Three years ago I had a falling out with my long-time piano teacher and decided I needed a change. Up until that point I had been classically trained, so when my mom found me a jazz teacher you can only imagine my anxiety. How could I switch in my head and learn to “improvise” while playing the piano. I was clinging deparately to Bach and Bethoven and assuming this was never going to work. My new teacher was this unassuming, young graduate from the Lamont School of music. He was quiet, thoughtful and even taught lessons in a church. He didn’t appear to be a jazz musician, until he sat down on his beautiful grand piano and began to play. Luke Rackers not only plays jazz and composes jazz, he breathes it, and lives it. Over these past three years he has taught me to let loose and feel the music. He has introduced me to lively, fun, and complicated pieces that have challenged me, frustrated me and brought me a great deal of joy. I can honestly say that I am now jazz. I play in the jazz ensemble at East High School with another great musician and teacher, Keith Oxman. And, I also have embarked on a quest to learn to sing jazz as well.
So why have I chosen to write this post? Well, my jazz piano teacher and friend, Luke Rackers told me today that he and his wife are moving. He has taken a teaching position with a school in Vermont. Yes, my heart is sad. But he has given me a gift that I can use my entire life. This is a tribute to him and to all the other great jazz musicians out there who inspire me every day to make music and play (and sing) from my heart. Good luck Luke on your next journey. And to all the students in Vermont who get to study with this guy, I want you to know how lucky you are! And to Luke, I’m gonna miss you.
XoXo – Penn