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Meet Danny Green

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danny Green.

Danny, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I took classical piano lessons until the age of twelve, and I played whatever my teacher gave me. I showed talent at an early age, but I don’t remember feeling passionate about music. It wasn’t until I quit lessons and started learning all of Nirvana’s songs by ear that I started falling in love with playing music. I would spend hours locked up in my room playing along to the recordings with my keyboard. Over the years, my music taste changed. Whatever artists I was into, I would learn all their music by ear and play along to recordings.

I went into UCSD as a chemistry major with the idea that music is a great hobby, but not a career. I took one music class from Jason Stanyek on African Music, and that inspired me to further pursue my music education. By the third quarter of my freshman year, I declared music as a major. I still didn’t think I could make it as a working musician, although deep down, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I thought that becoming an ethnomusicologist might be a more viable path, or perhaps getting a degree in music technology. I began taking jazz piano lessons from Kamau Kenyatta in my third quarter of college. Beyond teaching me so much about how to play jazz, Kamau gave me all the encouragement and advice that I needed to feel confident to pursue a career as a working musician.

I started playing gigs during my undergraduate and little by little, started getting more integrated into the local jazz scene. I performed a mix of private functions, restaurant gigs, and concerts. At first, a lot of the gigs I got were calls from other musicians, but I gradually started generating my own work as well, which allowed me to put my own groups together and have them play my music. Eventually, this led to the formation of my trio, which has been my main focus since 2007.

At this point, I have released five albums, and have toured throughout the United States with my trio. Getting to this point in my career has taken a lot of work, and I’ve been lucky to have a great team of people behind whatever success I’ve had.

Has it been a smooth road?
In general, I would say that it has been a very smooth road for me. I’ve been earning a living as a full-time musician since graduating from college in 2004, and I am now supporting my family of four. I feel so fortunate to be able to spend my life doing what I love.

One of the struggles with being a full-time musician is not having a reliable source of income. When I first started out, the majority of my income was from gigs. The summer and holiday seasons were great times of the year, but there would be stretches where the gigs started thinning out. Over the years, I’ve balanced my work out with teaching (privately, and at various schools/colleges), and writing sheet music for clients. Luckily I love doing both of these activities, and they provide a good balance to performing.

Another struggle for me is finding ways to nurture my artistic growth. Sometimes, life gets so busy, that I’m left with little or no time to practice or compose. Other times, I’m just not feeling motivated to work on anything. Every now and then, I will feel stressed about not having written anything for a long time, and I will try to force myself to compose. This doesn’t always work out. Over the years, I’ve learned to roll with the flow and let those creative moments happen more organically.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a music composer, arranger, pianist, and educator. I specialize in jazz, but I have an extensive background in classical music, as well as Brazilian music, and pop. I lead a trio which includes bassist Justin Grinnell, and drummer Julien Cantelm. We have played as a trio since 2010. I would like to think that I am most known for performing my own original compositions.

One of the projects that I’m most proud of is what I call the Danny Green Trio Plus Strings. It’s my trio, with a string quartet. I love the sonic possibilities that the strings add, and I also love having the ability to blend elements of jazz and classical music. My latest album, ‘One Day It Will,’ features ten original compositions for my Trio Plus Strings. This was by far the most involved project of mine, and am so happy with how it turned out.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
We are very lucky to have a wonderful and thriving music scene here in San Diego. There are so many great musicians, it’s a very supportive community, and there are plenty of places to play.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sacha Israel, Darci Fontenot, Chris Wojdak, Jon Naugle

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