Jazz Guitarist and Educator Inspires Love of Music in Students

Steve Adubato sits down with renowned Jazz guitarist and music educator, Joel Perry, who shares his passion for teaching kids to make music.

12/13/16 #1931






"There he is! For the first time here on public television, here at NJPAC, Joel Perry, jazz guitarist, music educator. Check it out, this is one of his CD's, Rainbow Skylight. And what's the other one called? Sonata... Sonata to the Blues. Look at you, you grew up in the Bronx? Yes. You said your dad used to play Louis Armstrong? Yes. You know Louis... he played Louis Armstrong, and Lead Belly, and I was... my parents used to wake me up when I was, like, three years old, to dance for company. Cause I used to jump up and down and sing. Get out of here! Yeah. Yeah, I used to. Is that right? Yup. It's true. [laughter] So you loved it as a kid? You felt it as a kid? Yeah. Well I actually, there was a amusement park called Freedomland, in the Bronx. And I had seen a pianist playing a white upright with a mirror, and I think it was the New Orleans style. Right. I don't really know. And when I saw the reflection of his hands on the keys, I said, "I knew I could that." And I kinda demanded a piano. But they didn't get me one, right? The first, you know. [laughter] But you knew something was up? Yeah I did. Yeah, I kinda felt like I could that. I didn't want to be a musician or anything, you know. Right. But I was so lucky, really, because what had happened was you know, I convinced my parents to give me piano lessons, and they did, and they got a piano, and I was playing, and then I wanted to be a vet. My father taught biology, so I always wanted to be a veterinarian. In my mind that's what I thought. And then I had an opportunity to try out for the High School of Music and Art. Hmm. You know, and the teacher there... You're talking about LaGuardia? Yes. Fiorello LaGuardia? He started it? In those days, yeah. Fiorello LaGuardia. Yes. 135th Street and Convent Avenue, you know, in Manhattan, you know. Right. So I went to, actually we moved to Queens, and went to Junior High School 8 in Jamaica, and the band director said, "the following students will audition for the High School of Music and Art." I played clarinet in the band. And I said, "Oh this is great!" Because all my friends were trying out for the, you know, the smart schools, you know. [laughter] Science and Stuyvesant, and so I tried out for Music and Art, and my mother didn't want me to go. You know, she said, "I don't want you to be a musician." And I said, "I'm not gonna be a musician! I just want to get a day off from school, go on the subway, try out..."