What do you do at Walker West?
I teach, lead, and I am a co-founder of the Academy.
What style(s) of music do you teach/play?
Classical, jazz, gospel, fundamentals, and ear training.
What are some performance/professional highlights?
I accompanied the late great Sammy Davis Jr. at the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul. I performed a two-piano concert with my brother at the World Theater, which is now the Fitzgerald. I played at Prince’s first wedding reception.
What was your first gig?
My first gig was for the Rotary Club at 12 years old. We were invited to play for them, we had a steak dinner, and afterward they gave us $5, which was big money back then.
Favorite Walker West memory/experience?
There are so many! When we first started the Academy, we planted flowers out in the planter and the next day they had been pulled out and were lying on the ground. I replanted them, but the next day the same thing happened. I picked them up and planted them again. The next day the flowers were still there. Basically, I was making the statement that “we are here to stay,” and now we’ve been here for 26 years.
Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Liberace, Andre Previn, and my mother Corrine West.
Recordings by Fats Waller.
Why is music education so important?
It’s important because playing any instrument – piano, for instance – helps a person grow. First, you’re unable to do something, but then with practice you can. It’s the essence of growth and it allows you to learn by yourself.
Advice to young musicians?
Be inspired. If you are inspired, no one can get in your way and no one can stop you!