Watch Deanna’s recent (March 24) online solo concert HERE.
All donations (whether made before, during, or after the concert) will go towards a piano for Deanna in her new Pittsburgh home.
For the last six months, I’ve been living in “the city where jazz is love”—Mary Lou Williams’s hometown of Pittsburgh—after having spent twenty-three years of my life as a New Yorker. In addition to being in a new place, I’m also in a new stage of my life as a first-year doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve been busy: since arriving last August, I’ve recorded an all-Mary Lou Williams album at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and finished my forthcoming Williams biography.
But one of my biggest life changes happened three weeks ago: I bought my own house.
As a longtime Manhattan apartment dweller, I occasionally dreamed of a day when I could live in my own house, but never really thought it would be possible until I began visiting Pittsburgh two years ago after my first performance here in December 2018.
The day after closing on my home, my mom drove in from upstate New York and feverishly painted my walls for five days. Friends helped get a washer and dryer through my too-narrow basement door, neighbors helped me shovel and gave me rock salt, and more friends lugged my heavy mattress and bed frame up the stairwell. I now see the beginnings of a home for myself.
But one thing is missing.
For the last six months, I haven’t had my piano—or, even, a piano. Yes, my 73-key Nord Electro is here, but a keyboard doesn’t have the hammers, felts, strings, and keys that respond to touch and emotion.
Last week I visited NYC for the first time since last August. While I was there, I played my Kawai upright piano. On my final morning in the city, I recorded this short improvisatory goodbye to what has been my musical instrument for the last twenty-five years. I was overcome with emotion and the only way for me to get that emotion out was to play.
On this piano, I’ve composed the music for six of my recordings, from Having to Ask to Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns. I’ve written award-winning choral pieces, like “Where Shadow Chases Light” and “A Christmas Carol” in addition to two jazz Masses and scores of original congregational songs. I’ve played countless rehearsals with my trio in my NYC living room with this piano and my DW drum kit.
Returning to Pittsburgh, the one thing I have need of—more than pots, pans, or even a living room chair—is a responsive piano. The piano is central to my daily composing and playing work and to my everyday well-being.
Although my well-loved Kawai would be welcomed wholeheartedly into my new home, the cost to move the instrument is greater than what the piano is currently worth. And while I don’t value musical instruments by a ticket price, I also recognize that it is time for me to have a piano that is worthy of my over twenty-five year career.
This is where you come in.
Many of you have found joy in my music—you’ve told me so directly, or shown me so in your repeat purchases of my music. I create music not just for myself, but for you. I strive to always be an accessible resource, whether I receive an email from a high school director regarding my free-to-use Justice Choir song, “We Walk in Love,” a church musician curious about jazz, or a student asking me about Mary Lou Williams.
Now I’m asking you to show your support of my work by making a donation of any amount (either at Venmo or Paypal) towards a new piano for my home. I am currently searching for an instrument here in Pittsburgh and am in contact with a reputable piano technician regarding what I’m looking for. While my upright has served me well, I’m visualizing a grand piano in my currently bare living room (frankly, I don’t care if I have a sofa as long as I have a piano!). Being able to sit at an excellent instrument each day will inspire me to compose new works—works that I will share with you—and to pray with my emotions by creating improvisations like the one in the above video.
As a thank you for whatever amount you can give, on Wed, March 24 from 6-6:50 pm EST I’ll be giving a free, live streamed, all improvised concert in NYC on my Kawai (I’ll be taking the nine hour Amtrak train back to pack and to play). Unless the Spirit moves me otherwise, I plan to play a completely improvised program (in other words, no specific songs) and, as always, to play from the heart.
I hope that you will tune in and share this occasion with me.
Thank you for all that you do.
Email Deanna at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to donate via check.