KEVIN BALES

I was on course for a career as a classical pianist, majoring in it in college. Then a teacher with unusual insight – Ruth MacDonald, a Ph.D. from Julliard, so you’d think she’d keep me focused on classical – started steering me toward jazz.

JAZZ PIANIST, TOURING AND RECORDING ARTIST

I was on course for a career as a classical pianist, majoring in it in college. Then a teacher with unusual insight – Ruth MacDonald, a Ph.D. from Julliard, so you’d think she’d keep me focused on classical – started steering me toward jazz. She hosted an annual festival celebrating women in music, and that year arranged for a performance by Mary McPartland, the jazz pianist and composer and host of that long-running public radio jazz program. She asked me to drive Mary while she was in Atlanta, take her to dinner, that kind of thing. I had four days with her, and she took an interest in me, including a couple of lessons; six weeks later I got a package from her – albums, a book she had written, some things she transcribed for me. Ruth MacDonald knew jazz was right for me, and she made all this happen to lead me to it.

Jazz was just what I was looking in my life: the freedom to express myself in a personal and contemporary way. And community: I could go places in Atlanta and play with great musicians; it would have taken another 10 years of practice to perform with that caliber of classical musicians.

After 28 years, I’m still amazed I get to do this for a living. I’m not famous but I have an international reputation, and if you ask me how to measure where I am in my career, I can’t really say except that I move forward some every year.

I feel very strongly that people can have a great career in music. You can make a good living if you work hard at it. But you have to love studying music and doing so every day. The great players work at their craft every single day.

I want to be a good musician and a good father. That is why I play jazz. Because it makes me a better person.

musiclifeandtimes · Kevin Bales – Claudette’s Way
musiclifeandtimes · Kevin Bales – Cindy’s Tune