An Honorary Professor of Jazz Piano at St Andrews University is heading back to his roots.
Pianist Richard ‘Jazzman’ Michael BEM returns to his old school at Mackie Academy - now Arduthie Primary School - to give a jazz concert with pupils from P6-7 in which more than a 100 children will each improvise a short solo.
Richard was the first boy from Mackie to follow a musical career and reflecting on his long career in music he said: “I left Mackie in May 1968 and now, 50 years later, it’s quite an emotional feeling returning to a building largely unchanged since my time, leading workshops in jazz improvisation under the auspices of the Aberdeenshire Jazz Programme funded through YMI.
“I’m sure that the music teacher who changed my life, Mr David McGinnigle, never realised what he was unleashing when he inspired me to devote my musical life to playing jazz, in a room just a few doors away from where I am introducing Arduthie youngsters to the skill of improvising in front of an audience.”
Richard’s parents, John and Betty Michael, were both involved in the musical life of Stonehaven in bygone times. John led the John Michael Concert Party giving concerts for charity throughout the Mearns, and Betty played the violin in her Uncle William Gordon’s Strawberry Bank Reel and Strathspey band.
“Both my late brother Will and I learned the priceless skill of communication by being introduced to performing at such an early age,” said Richard.
“When we worked together in London’s Wigmore Hall and Festival Hall, we often came off stage saying to each other ‘Thanks Dad’ because all that performing experience kicked in as soon as we appeared on stage.”
Richard is well-known to audiences through his broadcasts on Radio Scotland’s ‘The Jazzhouse’ and ‘Jazz Nights’ and recent solo concerts in Stonehaven, Aberdeen and Inverness playing the ‘History of Jazz Piano’.
“Since I left full-time teaching in 2007 I’ve been practicing harder than ever and enjoy teaching all levels of ability, mastering not just jazz improvisation but improvisation in the style of Bach on the Church organ –it’s the same process!” he joked.
Richard’s work in Arduthie comes to fruition with an informal concert where each class will play a theme by ear, followed by a short solo from each pupil.
“This is where it’s more a case of teaching confidence in addition to music.,” he said.