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John Bayless

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Borger TX, United States

John Bayless, a pianist, is an intriguing crossover artist who blends classical training and piano technique with popular and film music in dashing and imaginative improvisations.

John Bayless started playing the piano when he was four, receiving lessons from his mother. She taught him the standard teaching methods and music including Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Gershwin. As soon as he was old enough, he says, he was drawn to the piano whenever he had heard or emotionally experienced anything, and expressed these impressions by improvising.

One of his primary influences was the movies. His town on the West Texas Plains, Borger, Texas was typical for its time, with a drive-in movie where the family went every Friday “regardless of rain, dust storms, tornadoes, whatever,” as he recalls. Along with the chili-cheese hamburgers, doughnuts, and popcorn, he ingested the music of film scores and was soon rushing over the piano afterwards to recreate the music of Mancini, Rota, Steiner, Rozsa, Herrmann, and Williams.

He won a scholarship to the Aspen School of Music at fifteen, and at seventeen went to Juilliard in New York to study piano with Adele Marcus. She recognized his unusual ability at improvisation (an art long in decline among classical musicians) and encouraged it. He was invited to participate as a composer in New York University’s Masters Degree Musical Theatre Program, studying with Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green.

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