“There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living In my life, I’ve loved them all.”
— From “In My Life” by the Beatles and the second track on Joshua Espinoza’s new album “Journey Into Night.”
Pianist Joshua Espinoza returns to his roots with a homecoming concert in Greensboro, co-presented with Partnership Village, an organization geared towards re-settling formerly homeless families.
Espinoza, a member of the adjunct faculty of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, is an active performer, playing regularly with his trio (The Joshua Espinoza Trio) and maintaining a rigorous musical schedule of performing and teaching students of all ages from his home studio. He is a freelance pianist, composer and teacher in Baltimore, Md.
He was kind enough to talk about how he started with music.
What is your connection to Greensboro?
We moved to Greensboro when I was in the third grade, and I graduated from The Early College at Guilford in 2007. All my important formative years musically happened in Greensboro. I loved going to the Greensboro Symphony.
Who was your first piano teacher?
Beth McKinney. We clicked right away. She saw my love for music and even though I started rather late at age 11, she took my energy and let me run with it.
Where was your first performance?
My first performance was at Gate City Baptist Church, and unfortunately, I had a bit of a memory slip. I looked over at Beth, and she said, “Keep on playing.” And I did!
How would you describe your style of jazz?
I invite listeners to step into the music with me by connecting to music they may already know. For example, on my album “Journey into Night,” we take a jazz spin on Lennon/McCartney’s “In My Life.” In many of my pieces, listeners will recognize the music. I like to create jazz accessible to all.
You studied classical music but then switched to jazz. Why?
Craig Whittaker, who played jazz saxophone and taught at Guilford College and UNCG, piqued my interest in jazz when I was in high school. He opened up a whole new world to me. Although I studied both classical and jazz while at Indiana University, I did decide on jazz as my focus. However, I am forever grateful for the wealth of history and repertoire the classical tradition affords. I like the blending of styles as I think this most reflects the diversity and beauty of art anyway.
How does your new CD reflect your artistic stand?
I wanted a feeling of wistful reminiscence — of that time of day when we may get a bit nostalgic. The goal was to take a sonic “Journey Into Night.” The distinct interpretations of pop hits are accompanied by original compositions creating something between classical style and jazz improvisation. I did not want this to be a “straight ahead” kind of jazz album.
What advice would you have for a young person who is considering becoming a professional musician?
If you cannot stop thinking about music 100% of the time, then yes, go for it. Know it will be challenging but listen to and play everything you can — absorb all that you can first. Then create your own unique style.
Do you still call Greensboro home?
Greensboro still holds such a special place in my heart for all the great memories and friends I made there.
Plus, my mom (who is my biggest supporter) still lives there, so it will always feel like home to me.