Michael Webb of Walnut first begin to take piano lessons because his mother told him to do so. Now, the Cal Poly Pomona communications major plays jazz music to soothe his spirit. It is through playing the piano that he is able to convey his deepest emotions and chase away depression.
This weekend at the Next Generation Jazz Festival, he is playing with the Cal Poly Pomona Jazz Combo out of pure joy. At the same time, he hopes the ensemble will win the opportunity to play alongside professionals and pioneers at the Monterey Jazz Festival later in September. Back in sixth-grade, Michael was a guitar player. It was during that age when his mother insisted him to take piano lessons as his sister, Michelle, wanted to. “I wasn’t interested, but my mom said ‘You’re taking piano lessons, too.’ So that was the end of that,” he stated as he recalled his initial resistance to something that today touches his heart and feeds his soul.
For the next six years, his private classical piano lessons at Lee Storck mounted a challenge for him. During which, it also taught him discipline and unlocked his creativity. Although he had been playing the guitar from second to sixth grades, he admitted that he was never seriously connected with the instrument. Furthermore, he found it to be boring and less demanding. He never managed to take it seriously as he felt that there were too many guitarists out there who all sounded the same. On the other hand, the piano to him felt like an extension of himself. According to him, the connection he had with the instrument was “magical.”
When Michael was introduced to jazz as a Palm Desert High freshman, he found his musical niche. During his first year in the school’s jazz band, his performance earned him a scholarship to Idyllwild’s summer music camp. “Jazz is the melting pot of every musical style. I don’t have to go far to play other styles of music because jazz is my center,” he explained.
Currently, Michael has his eyes set on a return to MJF’s Next Generation competition. “In 2012, the whole experience at Monterey went by incredibly quickly, but it showed me how fantastic high school and college musicians from all over the nation play. I met incredible artists, including J. Michael O’Neal from Pomona, a fantastic pianist who was playing with the Azusa Pacific University Jazz Orchestra. I felt completely out of my league when I heard him play. He’s now on the Cal Poly music faculty and my private piano teacher. Monterey opened my eyes and let me see where I could be, where my college peers and I could go. Listening to the best of the best let me know their skills were amazing. We became more passionate players. It’s great to be back at Monterey,” he concluded.