I started violin lessons and piano lessons at the age of 5. When I left home for college in 1983, I kept up with piano as a staff accompanist in the Music Department at Hope College, and as a jazz performer, mostly in a trio with a great bassist (my brother Francis) and a very fine jazz trumpet player named Kevin Watt, who now leads and performs with the Jazz Ambassadors, a professional ensemble of the United States Army Field Band.
But at that time I gave up the violin entirely.
In 2009, when my daughter started violin lessons, I decided to pick it up again and see what might be possible within the constraints of career, family obligations, and continuing involvement in the local music scene as a jazz pianist.
I now enjoy the violin thoroughly, partly because the quality of instruction that I (and my daughter) receive is so much higher than what I received as a child. I have performed the Bach D Minor Sarabande and Gigue, the first movements of the Haydn G Major and Bach A Minor Concertos, the Mozart E-Minor Sonata K304, Gluck/Kreisler Melodie, the Beethoven G Major Romance, and numerous other pieces as part of "adults-only" recitals. I had hoped to put some of these pieces together into a solo recital sometime in 2020, but I'm not sure I can do that with the pandemic underway.
I have also performed occasionally in community orchestras (s a violist with Blacksburg Community Strings) and in amateur chamber ensembles. Recently I had a successful audition into the New River Valley Symphony, and I have been invited to perform as a violin soloist with Blacksburg Community Strings ... I most recently performed the Beethoven F Major Romance Op. 50 with BCS.
I teach jazz piano but right now I only have one student. I really only accept students on a case-by-case basis if they're very interested in jazz and can't find another teacher locally. I don't have time to do more.
I live in Blacksburg, Virginia, where my wife and I are both members of the Virginia Tech chemistry faculty. I teach our first-year laboratory course for chemistry majors and an advanced-topic graduate course. My research is organized around the goal of making a version of polyethylene that is reinforced with nanocellulose. My wife's expertise is in X-ray crystallography. We have two daughters, one who plays violin (as already mentioned), and one who plays cello. I have accompanied their performances on the piano, and we have even played a few chamber pieces together for informal recitals, etc. During the pandemic we have decided to work on a couple of Haydn piano trios and the Beethoven Op. 3 string trio (I will play viola).
Under the "Highlands Jazz" brand, I perform regularly, mostly in trios (piano/bass/sax or piano/bass/drums) or duos (piano/bass). All of that is on hold right now during the pandemic. One of our favorite annual gigs at a local winery was sadly cancelled. The Highlands Jazz Quintet recorded a CD, "Two Degrees East Three Degrees West," in 2012. We perform regularly at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA, which is where "Dirty Dancing" was filmed. Contact me by email to receive notifications.
Recently my friend Justin Craig (a standout professional guitarist in Blacksburg) had the idea to put together a different kind of trio in which I play violin including some jazz improvisation. Our book is all Brazilian tunes (a lot of Antonio Carlos Jobim, but also quasi-classical tunes by Celso Machado, Astor Piazzolla, etc.) This kind of music is a little easier to improvise over than swing-type tunes, so it's a good opportunity to build my skill. The trio is rounded out by Bill Ray, a local pro who is Principal Percussionist of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. We have played a handful of gigs together, but again all of that is on hold, and in fact even before the pandemic the number of local venues that were offering live music has dwindled to almost nothing.
Obviously I spend a lot of my spare time on music but I also enjoy hiking, family-style cooking, and woodworking (furniture, built-ins, home carpentry, etc.)
Feel free to contact me at my regular email:
pdeck AT vt.edu