by Catherine Simon
How many people can boast of performing at Carnegie Hall at age nine? Or having played the same keys as world-famous musicians? For many Blue Devils, this would just be a dream. But one WHS alum has not only made it, but is bringing his signature jazz talents back to the WHS auditorium for a performance and Q&A open to all students today during Periods 5 and 6.
Twenty-five-year-old Gil Scott Chapman, who attended WHS through 11th grade before graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, was inspired to become a musician by his parents, who invested in his piano lessons when he was six. After only three years of lessons, he performed at Carnegie Hall and was offered more opportunities to share his talent. Chapman has performed across the U.S., from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, and abroad from Switzerland to South Africa. “The opportunities that musicians have to connect with people internationally are great because it is a profession that is celebrated across the globe,” he said.
Chapman earned his bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Michigan in 2013. Last year, he was nominated for the Jazz Fellowship Award of the American Pianists Association.
But awards alone don’t make jazz rewarding. One of Chapman’s favorite things about being a musician is how unique each day is. He said, “Each performance is a new experience, making for a very exciting musical journey.”
Currently, Chapman is involved in the Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan, which involves intensive study of George and Ira Gershwin’s work. The university received the piano that George Gershwin played, and Chapman now plays on that legendary piano.
Today’s event is part of WHS’s Black History Month celebration, and was coordinated by WHS Education Media Specialist Ms. Lesley Cora. She explained that jazz was born of West African and European popular musical influences that mixed in American cities in the early 20th century, so Chapman’s performance will connect Black History to current jazz music.
What excites Chapman about jazz is the “unexplored, the unknown,” he said. “The irony is you’re completely unaware of that unexplored territory until you get there— that journey excites me.”