Learning piano when he was six years old UNC Jazz Band pianist Jake Higgins shared a Kawai grand piano with his mother.
Now he's sharing a Steinway with professional jazz pianist Andy Laverne.
Along with Higgins students and professionals will unite in performance at 7:30 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Friday in Hill Hall when the UNC Jazz Band performs with the visiting professional jazz pianist.
Laverne who is famous for re-harmonizing old compositions will lead the group through four of his own works" including a rendition of Herbie Hancock's ""Watermelon Man.""
Students also will play four pieces by other composers such as Thad Jones and George Gershwin.
""It's really priceless having great artists come"" said UNC Jazz Band bassist Alex Van Gils. The whole program just kind of kicks up a notch every time one of these artists comes.""
UNC jazz professor Jim Ketch" who directs the student ensemble said it's great to be able to bring an external influence into UNC's jazz program" and he hopes that students will be able to craft relationships with these artists.
""You get a little networking in"" he said.
Because the music department is so small, and the jazz department is even smaller, Gils said these visits allow students to have a profound experience with artists.
Members of the jazz band have even been able to have lunch with artists like Laverne, creating priceless interaction with professionals.
Every musician has their different take on what music should be"" Higgins said.
The way they look at things affects the way that we begin to look at things.""
The UNC Jazz Band brings about two artists per semester to campus" but this is the first time Higgins said he can remember it being a pianist.
Because of this" he said he hopes to gain influence from watching Laverne play and interacting with the band.
""I get to watch him play in the band that I play in" and I get to watch how he plays with people that I get to play with" Higgins said. I can try and emulate that.""
Ketch said as a director"" he always learns as much as students do when artists visit.
""As soon as you feel like you know it all" you're in real trouble and I just don't have that feeling he said.
Gils also said he is excited to absorb the personal playing experience offered by Laverne.
A chance to play with people a level above you always pulls you up" Gils said. In some ways you never forget that even after they leave.""
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