Lion on bass

"Classical music is the best ever — but it’s too structured for me."

Though he tried it, the piano didn't do this much for John Murray.
  • Though he tried it, the piano didn't do this much for John Murray.
  • photo by Robert Sanchez Photography

John Murray is an up-and-coming bassist who attends the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory at Liberty Station alongside studies at the School of Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills. He is 13 years old. Bass was not his first instrument.

“I started out playing the piano when I was about five years old,” says Murray. “It just didn’t click with me. But my dad still wanted me to play an instrument, so he took me to a jazz show and asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and I chose the bass because I liked how it looked and sounded and thought it would be the perfect instrument for me.

“So I asked my parents for a bass, and they got me one for Christmas, which was one of the best days of my life.”

Murray has already been at the double bass for six years.

“At first I was playing classical music in the youth orchestra. I loved the music — I mean, classical music is the best ever — but it’s too structured for me, and what I love about jazz is the improvisation and where you can take it.”

The musician spends about two hours every day practicing at home, another three at the Young Lions Conservatory, and about ten at school. He’s especially excited to be studying under the tutelage of Gilbert Castellanos.

“The conservatory is completely amazing for the way that Gilbert and Rob [Thorsen] can lead you from being a beginner to actually being able to play,” says Murray. “We get so many great performance opportunities, and it really gives you a taste of what it’s like to be a real working jazz musician.... By the time I’m 16, I hope to be playing more with Gilbert.”

He also has higher aspirations, including a dream of attending the Juilliard School in Manhattan and following in the footsteps of bass hero Christian McBride. But in the meantime, he’s working on the balance of experiencing his youth while developing his virtuosity.

“I like to play sports and hang out with my friends. I love being a musician, but I never let it get in the way of being a kid.”

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