Published on 10 October 2017

Photo: Carol Friedman

14-year-old Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Joey Alexander is performing in Singapore next month! The down-to-earth prodigy tells The A List more about his love of music.

By Melanie Lee

It all started with being given a mini electronic keyboard at the age of six.  From there, Bali native Joey Alexander taught himself how to play the piano. After jamming with jazz musicians in Bali and Jakarta, Alexander went on to win international jazz competitions, and at the age of 10, he was invited by jazz maestro Wynton Marsalis to perform at the Lincoln Centre in New York, where he received a standing ovation. A video of this performance went viral and since then, he has been performing around the world. In these past few years, he has also released two albums, and even grabbed two Grammy nominations for his first album, “My Favorite Things”. His latest album, “Countdown”, features his own compositions. But even with such achievements and acclaim, Alexander remains, at heart, just a regular teenager who loves music.

How did you first discover jazz?

My dad introduced me to jazz. They’re all my favorite, pianists, singers, drummers and horn players.

How would you explain the appeal of jazz to someone your age who perhaps only likes pop or rock music? 

All music is good, but with jazz, I feel there’s a lot of freedom and many different styles. I love the part where I can interact with my friends in the band and improvise on a song. Jazz is open to possibilities.

Critics rave about how your playing reveals a maturity and emotional depth well beyond your 14 years of age. What do you think about that?

It’s not about age. I just go with the flow and play what I feel and what I hear in the moment. It’s all about creating and have fun.

What is your usual practice routine like?

I don’t practice every day, but when I do, it’s usually 2 hours.

You’ve also started to compose your own music – what is your composition process like?

Improvising to me is almost like composing and lately, I’ve started to get more new compositions done. We’ll be playing them for you soon in Singapore!

What do you do when you feel homesick for Indonesia?

I enjoy every place I go to. I travel a lot and New York is my base. I enjoy NY very much. Although sometimes, I miss the beach in Bali and my family in Jakarta.

You’ve received international acclaim and met so many famous people. How do you stay grounded?

Being aware that being able to do this is a blessing. It’s God’s gift and I’m thankful to share it.

Have you been to Singapore?

Yes, I have, once! I want to stay longer so I can enjoy the food and the city. This time round, I don’t know if I’ll have enough time for that.

Your “Countdown” poster shows you looking at a phone. Why?

Nothing, really. I didn’t know the photographer took a picture of me checking out my dad’s very old phone – we share a phone 🙂

In previous interviews, you have described your talent as a “gift”. How do you intend to use this gift in the years to come?

Work on it and share it with other people who need it. I’d like to be a good force through music.

The Joey Alexander Trio will be performing on Tues, 7 Nov at Esplanade Concert Hall. Click here for more information.

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