Maria Schneider got her chance to study even more intently the work of Gil Evans when he invited her to work as his assistant. Although this close apprenticeship would only last a year, or so, Maria learned her lessons well, finding that the key to Gil Evans genius was his enthusiasm for trying something new. She brings this same inventive spirit into the scoring and composing she does for her own band, and this is some of what has set her apart, winning for her two Grammys as a jazz composer and big band leader.
Maria Schneider's early musical education was a mixture of serendipity and tradition. Her first piano teacher, an accomplished stride pianist who had retired from Chicago to tiny Windom, Minnesota, Maria's hometown, infected Maria with a love of music. Maria says that it was then, as a young child, she made up her mind to become a musician. There was no turning back. She attended the University of Minnesota, studying the traditional classical music curriculum but always with an eagerness to experiment outside the more or less strict boundaries of "legit" music. Her composition teacher, one who according to Maria taught in the Hindemith tradition, encouraged her to hang out around the university's jazz band. The rest, one might say, is now history.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Maria twice in May of 2013, just as "Winter Morning Walks" had released. The second interview, in Austin where she was conducting a program of her jazz compositions with the University of Texas Jazz Orchestra, had the benefit of video. This enables one to not only hear Maria's responses to my questions, but also to witness her animated enthusiasm for music, her music, and her defense of The Artist (and the innovative and independent ArtistShare initiative). The half hour interview splits nicely into three segments, and that is how they are presented here.
Part I: Classical, Jazz, or Does It Matter?
Part II: In Praise of Hindemith (Here Maria reveals her admiration for the music of Hindemith, then names her other two "desert island" composers.)
Part III: In Defense of the Artist
Contributed by James Baker