This is an interview that a piano student of Andy Wasserman submitted as part of a Middle School classroom assignment. They were asked to interview someone you know that has a positive influence on you. He came up with his own set of questions, which are pretty deep and sophisticated for such young man.
1. How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a professional musician?
The first inclination that I was put here on earth with the destiny of a life in music was at age 6. Yet as a very young child I distinctly remember being touched as I connected with music by communicating with what I perceived as angels. I sensed something from another level was listening and responding to me play while I tinkered around pressing keys on the piano.
2. What was the first instrument you learned to play? Was it the one you wanted to learn? If not, what was?
I began playing the piano by myself at age 5 until age 7 when my first formal weekly private music lessons began – first with the basics on the recorder and then switching to piano. I played orchestral percussion in school ensembles and marching band drums in holiday parades throughout Manhattan as a Boy Scout, and was greatly encouraged to delve deeper into music when I auditioned and was accepted as a percussion major at the High School of Music and Art in New York City.
3. What musicians do you get inspiration from?
The most profound and lasting impact has come from any musician, on any instrument – from any culture – who plays from their heart with sincerity and a sense of dedication to what we call “The Spirit.” Too many to name individually, but I absorbed the most inspirational guidance from my three mentors as well as other teachers who I was fortunate enough to study with.
4. Which was the first group/band that you performed with? What was the experience like?
I played drums in a Pop/Rock band that I formed in Middle School named “The Demi-Quavers” which is a British music term for the 8th note. We played for school dances, talent shows and private family parties. Although extremely shy and insecure at the time, it became clear that I loved sharing my music with other players and working hard to make a sound that people could enjoy.
5. Which genre or style of music would you say is your favorite to listen to? to play?
I’ve always gravitated to expressing myself both harmonically and rhythmically as an improvising Jazz musician – impacted by the long line of Jazz innovative geniuses of the 20th century. Yet some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard are from the European classical piano concertos by Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Ravel. And I love to play all the non-Western instruments in my collection. But if I had to pick one number one favorite musician to listen to and play, it is the grand master of all time: J.S. Bach.
6. Which instrument do you like playing the best?
Of the 140 wind, string and percussion instruments from around the world I’ve learned to play, the piano is still at the top of my list. I call it the “Rainbow Drum” because it is the percussion instrument that can play every melodic, harmonic and rhythmic color on earth and in the heavens.
7. Did you have any mentors and if so, who were they?
The biggest blessing of my life has been to have three mentors who took me under their wing and truly loved me as if I was their own son: Dwike Mitchell (piano, 30 years of study), George Russell (theory and composition, 25 years of study) and Papa Ladji Camara (West African drumming, 7 years of study).
8. What were some interesting experiences you have had during your career?
The most interesting of all is the continual non-stop learning experience from everything I do. I’m learning more now than ever even after playing music for nearly 50 years. I am constantly evolving and growing. (No one single experience comes to mind. )
9. What in music do you prefer doing most? Do you prefer to teach, write, perform, etc…?
Performing live is an experience like none other, especially when I’m being totally spontaneous and having a high degree of communication with whoever else I’m performing for. In terms of teaching, I have learned far more from my students than what they have learned from me. That’s what makes teaching so inspiring for me.
10. What does music mean to you?
Tapping into the Silent Pulse of vibration that is what most people call God. That unity of God gave music to the human race to allow us to become better listeners, so that we would learn to listen to our bodies, listen to our hearts, listen to nature, listen to each other, and listen to the voice of the Creator. Ultimately it is the most ancient of languages where emotion and rhythm speak to the core as an experience of living a life in music.
11. Do you have any future plans in your music career?
To continue on the path of realizing the highest level of excellence, expressed through the most sincere and truthful music possible, while creating beauty with the goal of healing people’s hearts and touching their souls. Becoming more at home with the natural process of agility, kindness, decency, ease, elegance, finees, poise, humility and refinement that is nurtured and nourished by playing music. I work each and every day to invent an innovative tone that will resonate as a sound all my own and have tons of fun at the same time. I’m still working towards that goal.
12. If you were to learn another instrument besides piano, what would it be?
The tenor sax. John Cotrane’s sound on the tenor changed my life forever and I always wanted to play his instrument. Extensive surgery on both lungs during my teen years prevented me from being able to breath properly while play the saxophone.
13. What do you feel your greatest achievement has been?
I have not achieved anything in my life. I have only followed my path of truth and tried to do my best to live in peaceful submission to God’s will for my life’s purpose. My only claim to fame is that I’ve been led to and spent a lot of time dedicated to the best music teachers on the planet. They pointed me in the direction of focusing on being the best human being I can be, not just the best musician. I’m most happy with the fact that I have become a very good listener with a soft, melting heart and I’ve not been transformed by the music business into a bitter, cruel or self-destructive individual. If my character is genuinely authentic, then I’m satisfied I’ve been guided to be a force for Unity, no matter how that may happen. Nothing else matters.
14. What is your favorite timbre?
The sound of silence. (All sound has it’s origin in the Voice of eternal silence.)