The true musician is to bring light into people's hearts.
Well, I started conducting kind of by accident. I wanted to give myself a special birthday present for my fortieth birthday, and I was living in San Francisco at the time and I started attending some of the concerts and then simply dropping hints.
I like a very dark house, just black. I sit there and just think. Once I'm still and quiet inside, I'll begin. It's very personal; it has to be. One song may be Bach, the next blues, a song from TV, or a nursery rhyme or jazz piece.
Seriously though, my father was the first African American to sign a contract with the Metropolitan Opera so I grew up with classical music and jazz in the home all the time.
If I can bring joy into the world, if I can get people to stop thinking about their pain for a moment, or the fact the tomorrow morning they're going to get up and tell their boss off... then I'll be successful.
Then I left that school and I went to Cerritos College, which was in southern California; they had one of the best big band programs in the country at the time.
Then when I was in grammar school I played the clarinet, and then, after clarinet I played the flute in college orchestra - besides singing in the college chorus and things like that.
It's not that I don't love the song. My songs are like my children: some you want around and some you want to send off to college as soon as possible.
Then I came up with this crazy idea just to walk out on the stage with no band at all and just start singing whatever came to mind. I actually fought the idea for a while because it seemed almost too radical, but it became obvious what I was supposed to be doing.
I do a lot of performing, but don't get a chance to go to the studio and write good music.
I don't want anything to get in the way of me and my singing. I want my mind as clear as possible.
I did the one concert, and I was not bitten by the conducting bug, and I thought I was done, but then the phone started to ring, and gradually, over time, I started conducting more and more. Now a third of my performances are with orchestras.
Miles Davis turned his back to the audience when he came out on stage, and he offended people. But, he wasn't there to entertain; he was all about the music. I kind of do that.
I have a lot of albums yet to do.
I want to write a book of poetry, as well as children's stories.
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