1) When did you start developing a love for Jazz
music? When I was about 15.
2) Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?
At 'Dillard of the Performing Arts'
High school in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.... as well as
many private teachers from NY, & FL.
3) Who do you consider some of the main
influences on your writing and
playing? Mike Stern, Pat Methany, Al Dimeola,
Frank Gambale, Allan Holdsworth, George Benson, Paco
DeLucia, Larry Carlton, Wes Montgomery, Andre
Segovia, Christopher Parkening....the list goes on
4) Do you find opportunities for playing jazz as
a Christian Jazz Artist
starting to open up more? Jazz music for
Christians - no. Music for everybody that is played
by Christians - yes. I think it's important to
remember that it's our duty to go out in the world
and be a witness for Christ through the music he has
blessed us with.
5) Tell us about playing music with Kirk Whalum?
Are you playing "live" with
him , recording, or both? I have been
playing live with Kirk for about 5 years and
recording with him for about 2 years. I played a few
tunes on his new CD, "Into My Soul", as
well as his whole Christmas CD, "The Christmas
Message". He is an absolute pleasure to work
for and with. He is soooooo generous and
selfless. He has supported me and my career
tremendously, which is obvious from the CD he
produced for me, "Discovery Anew". He
lives the message that he preaches on a daily basis.
Whether you see him at a "4 a.m. lobby
call" on the road, at Church, on stage, (even
more importantly, back stage), or any where else,
you will always get the same Godly, joy filled man.
6) You have a new CD release of your own, "
Discovery Anew". Tell us more
about that project. Well, it is a dream come
true and a total blessing from God. Like I said,
Kirk made this project a reality for me.
It is a mixture of smooth 'R&B' influenced jazz,
Cuban/Latin grooves, and flamenco guitar.
7) There are some tunes on your new CD that have
a distinct Latin
influence. Share with us where that influence
comes from. My father is Cuban, so the Latin
music flows in the veins. Without sounding cliché, Latin
music is the epitome of passion & romance.
I love Cuban music, and I love Flamenco. Both are
huge passions of mine!!!!
8) Do you find a spiritual connection in playing
and writing music? Some
writers consider the creative process to be a gift
from the Creator and feel
the spiritual connection very strong while writing
music. What are your
thoughts concerning this? Absolutely!!!!!
Music is a direct gift from God Himself! Anything
that can move the human emotion like music does, has
got to be a divine gift. And yes, I do feel that God
impregnates me with musical melodies and ideas.
9) What has been your most challenging project
that you have ever worked on? Definitely my
CD. Because you have to learn how to let go and not
be a producer but an artist. Basically you have to
walk into the studio and be willing to just play and
let everyone do their jobs accordingly.
10) Do you ever get to play your guitar in
church? If so tell us a little
about that. Yes & I love it! It's all
about you, your axe and the Lord!
11) How do you feel about the new worship music
being produced today? If it induces a spirit
of worship for whatever age demo graph it's targeted
for, then by all means, it has served its purpose.
12) What is your favorite church hymn and why?
That Old Rugged Cross. Because my Dad sang it
all the time when he first got saved.
14) What are 5 of your most favorite Jazz CD's.
(if you had to choose just 5
which ones would they be?) Kind OF Blue -
Miles Davis, Full House - Wes Montgomery, Giant
Steps & Ballads - John Coltrane, Bright Sized
Life - Pat Methany.
15) Out of all the songs you have ever heard or
played is there one song
that has really touched you in a profound way? Not
just one that stands out but perhaps it's more of a
feeling that occurs when your with a certain group
of players or a certain time of seclusion with your
instrument. Utopia as musicians know it is sometimes
achieved when your practicing your technique
routine, or a book of Etudes.....
16) What future goals do you have planned for
yourself as a artist and a
person? My goal as an artist is to be able
to bring the music to the people. Yes, we have to go
through agents, managers, labels, etc.....but the
bottom line is to bring the music that God gave me
to the public at whatever means necessary.
My goals as a person, to pursue "Christ
likeness" in order that I might be able to
bless others on a continual basis.
17) What is one of your favorite Bible verses:?
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and
His righteousness and all these things shall be
added unto you. Don not worry about tomorrow for
tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has
enough trouble of its own."
Ego And The Church
I can still hear the Senior Pastor’s words ringing in my ears! He was
on a roll
about church musicians and worship leaders. He said, “These worship
and musicians think that the church is totally built around them!”
“They are so
ego-driven and self-absorbed that I can’t even stand to be around
them!!” “ And
Maybe you have heard similar words from the mouths of other pastors or
people in general. There
seems to be a consensus among people that artists and musicians in
general are more egotistical and temperamental than people in other
professions and walks of life. And here in America
with our obsession for “celebrity
certainly a case can be made that artists, musicians,
and actors certainly seem to fit the description of being
and self-absorbed! Here is where I am going to possibly shock you with a
question… is being ego-driven really all that bad? Please stay with me
while I try
to provide some fresh insight into this subject.
If you are a musician go back in your memory banks to the time where you
started developing your musical gifts. If you started young your first
probably your mother or dad! Can you remember how much those first words
praise meant to you? Maybe you started singing in the children’s choir
or perhaps you sang a solo or played an instrumental. And then the good
the church started heaping praise on you. Words like, “ How talented
you are, or
how very gifted, ect! ” Words that soaked in and made you feel very
you remember how good it felt to receive a special word of praise about
and your budding talent? Then maybe your music teachers at school helped
you swelling ego or you started gaining recognition from your circle of
you were “ A Musician!” All these people
were helping to motivate you by making
you feel very special.
You might ask,” well what’s your point?” My point is that one of
reasons you were motivated to keep on developing your musical gifts is
it made you feel very special! And there is absolutely nothing wrong with
human beings we all need to feel like we are “very special”!
I would in fact go further and say that throughout our lives we are
looking to feed that need by obtaining approval from others! We are all
this need for approval. In fact throughout your life you will continue to
look for praise and approval.
You see, God has simply made us to be that way. We need the affirmation
of other people. Whether you are musician or not there
is a deep underlying need in all of us to feel that we
are significant creatures. We really need to know that
we are important to other people and to God. There is
a profound quote by A.M.
Thornburn who once said,
"All the genuine, deep delight of life is in
showing people the mud-pies you have made; and
life is at its best when we confidingly recommend our
mud-pies to each other's sympathetic
We were made to
share our ‘mudpies’ with one another, and getting
positive affirmation from one another is vitally
Furthermore, no athlete, musician, or actor would go very
far without a healthy ego! It’s okay to feel good when people
compliment you and
heap praise on you about your talent. There is scripture that commands us
to love and encourage one another, to give honor to
whom honor is due. This is all a part of “loving
your neighbor as yourself’!
But there is a tremendous difference between a healthy ego and an
attitude. Here is a barometer you can use to tell when arrogance has
a healthy ego. It is when a person begins thinking he is more special
He begins to be filled with pride and views everything from a lofty,
position. Then a person begins demanding personal praise from others
every performance or worship leading experience. He has become
and addicted to the praise of others because of his inflated view of
then the whole central teaching of Jesus concerning equality and treating
another with love and mutual respect gets thrown out the window.
The person who falls into this trap is usually totally blinded by his
attitude. He thinks he is great…others are not so great. It happens
catches artists unaware. There is a theatrical term aptly called,
“upstaging”. It is
where an actor gets out of his proper place on stage and moves right in
the leading person so that the audience cannot see or hear the most
one in the cast. Many musicians become addicted and intoxicated
by the approval and praise of others. We become obsessed with our talents
and abilities. Many become obsessed and begin
clamoring and clawing for attention at almost any
cost! How many of us church musicians have become
excessively arrogant and believe that we are more the
most important players on the field? Even further,
might we be “upstaging” God?
In the book of Genesis there is found what I feel is some of the most
profound words ever written. In Genesis the Bible says
that we are all made in his image! Wow! How can you
top that? What can you ever do or achieve in this life
that can upstage that? Who’s approval can make you
feel more special than God’s own stamp of approval?
The fact that we are all made in God’s image levels
everything on the playing field! In the most diverse
way we are all a reflection of God’s design! Our
creativity and musical gifts all come from Him! How
can one honestly look down on another person after
that realization? After the personal example of
humility displayed by Jesus and His teachings how can
we who call ourselves His followers become controlled
and dominated by pride?
Part of the answer to that question can be found in the superstar world
in today. Where Christian musicians and worship
leaders are forced to buy into media and marketing
hype to make a name for themselves. But unfortunately
in order to market and position oneself as an artist
today you have to start using the “I’m
extraordinary\your not” approach and this runs
contrary to the Bible’s words that we are equally
made in God’s image. God says we are all
somebody, that there is no such thing as nobodies!
Let me leave you with the words of one of the great theologians of the 20th
Century, Francis Schaeffer. He once preached a sermon entitled,” No
Little People, No Little Places”. The central point
to his sermon was that with God, there are no
little people or no little places! As a church
musician, singer, or artist, the call and challenge is
to begin to view yourself and everyone else as
somebody because we are all made and specifically
designed in God’s image. Let that be the thought
that builds your ego and keeps you ever humble.
Remember, you are a privileged recipient of God’s
precious gift of life and a reflection of His image!
The old Quaker hymn says it this way:
“It’s a gift to be simple
It’s a gift to be free
It’s a gift to come down
To where you ought to be!”
by David Arivett
*I highly recommend two books that
cover this subject in much greater detail. One is,
“Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner, (an
accomplished Jazz pianist) who illustrates very well
how a musicians ego hinders one from becoming a better
musician both technically and professionally!
It is published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz.
*The second book is entitled, The Heart Of The
Artist”, by Rory Noland, (Zondervan Publishing) and
covers the Christian Artist, his ego, and spiritual
applications very well.