Prolific musician and composer David Amram will host an event at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro tonight, with special guests David Need and Joseph Donahue.
Staff writer Avery Thompson spoke with Amram about his love of music, his career and his legacy.
ATTEND THE EVENT
Time: 7 p.m. tonight
Location: The ArtsCenter in Carrboro
SOME OF AMRAM’S COLLABORATORS
- Langston Hughes
- Bob Dylan
- Thelonious Monk
- Johnny Depp
- Willie Nelson
- Jack Kerouac
- Miles Davis
Daily Tar Heel: How did you become interested in music?
David Amram: On my sixth birthday, I was given a bugle by my father. He opened up the box and there was this shiny bugle, and before I could even look at it he picked it up naturally and started playing it himself.
I began to really become interested in music by listening to radio and when I went to public school during the Great Depression.
Then I moved on to D.C. and came upon what was called the “checkerboard neighborhood” — where black and white folks would gather — and I heard jazz, blues and street music.
I’ve been doing that ever since, and wherever the music has lead me, I’ve followed that. And at the age of 82, I’m still learning new things.
DTH: How has being versed in multiple instruments helped you create a signature sound?
DA: As a composer, when I’m writing a symphony, or like in my last piano concerto, I use just about every instrument in the orchestra.
The more things that you can play or you’re aware of, the more at home you feel with them when you’re composing.
DTH: Has any musician, actor or celebrity made you feel star-struck?
DA: I played off-and-on with Dizzy Gillespie from 1951 until he passed away.
Every time I heard him, I was astounded — and I still am when I listen to not just things we did together, but to anything he’s ever done.
DTH: What is the reason for your visit to UNC?
*DA: *I was invited by professor Hassan Melehy to come down for the events they are doing.
He’s the one who organized it and spent months trying to figure what he could organize that would also relate to his work as someone who works in French studies, as well as having written articles and working on a book on Jack Kerouac.
DTH: What do you hope people take away from your weeklong visit?
DA: I want young folks to come to realize that their role in life isn’t just to sit in front of the TV and buy a whole lot of junk to see if (they) can feel better.
It’s to go out and hang out with your friends and create your own community and your own art, because we’re all born creative and we’re all born with a certain generational gift.
DTH: In 82 years, you’ve created a legacy that many people strive to achieve. Do you ever think of slowing down?
DA: I just hope I can do better. Seriously. I’m trying to improve, and certain things I’m actually getting better at, and that makes up for any slight deterioration.
So as a result of trying to improve and do a good job, I can’t really fit it in my schedule to be nasty, depressed, self-indulgent or narcissistic.
DTH: Has there been one specific defining moment in your career?
DA: Well, I don’t use the word career. I tell young folks today that instead of trying to build a career, it’s better to build a life.
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