Updated: Aug 6
I am a big fan of Alberta Hunter, a 1920’s Jazz and Blues singer/pianist who sang well into her 90’s. In 1971 she taped an interview for the Smithsonian, and then in 1977, had a career resurgence. I have several of Alberta Hunter’s albums including “Amtrak Blues” and “Remember My Name” and still play them on an old turntable (yep). I know all the words to “Darktown Strutters Ball” (a jazz classic) but when Alberta sings it, it’s like heaven. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6Dfk732ukk
So it was a great day when the Heard-Craig Center booked “The Vintage Piano Hour” with local jazz musician, Tony Stride. Tony creates a great jazz vibe inside of this historic museum, sharing with old and young alike his background, his love of certain pieces of music, and his early experience in classical as well as jazz.
Here’s Tony’s story:
“Historically the role of men in music has been overrepresented to that of women, but when I think back on my musical journey it turns out that my career is a testament to the influence of amazing women!
My mother and her grandmother, my great grandmother, were very close. In the 1970s they decided to learn piano together. My great grandmother purchased a small console piano for them to learn on. When they couldn’t find a satisfactory teacher my great grandmother decided she would teach herself and began building a library of piano & accordion instruction books and repertoire. A library that to this day I still use with my own students!
Fast forward to my appearance in the story and a few piano upgrades later, I’ll never forget visiting my great grandmother and being mesmerized by her stunning white baby grand Kimball piano. It was around this time that my mom taught me the quintessential beginner pieces, ‘Chopsticks’ and ‘Heart & Soul’ providing many fond memories of piano duet fun!
This ultimately led to my first classical piano lessons at age ten with a wonderfully kind teacher who was working on her master's degree at Southern Methodist University. It was at her master’s degree recital that I got my first taste of the truly magnificent world of classical concert piano and the majesty of a collegiate fine arts program at the Meadows School of the Arts. But alas, by the time I was fifteen I had been bitten by the jazz bug!
Through a lead in a popular DFW magazine, I was taken into the fold of legendary pianist and educator Harriet Young. With her ties to the Booker T. Washington and University of North Texas schools, Harriet set me on the path of the great North Texas music tradition.
One of the most important jazz lessons that Harriet taught me was to not turn my back on classical piano and she did so by introducing me to one of the most incredible North Texas music traditions, The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas. I attended the 2005 Van Cliburn finals with Harriet and her husband and for the first time experienced the olympic power of world class classical concert piano, many of the contestants being women. There are no words that can describe the first few moments of a piano concerto. After the chaos of tuning there is a great pause of silence, every musician on their mark and every audience member on the edge of their seat. Wait for it. A flick of a baton and the orchestra’s bows and the pianist suddenly unite into a singular pulse, casting a spell over the audience and especially one very lucky little boy!
Throughout my career as a student and professional I have had so many mentors and friends both men and women, but my experience is the continuation of a journey that was begun by women before I was born, it was raised and enriched by women as a student, it has always been inspired by the great pantheon of women musicians, and continues to give back to humanity through education and performance.”
Tony’s music, along with refreshments, can be enjoyed at the Heard-Craig during the Vintage Piano Hour. Check the website www.hearcraig.org for tickets to the evening performances or call for performance dates: 972-569-6909.
If you are interested in taking lessons or visiting his studio, contact him at 201 W Davis Street or on his website at: www.tonystride.com.
201 W. Davis Street, the studio of local jazz musician, Tony Stride.