November 2016

Joey Alexander: Bringing Jazz to a New Generation

Celebrities Visit SiriusXM - October 3, 2016Celebrities Visit SiriusXM - October 3, 2016

Celebrities Visit SiriusXM - October 3, 2016
Joey Alexander demonstrated his piano skills at SiriusXM Studio in New York City on October 3, 2016.

Joey Alexander’s amazing musical talent has given him the opportunity to see more of the world than most 13-year-olds. The young jazz pianist from Indonesia has played concerts in Singapore, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. He has also performed in the United States and Canada. That’s quite a lot of traveling for a young man.

Joey was born Josiah Alexander Sila on the island of Bali in Indonesia, a country in Southeast Asia made up of thousands of islands. Joey Alexander is his stage name, or name he goes by for his career in music. Since Joey was very young, his father played lots of different music for him from his large collection. Joey was the most impressed by the jazz pieces he heard.

At six years old, Joey was already playing on an electric piano that his father bought him. Joey learned how to play by ear. In other words, he figured out how to play a piece of music just from listening to it. When he was eight, he played for Herbie Hancock, a well-known American jazz pianist, when Hancock visited Indonesia. Hancock was impressed and told Joey he believed in him. That encouraged the young musician to dedicate himself to playing jazz music.

At age nine, Joey went to Ukraine to compete against performers from 17 countries in the first Master-Jam Fest. Joey came in first place in the competition. He went on to perform at jazz festivals in several other countries, until he came to the attention of Wynton Marsalis, a famous American jazz trumpeter, composer and conductor. Marsalis is also an artistic director at Lincoln Center.

Marsalis invited Joey to perform at Lincoln Center in 2014. Joey was only 10 years old, but he amazed the audience with his music. He received positive reviews from The New York Times, Down Beat magazine, and other publications. A year later, Joey released his first album, called My Favorite Things. The album received two Grammy Award nominations. Joey is the youngest jazz performer ever nominated for a Grammy.

In recent years, Joey has performed for former President Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama. He has appeared twice at the Newport Jazz Festival, where he was the youngest performer ever to take part. He has also toured the United States with his own Joey Alexander Jazz Trio and released a second album, called Countdown. One piece on the album titled “City Lights” captures the bustle and energy of New York City, where Joey now lives with his parents.

Joey has been making an effort to not only perform for adults, but also for people his own age. He recently performed for students at Arden Middle School in Sacramento, California. The people who run the Jazz at Lincoln Center program hope that Joey will become an ambassador to middle schools to introduce more students to jazz. The future is looking as bright as New York City’s lights for this young jazz performer.

Image credit: ©Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Question 1
What instrument does Joey Alexander play?

Question 2
Which famous jazz musician told Joey that he believed in him?

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