What does My Scoop love more than a good sale on designer shoes? An artist that mixes media to come up with creative masterpieces.... Especially when that artist is a she AND from the South!
We recently learned about rising superstar pianist Jade Simmons -- a dynamic musician and entrepreneur that has so much to share. In addition to being a concert pianist, Jade was named one of Ebony magazine's Young Leaders Under 30 in 2007. She is the founder of a national school program, which has lead to numerous appearances on radio and television. To top it all off, she designs her own concert attire and plans to expand these fashion efforts into a commercial line.
We are so excited that this Charleston, SC native (now in Houston, TX) is scheduled to spend a week in Mississippi! After hearing about how fabulous she is, we couldn't resist poking our nose into her business. Thankfully, she obliged and gave lots of juicy tid-bits about her up-coming trip. Enjoy her answers to our questions below....
To be honest, Jade, when we think about Classical music it puts us to sleep. But we hear that you jazz it up by using influences outside of your tradition. How do other arts influence your music?
Dance influences me greatly and popular music in the sense of how important rhythm is in the pop world. I think rhythm is often overlooked or at least not emphasized as much as it could be in Classical music. You claim to be relevant and hip. We clearly agree, but tell us what you do to earn these descriptions?
I try to make classical music relevant by not stressing so hard to delineate between classical and other genres. Many of my concerts run the gambit from the most traditional classical, to contemporary classical to more avant-garde experimental music using electronics and sometimes even hip-hop beats. I've also worked hard to break the barrier between the stage and the audience, my concerts are interactive and my programming is considered to be innovative, especial by way of performance projects I've created.
I will present one of my favorite projects (Kandinsky and Scriabin: Hearing Color Seeing Sound) at the Mississippi Museum of art while I am in town -- details on this project are below. Another project is The Rhythm Project, which highlights the more percussive and rhythmic repertoire for piano. My debut CD Revolutionary Rhythm is an eclectic compilation of rhythmic American works for piano. Two of the pieces use electronics, and a set of three Hip-Hop Studies. Etudes by Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) uses hip-hop beats as well.
You are spending some time with Mississippi kids while you are here. What do you have planned for them?
I'll do an outreach presentation entitled Emotional Roller Coaster. My goal is to prove how versatile and "cool" Classical music can be. The activity I have planned allows the kids to dictate what I'm going to play by giving me an adjective and/or an emotion and I have to come up with a piece of music that personifies that emotion. I often sprinkle in movie themes and songs off the radio as well.
What drove you to learn and practice your skills as a kid?
I was the classic competitive, overachiever, over-scheduled child. I played multiple instruments, was in bands and youth symphonies in addition to piano lessons. I was class president all through high school; finally student body president -- I also played three sports (basketball, track and volleyball). So, I was used to routine and having to practice to stay ahead of the pack, but piano was never a chore. I don't think my parents ever had to ask me to practice.
What feeds this as an adult?
I'm still competitive and obsessed with setting goals and checking thing off my "to do list," but I'm driven mostly by the desire to be sure I'm doing what I was born to do. Like most people I'm driven by the idea of success; though I must admit, my perception of what constitutes "success" is changing almost daily.
We have heard that you are a fashionista. What is your best fashion moment?
Those days when I literally throw some pieces together without much thought and it's the chic-est I've ever looked. Usually I have nowhere special to go so in a way it ends of being a waste of an outfit.
What is your worst fashion moment?
Middle School (AKA early 90's)! Shirts with see-through chiffon panels, jeans with colored leather panels on the front from Express, stacked multiple pairs of colorful socks, "pegged" jean cuffs, crimped hair -- need I say more?
Someone so perfect MUST have at least one weakness. What is your guilty pleasure?
The Young and the Restless. I dreaded the soap as a kid because it monopolized my grandma's television when all I wanted to do was watch cartoons. But somewhere in college I got hooked and started scheduling classes accordingly. My husband and I watch it religiously. We're big Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) fans. His appearance in the dining hall is what I remember most about the movie Titanic. Also when I met the famous pianist Van Cliburn, he was surprised to know that I'd seen him in his cameo appearance on the soap.
I also love Flo, the Progressive insurance lady! Jaden got me hooked on her, he stops everything when that very soft background music comes on TV. He just stares at her until the commercial is over.
What are you listening to right now?
I'm listening mostly to some new hip-hop beats created for me by my collaborative partner Roburt Reynolds. We're working on a new project for piano and electronics that is a set of variations I'm composing based on Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-Sharp Minor.
What moments provoke the most thanksgiving in you? At almost every concert I've given (no matter how I've felt about the performance) someone has said that they felt my concerts were "anointed". I take it as a huge compliment because it confirms that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. As an entertainer, it's nice to know that people are leaving my concerts inspired and feeling better than when they came in. Every performer should aim to offer an experience and not just a concert. It brings me joy to know that I am reaching people, inspiring them and/or moving them.
What are your guiding principles as a mother?
To be present for Jaden. I travel a lot but he seems to still know who I am and he appreciates our relationship as being different from the bond he has with his dad and with his grandma and great-grandma -- both of whom also live in Houston. Parents at parks with their kids while they're on their Blackberries make my blood boil! Basically I just keep vowing not to turn into them.
What about as a wife?
I'm married to my high school sweetheart. Our relationship still retains a lot of silliness and we're very real with each other. We also push each other's buttons like nobody's business; so, to alleviate the heat we crack a lot of jokes, mostly at each other's expense. We try to stay true to "us" no matter the situation, no matter how our income grows or our setting changes. As a wife, I just want to make myself available to my husband and make sure he knows how much I adore him.
What do you look forward to the most about your trip to Mississippi?
There are so many great things planned! I always look forward to outreach with kids, they're the best audience ever! But I'm equally excited about performing the Brahms Quintet. I haven't played the piece since grad school, where I played it with an all female ensemble of single girls (aside from myself) who were often distracted by talk of shoes and guys. So I'm excited to play such a passionate and gorgeous piece with professional musicians!
Jade Simmons will be in Jackson April 5-10, 2010, as an Artist in Residence for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. While in residence, Jade will be decked in jewels courtesy of Juniker Jewelry!