Volunteer Andrea interviews jazz pianist, composer and vocalist Pamela York who will be the featured musician at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference on October 22nd.

Volunteer Andrea: You are the featured musician at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference and will be giving attendees a taste of the music of the Jazz Age. What does jazz mean to you?

Pamela York: Jazz is America’s Classical music. It is a language. It is also a concept for the improvising musician, a freedom within the structure of any given piece.

Volunteer Andrea: Blog readers can hear clips of your solo and group work on your website. As an artist, what are the strengths and weakness of performing solo as opposed to performing in a group.

Pamela York: Performing solo is demanding. You are more vulnerable as an artist. Your heart and all musical expression is exposed to the audience. There is nowhere to hide! Everything from the time feel to the energy and forward motion of the music is up to the soloist. In a group, we are able to “share the burden” and be a team. There is room to “sit out” while others have the spotlight. For example, I may get a rest while the drummer takes a solo.

Volunteer Andrea: What do you hope the F. Scott Fitzgerald conference attendees will take away from your literary and musical workshop, “Beale Street Blues and Beyond“?

Pamela York: My hope is that the attendees will learn about some of the songs and composers from the 1920s, but above all, feel the rhythms and sounds and imagine themselves perhaps in another time. It would bring me great joy if people left this workshop ready to go and listen to more jazz!

Volunteer Andrea: You were born in Canada but have lived in the United States for the last 15 years. Do you see any differences to the approach to jazz in each country?

Pamela York: Not really. We are all coming from the same tradition. I have noticed, however, that audiences in Canada can be a little more reserved in their response to a concert. They may sit and clap politely and then afterwards come up to an artist and say, “That was SUPERB!!” American audiences tend to show their emotion a little more during a performance. (Note: I have been in the U.S. for 22 years now–I married an American!)

Volunteer Andrea: What are you working on now in addition to preparation for your upcoming performances?

Pamela York: I am always working on expanding my repertoire while reviewing the arrangements I have been playing regularly. I’m very inspired right now as I got a new piano this year, a Steinway grand. It’s made such a difference to my practice time to hear the tone of my piano and all of the colors I can get from it. There will be a few recording sessions next month that I am writing arrangements for and will be performing on as a side artist, so I am looking forward to being in the studio.