As part of the celebration of the Purchase College Conservatory of Music Jazz Studies program’s 25th anniversary, The PAC will hosting a Jazz at The Center Spectacular on March 30. Jazz star Cyrille Aimée will be performing alongside her steady trumpet voice and Purchase alum Wayne Tucker, Professor Doug Weiss at the bass, Purchase alum Aaron Seeber at the drums, and pianist and Head of Jazz Studies, Pete Malinverni. We asked Pete Malinverni some questions about the Jazz program and this Saturday’s performance. Take a look!

Q: Congratulations on the Jazz program’s 25th anniversary! How would you say the program has evolved over those years?
A: Thanks! I’ve been here for most of those 25 years, and I’ve seen us go from “great idea” to thriving program, due to the stewardship of my predecessors (founder Doug Munro and then Todd Coolman), the dedicated, world-class faculty and the family atmosphere that helps our students become the skilled musicians they’re destined to be. At Purchase, they are free to try, to fail, to try again and to succeed, all in a rigorous – and supportive – environment.

Q: The March 30 event will feature many Jazz studies alumni. Do they all normally perform together? If not, how do you prepare for a night like this?
A: ​The trumpeter and alum, Wayne Tucker, plays with Cyrille on a relatively regular basis, and I play pretty often with bassist, Professor Doug Weiss and alum, drummer Aaron Seeber. As Jazz musicians, we are each responsible to be fluent in a vast vocabulary, in preparation for “what may come” in performance. Jazz musicians are the only musicians who compose AND perform simultaneously. So, we need to know what’s happened in various situations in the past and be ready – and agile – when those situations occur in real time. Actually, it’s a lot like a spoken conversation: if you know the language and are well-read, you will have interesting and inspiring conversations with more people than you would otherwise be able to do, absent that fluency. For Saturday’s performance, Cyrille and I have decided on a repertoire and everyone has had a look at the music. We’ll get together to rehearse, to see where the music takes us. Exciting, really.

Q: What do you think it is about Jazz music that continues to captivate audiences and attract young musicians?
A: I think it’s the thrill of watching skilled people collaborate toward something not yet realized. It’s much like watching a high level sporting event, when we watch unquestionably talented people, seeing what they do NOW, when the lights are on. It’s fun to watch people work without a net, and that’s what the best Jazz musicians do.

Q: What about Saturday’s program are you most looking forward to?
A: Those moments of surprise – Cyrille is an absolute pleasure to play with. I’ve done so a lot over the years, and, while I know her sound and tendencies, it’s still always surprising, as ideas for how to make the music “better” occur to each of us throughout the course of a performance, and we each, in turn, react to those inspired musical “suggestions”.

Q: You are on the faculty here at Purchase. Which is harder – performing or teaching?
A: They’re both a blessing – I hate to sound corny, but it’s true. My long experience as a performer, composer and recording artist informs my work as a teacher. I find that what I’ve learned on stage and in the studio, to ultimately trust the music, gives me freedom as a teacher. I know where I want a class session to go, but I’m also able to address surprises that come up. And, those surprises inform the musician I am, and often find their way into my playing and composing. Really, it’s a symbiosis – I’m a lucky man.


Tickets to see Jazz at The Center Spectacular with Cyrille Aimée are available by clicking here, or calling The Performing Arts Center box office at 914-251-6200, Wednesday-Friday from 12-6 pm.