competition, and I had been studying for years!
In my early teenaged years as my childhood instructor retired I made the decision to look for a new type of instructor who could help me learn to play in bands. In rural Washington State there were not many options, but by the luck of the draw I found Larry Kee - a piano instructor who had spent years gigging and performing as a keyboardist and organist. I asked him to teach me how to play rock ’n roll so I could play in a band. Larry graciously accepted me as a student and told me, “How about starting with the blues?”. This was a revolutionary moment in my life. It changed the fundamental way that I thought about music and the instrument. I quickly took on to playing the blues and improvising, and then was led into the world of jazz piano and harmony. As I continued to study I soon found myself playing in ensembles (something that had never been a part of my classical upbringing). I joined all of the music classes offered at my middle school, junior high and high school.
When Larry taught me how to start improvising and opened up my ears to the world of jazz I started really having fun at the instrument. Playing music with others was just as fulfilling as I hoped it would be. My daily time at the piano became something I was looking forward to. I started to feel that I could express myself, and as I got better and better I began to be able to play by ear. My mind was stimulated and music became one of the centerpieces of my life.
I have always loved providing other pianists with this same breakthrough, opening their ears and minds to improvisational music. I love teaching music theory in a way that it is used. Jazz is an endless world of possibilities, as is so often the case with the arts. At Seattle Jazz Academy we have made a community of jazz students who take their music study seriously. At the school professionals and amateur students alike are continually studying and refining our playing, improvising, and the way we hear and imagine music. Students and teachers attend events together, we see concerts, we play concerts, we have jam sessions, masterclasses and music hang’s. At Seattle Jazz Academy we create a musical life for our students, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
Seattle Jazz Academy Founder