Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Jazz violinist Regina Carter visits campus
|During her visit to campus, Carter met with students from OU's jazz band and choir. |
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
OU alumna and jazz violinist Regina Carter, CAS ’85, visited campus on Monday, Jan. 22. A recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, an award known as a “genius grant,” Carter was in Michigan researching music therapy, which is the area she wants to explore with the grant funding.
The 25 grant recipients receive $500,000 over five years to pursue research, innovations and other occupations. Carter, who has been performing since she was young, wants to use music to help people, as it helped her mother before she passed away two years ago.
“I found that music was sometimes the only thing that could help her vital signs,” Carter said about her mother. “The fellowship enables to help people. I want to learn to use music to help people.”
With the fellowship, Carter is taking time off from touring, but not away from music. She is meeting with teachers and going into hospitals to learn more about music therapy.
A native Detroiter, Carter studied at the Center for Creative Studies and the New England Conservatory of Music before completing her bachelor’s degree at Oakland.
“At the Conservatory, I told them I wanted to play jazz on the violin and they looked at me like I had two heads,” Carter said. But at OU, professor of jazz Marvin “Doc” Holladay gave Carter the freedom to become the first student to play violin with the jazz band.
“He told me to play with the saxophone section. He said ‘when they breathe you breath,’” Carter said.
In addition to the support she received from her professors and peers at Oakland University, Carter also received encouragement from those in the business in metropolitan Detroit.
“I felt like the jazz scene in Detroit was very supportive. So that was really helpful for me and gave me a great foundation,” Carter said.
Carter recalls being at a jam session in New York shortly after moving there. After finally being given an opportunity to sit in, Carter heard someone declare, “Oh, what’s she going to do with a little violin?”
“Without the support I had behind me, I may have never gone to another jam session again,” Carter said.
Carter made a name for herself as a jazz violinist. She has been recognized with the International Achievement Award from ArtServe in Michigan and was selected as Best Violinist in the Jazz 2001 Readers Poll. OU’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance awarded her a MaTilDa Award for Alumni Achievement in Music in 2004.
Carter was also privileged twice to play “the Cannon,” the handcrafted instrument of famed violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini. One of the times she played it was to record her 2002 CD, “Paganini: After a Dream.”
In 2003, Carter was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for “Fragile,” from her album “Freefall,” which she recorded with Kelly Barron.
During her visit to campus, Carter met with students from OU’s jazz band and jazz singers. They performed for her and asked questions about her career. Carter offered the students advice for pursing music professionally. She encouraged all of them to go to jam sessions, learn the book of artists they want to work with, be on time, learn about the business not just the music, have a good attitude and have fun.
“And it doesn’t matter where you go, you just always need to be aggressive,” Carter said.