Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Houston Chronicle: 'Pianist Jade Simmons works to expand her music, audience'

[Jade Simmons is a classical pianist who is forging a career between traditional and experimental music. (Michael Paulsen, Houston Chronicle)]

Rashida Black is Founder/Executive Director of the Myrtle Hart Society, whose mission is "Illuminating the Accomplishments of Classical Musicians of Color." She sends this news to AfriClassical:
Pianist Jade Simmons works to expand her music, audience
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Aug. 14, 2009, 3:54PM
Jade Simmons has strapped herself into an evening gown and played Chopin in a packed Atlantic City convention hall large enough for a football game. A gig last month at the Meridian, a nightclub and sports bar on the edge of downtown, was more of a jeans-and-heels event featuring electric beats and hip-hop-infused piano études. This week she performs Russian composer Alexander Scriabin at a Houston art gallery.

“It's a schedule of seeming contrasts that makes sense for a performer with a love of classical music and influences that range from civil-rights activism to the Miss America competition, from ballet to African drumming, from Frédéric Chopin to Missy Elliott. In a competitive field with limited job opportunities and legions of flawless performers, Simmons, 31, is part of a generation of classical musicians who are crafting their own careers and making a living as performers. She is drawing not only on her musical skills but also her talent as a public speaker and a personality with an understanding of how to present herself on the Internet and television.

“With a career 'that doesn't necessarily exist otherwise, you kind of have to carve out your own niche,' Simmons said. Once upon a time, it wasn't supposed to look so hard and was considered unseemly for a performer to promote him- or herself, said Jon Kimura Parker, a successful concert pianist and Simmons' master's degree professor at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. 'We are only just now beginning, I think, to understand a little bit more about everything else that you need to do besides playing the piano well,' Parker said. 'The thing in Jade's case is, and this is critical to me, she has the artistry to back that up,' Parker said.

“At the Meridian gig, Simmons was offering up an unusual electronic repertoire for a classically trained pianist, including parts of 24 Bits: Hip-Hop Studies & Etudes for piano by Daniel Bernard Roumain, a New York-based composer who draws inspiration from genres once separated like oil and water.” [Full Post]

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