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Interview: Aaron Diehl

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by Andrew Patton on September 4, 2018

Pianist and Columbus native Aaron Diehl (photo by Jaime Kahn), in the middle of a demanding schedule performing around the country and the world, returns home this month for a special solo piano concert. CAPA presents Aaron Diehl at the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, September 16th, at 7pm. Tickets are $26.50 and $31.50 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and via Ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. I was thankful to have the opportunity to catch up with Diehl by phone recently to talk about his upcoming show, other recent performances, and advice for young Columbus students. Keep reading to learn more, and get your tickets now for this exciting event!

What can you tell us about your upcoming concert, your second in the Columbus area this year?

Aaron Diehl (AD): Yes, I played at St. Charles [High School, Diehl’s alma mater, in February] for their My Brother’s Keeper fundraiser. That was very successful, and I was happy to come home to do that. But this time I’ll be at the Lincoln, pretty much just down the street. It will be a solo performance of various works, some from the early 20th century, what I call “The American Piano,” which features music by anyone from George Gershwin to Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who was actually a 19th century composer, to some jazz piano etudes by Dick Hyman, and even Philip Glass. It really covers some wide ground.

That sounds very exciting. I know you been maintain a busy schedule, where else have you traveled and performed lately?

AD: I was just in the Tetons in Wyoming back in July, and that was extraordinary because I’d never been there before. If you ever have a chance to get out that way, it’s actually gorgeous for hiking and sightseeing. I played at the Grand Teton Music Festival – it’s really a classical music festival, but they’re expanding their roster of musicians that they bring in. Their theme for the year was sort of Americana, so that’s why they brought me in. I gave a performance of what I call “The Blues in a Spanish Tinge,” which featured the two components that Jelly Roll Morton thought were critical to the makeup of jazz. So I was there, I was in San Francisco, I’ll be in Cape Cod. I’m traveling quite a bit – nowhere like Europe until the fall, right now it’s been basically stateside.

What advice do you have for young Columbus students thinking about getting into jazz?

AD: I would say that if you’re going to be into jazz music or any form of the arts, especially these days, they really have to love the art form, and they have to pursue the art form for the sake of the love and the joy of pursuing it. Because there are no jobs waiting for them when they get out of school. If they go to Ohio State, they go to Capital, or wherever for jazz studies, there are no jobs, really. And what’s interesting about Columbus – and I haven’t lived full-time in Columbus for almost 16 years – but I remember they had a pretty robust jazz scene. And there are still some places that musicians can play for sure, like the Park Street Tavern [Tuesday Jazz Jam], and of course you have the Jazz & Rib Fest that comes once a year. So there are places around, which is actually not typical of most places in America. Columbus is probably one of the more successful scenes.

But even with that, musicians have to find the entrepreneurial [spirit] and find their own ways of creating a career for themselves. As far as the music is concerned, their dedication has to be first and foremost to that and the love for it. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very very difficult path. But other than that, if they’re dedicated and committed, they should listen to and absorb as much of the music as they can, it’s really that simple.

Do you have anything else to share for Columbus jazz fans thinking about checking out your show?

AD: No, but this is a CAPA performance, so I’m hoping there will be some dedicated jazz fans, but also that people from CAPA and the Columbus Symphony would be interested in checking out [the show], and also in checking out the [surrounding] neighborhood of the King-Lincoln District, where I grew up.

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