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Volume 24, Number 11 — December 2017

All That Jazz: Joseph Trivette

Joseph Trivette
Joseph Trivette

Passionate about America's music

By Leslie Grace / A! Magazine for the Arts | October 27, 2015

Dr. Joseph Trivette, the Gaynelle Lockhart Albert Endowed Chair of Music at Southwest Virginia Community College, calls himself "a student of jazz," and he's passionate about promoting jazz throughout the region.

"I was doing dinner music gigs in high school at hotels in Statesville, North Carolina. I had a Sunday brunch gig for years at the Broyhill Center and Conference Center when I was at Appalachian State.

"I guess I got started with jazz when I was in high school," Trivette says. "I was a decent little pianist, and I knew music theory and how to play chords and scales. I was in my high school jazz ensemble and fell in love with the music and started doing gigs. I probably thought it was cool that I could make $50 playing for lunch on a Friday or Saturday night gig instead of working at McDonalds. I enjoyed that people seemed to enjoy the tunes I played.

"I built my rep list from what people asked for. At that time I had no idea what a standard was, so when people said "hey, do you know such and such?', most of the time I didn't, but I'd tell them "I'll have it next week,' and they'd come back, and I'd know it. That's how I built my rep list, from requests."

Trivette also plays classical and rock, but his heart is rooted in jazz. "I do classical music every day, but I love the self expression of jazz, being able to improvise and express how you feel at the given moment and being able to create a solo on the spot." He calls that spontaneous composition creating new music that's never been done before and will never done again the same way.

"Spontaneous composition and expression make jazz truly unique. What we do as classical musicians is work hours and hours and hours and try to get it exactly the same way every time. What we do as jazz musicians is exactly the opposite; a jazz experience is unique, depending on the venue, the time of day, how the crowd is responding, how the performer feels and who he's performing with.

"The artistic skills that are necessary to be a jazz musician are just monumental. The amount of hours it takes to develop virtuosity on your instrument, listening to the greats, understanding the theory and putting it all together at one given moment to make it sound great is a cool experience for the audience and the performer.

"Jazz is about sitting at the piano and practicing and trying to figure out what the big boys do and trying to emulate it. Jazz is about me getting with the instrument and learning the tune and figuring out how I want to play the tune," he says.

Trivette holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Appalachian State University and a doctorate from Florida State University.

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Topics: Music