Connecticut, U.S.A. – Fourteen-year-old Alma Macbride probably never imagined
that she would someday perform with famous trumpeter and composer Wynton
Marsalis at Lincoln Center.
But Macbride did
play with Marsalis in New York City earlier this month after winning a
nationwide piano competition.
She and 13-year-old
Yasiel Sanchez of New York City, were selected as the top two young female jazz
pianists in a contest celebrating the late jazz musician and composer Mary Lou
As the winners,
both of the girls performed twice at Lincoln Center with Marsalis and the Jazz
at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
freshman at Hall High School in West Hartford, is a normal teenage girl.
In her free time,
she likes to play tennis, watch movies and see shows on Broadway, where she
recently saw “In the Heights.”
Macbride also likes
to listen to The Beatles and Jimmy Hendrix.
She could possibly
have a job in music someday.
it,” she said. “I’m only a freshman, so I’ve got time. My dream job is being a
She doesn’t want to
be known as “piano girl,” though. She wants to be like everybody else.
But she’s into
music a lot. She plays the piano, flute, saxophone and clarinet. She started
playing piano at age four and jazz piano at age eight.
The Lincoln Center
contest, which was open to girls 14 and under living in the continental United
States, was a celebration of the 100th anniversary
of William’s birthday.
Macbride had to send in a video tape of her playing Williams’ piece, “Close to
“It’s fun to play,”
she said, describing it as a medium-fast song. She said it’s pretty hard because
it has stride piano, which means she has to stretch her hands to reach huge
intervals on the keyboard.
She never heard of
Williams until this contest, Macbride said, but now she likes her music. One of
her favorite of Williams’ songs is, “The Land of Oo-Bla-Dee.”
Macbride said that
in the past, she didn’t really even like jazz very much, maybe because everyone
else in her family did.
But, she said, “I
gained respect for it.”
Now, she likes
jazz, she said. “Recently, I learned new stuff and it sounds cool.”
Her piano teacher,
Earl MacDonald, the director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut,
was the one who first told her about the Lincoln Center contest.
On his blog, Ever
Up and Onward, MacDonald wrote that Macbride is good at “comping,” or
accompanying, sight reading and more.
“Alma is an
interesting character. I am convinced that she could do pretty much anything she
wants in life, with the exception of playing professional basketball. (I
think she's still well under 5 feet tall.),” MacDonald wrote on his blog. “For
me, it’s refreshing to work with a student who has talent, but is also a normal
kid, with many different interests.”
A day before the
performance, Macbride rehearsed with Marsalis and the orchestra.
Before that, she
prepared a lot at home, using her metronome and sometimes playing with the
recording. Still, she was a little nervous about playing with Marsalis.
“He’s very good,”
said Macbride about a week before the performance. “It’s a little
Her whole family
and some friends went to the show and she picked out two nice dresses, one for
At her November 7
performance, Marsalis told the audience that Macbride was “here to play the keys
off the piano.”
from the heart,” Marsalis said, and “embodies” Williams’ spirit.
first suggested she enter the contest, Macbride said she wasn’t that interested.
But her teacher gave her “a guilt trip,” she said, so she agreed to give it a
Now, she’s happy