Chat with Alumni, Meredith Gentner

meredith gentner quintet

We talked to some of our alumni to find out where life has taken them since graduation, and how studying at JMI has benefited them throughout their career and life.

For this particular blog, we spoke with Piano Alumni, Meredith Gentner. Read on for the full interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you play?

I entered JMI as a mature age student after a very long career as a veterinarian. I had a bit of a mid-life crisis… or awakening, I guess you could call it. I realised that I didn’t want to spend my entire life in the one career. Music has always been a great passion of mine, and I have played the piano since I was five years old. I had recently become very interested in jazz music and had attended 5 sets of the Night Jazz Classes at JMI over a few years. I decided that I’d like to learn more about jazz. I did not think I would pass the audition, but to my surprise, I did and started the Bachelor course (piano) at JMI in 2020.

meredith in her career as a vet

Before: Meredith working as a vet

What have you been doing since graduating from JMI?

I have been playing a lot of jazz gigs around town, mainly with a vocalist as a duo. I am also working on our quintet material and landing some quintet gigs.

What has been one of your biggest musical highlights in your career thus far?

Our first quintet gig was pretty special. It was late last year at Chattanooga Jazz Bar. It’s quite hard to land a quintet gig compared to a duo gig, as venues, of course, find it more difficult to pay five people, so that was a great experience for us all as students.

What are your future goals in music?

I have a couple of big projects in the pipeline for 2024 and beyond. Still, you will have to ask me that again in six months if you want an answer to that question as a few things are up in the air at the moment. Watch this space…

meredith gentner quintet

Meredith’s band the ‘Larman & Brothers Quintet’ (2024)

How has studying at JMI helped you to get where you are and towards your future goals?

I entered JMI with next to no jazz piano skills at all. I wanted to become a jazz musician but did not know what to expect. The teaching practices at JMI are second to none. Every teacher I had throughout my course was incredibly knowledgeable, technically brilliant and could impart that knowledge to me as a student.

Having such great teachers enabled me to secure a solid foundation in the jazz language. It prepared me well so that I can now go out and build on the foundation I have received at JMI. I could not have gained that sort of knowledge without the intensive tuition and superb teaching practices that the degree offers.

What musicians have you been listening to lately?

I love listening to the piano greats like Red Garland and Hank Jones but I also enjoy the more current players like Emmet Cohen. And I recently came across Beegie Adair, who I had not heard of before, and I just love her style. It was great to discover a female jazz piano player, as the industry is undoubtedly more male-dominated when it comes to jazz piano players.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about studying music and especially jazz?

I would encourage them to definitely study at JMI. It gives you such a broad appreciation of jazz, from its history, to jazz theory, to practical applications. I think to learn jazz you need to understand its history — where it came from, the theory behind the music, as well as the practical side. JMI offers this in a comprehensive Bachelor course.

Any advice for current students as they complete their Bachelor?

Play with other students as often as you can. Jam in a practice room whenever you have some free time. Listen to jazz as much as you can.

During my degree, I found it so busy and full-on that finding time to jam with others and even listen to music became challenging, as I felt so time-poor. But I think it’s a really important thing to do, and I wish I had done it more.

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