David Kay is a musician who educates - working at University School and the Interlochen Arts Camp
Since 1988 David Kay has taught in both the music department of the all-boys University School Upper School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, and in the jazz and woodwind department of Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Camp, the oldest and most prestigious summer arts camp in the world.
Mr. Kay has performed in concert with several dozen international popular and jazz artists such as Natalie Cole, Mel Torme, Aretha Franklin, The Kings Singers, The Temptations, Anthony Braxton, Sam Morrison and Clark Terry, and has been reviewed in Down Beat magazine; his most recent recording was with Benny Golson on the first CD ever recorded of Golson's big band arrangements of his classic small group compositions. Kay has been soloist with and participant in large and small groups in numerous classical and non-classical settings, as well as pit orchestras for nearly 50 musicals - mostly on woodwinds, but occasionally on electric bass - from school productions to the Ohio Theatre. His saxophone teachers (the classical ones) while at Indiana included IU Distinguished Professor Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet of the Paris Conservatory and Larry Teal of the University of Michigan; for improvisation he studied with legendary IU Jazz Studies chair David Baker.
Since 2000, Kay has been a member of the sax section of the Jazz Heritage Orchestra, a Jazz At Lincoln Center Midwest regional big band run under the auspices of Cleveland State University‘s Black Studies Department, where fellow bandmates have included the likes of Wess Anderson and Derrick Gardner. The JHO‘s artistic director is Dennis Bradley Reynolds, former lead trumpeter in the Count Basie Orchestra.
Kay has taught music in school settings from elementary music in East Cleveland< OH through graduate school at Indiana University. He has given over thirty presentations on music topics at conferences and colleges throughout the United States and Canada and has been an MENC (now NAfME) Jazz Mentor; he is also an active Solo and Ensemble contest adjudicator.
Kay received undergraduate degrees in music education and telecommunication from Michigan State University. He received his Masters degree in Jazz Studies from Indiana University where he also spent time as an instructor in the Jazz Studies Department teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, taking the place of faculty member Dominic Spera while he was on sabbatical.
My Jazz Story
Jazz first hit me in middle school - my dad was into concert band music (as a pretty decent amateur clarinetist), he helped to form the first community wind band in Flint, MI. He was also into Gilbert and Sullivan - we occasionally traveled to Detroit to see that music. My mom, while not a musician, loved music, generally easier going jazz of the mid-60s. I was good friends with the late Sherm Mitchell, a great trombonist and overall multi-instrumentalist from Flint, and he was an inspiration. A neighbor three doors down had a multi-LP Readers Digest set of the big band era. I recorded the tunes I liked best on reel-to-reel tape and listed to that incessantly for a short period of time. My high school band director at Grand Blanc High, Dave Ryan, was probably my biggest support system for learning about jazz. Primarily a trumpet player, Ryan gigged a lot on piano. He showed me things about chords in a jazz-related usage, and loaned me records to listen to. A great tangent memory - the first gig I even played in NW lower Michigan when I started teaching at Interlochen found me playing - with Dave Ryan on piano. What a wonderful moment! In the late 60s I was moving toward jazz-rock groups; Chicago, but much more Blood, Sweat and Tears (and soon later Dreams, the short-lived jazz-rock group featuring great players like the Brecker Brothers, Billy Cobham, Will Lee and John Abercrombie.) I bought a book of transcribed BS&T music, wrote out parts and got my fellow HS players (including a good singer) to play them through. Big fun. I started to subscribe to the Columbia record club in HS and really branched out - Miles, Monk, classical guitar, Cat Stevens, Santana, Sun Ra, etc.
I have a ton more to boringly tell, but basically - the music I call jazz represents music that I observe is played with an 'all possibilities are on the table' mindset regardless if the groove is swing, funk, latin, even-eighth, etc. The rhythm backdrop is irrelevant; it's the approach one has in one's mind. Monk's quote - "jazz is freedom" and another Monk-ism, "Always know what's happening - every googolplexth of a second". Wynton and Stanley Crouch can go to you-know-where. Why do I like it so much? I like the no-limitation approach to how one does the music, and find most non-classical music (rock, country, rap, etc.) that doesn't operate on that basis tends to not hold my interest very long. Of course, there are isolated examples of things in those styles that I do like - such as an early Eminen cut done with Dre called "313". I do like a lot of classical music; mostly 20th century and earlier folks like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Gesualdo, for starters - I like the level of intricate detail in the music I like and am not moved nearly much by most vocal music. But - I can always listen to the original "Chameleon", particularly for the second half of it - Herbie's great electric piano solo and the chordal pads towards the end of the solo. Mostly, I just feel a strong connection to the jazz (and any style, for that matter) that moves me - however the music happens to do it. I don't like cliche, I don't like pretentiousness, purposeful (Kenton) or not (Brubeck). Not dissing Dave - I do appreciate Paul Desmond, and have great memories of seeing Brubeck when I was in HS as well as a few years before his death. On the latter, his first tune was a basic, down-home rendition of "On The Sunny Side of the Street" that was just sweet. And - I am also good friends with and have played with Sam Morrison, who played sax for Miles in 1975-76. Sam is definitely an explorer, and that's where I am ultimately at. I've been lucky (even more so in life) and hope to continue to be so.