Classically-trained pianist, composer and educator Becky Archibald has seen lofty heights in her musical career, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall. But a couple years back, she found herself ready for new creative challenges.
In 2009, the Arts Council of Indianapolis presented her with a Creative Renewal Fellowship, which she used to study jazz at the Jazz Summer School in Monteton, France. Since her return, she's been pursuing a new sound, both in performance and through her compositions. I wanted to find out more about her musical metamorphosis in this phone interview.
NUVO:Why did you want to pursue jazz?
Becky Archibald: I applied and got a Creative Renewal Fellowship and got to go to France to this European jazz school. It gave me enough so I could start playing with people and start writing the music. I really didn't know that I was going to go crazy with it.
NUVO: Who is your favorite jazz pianist?
Archibald: I don't know if I have a favorite, I have so much to learn. I love Thelonious Monk, I have to admit. I think he is fascinating. If I had to be like somebody, I probably would want to be something like him.
NUVO: You're a prolific composer and performer. Which role is more satisfying for you?
Archibald: I think about that a lot. I noticed over the past year I would rather go write a song than practice my jazz scales. I love to perform but I would feel sad if I didn't play what I have written. I didn't write these new pieces just for me; I wrote them for other people to play.
NUVO: What does playing jazz mean to you opposed to playing in a semi-classical genre?
Archibald: I think there are a lot more smiling when you play jazz. You are constantly surprised at what people do.
NUVO: How comfortable are you in performing blues?
Archibald: This has been the year of the blues for me. I have written eleven new pieces — I think seven of them are new blues pieces. I think they capture the emotion that the blues are all about.
NUVO:Where would you like to be musically five years from now?
Archibald: I guess I would like to be a better jazz musician. I would like to have more performances under my belt. I would like to play in more places and have my music heard. In five years I would like to see what is exciting me at that point. Right now I am completely crazy about jazz.
Archibald left July 23 to return to the Jazz School in Monteton, France, having funded the trip with a series of "Rites of Swing" concerts stages locally with a chamber group. She says she is enthralled with the jazz school and its unique setting. Archibald returns home August 8.