Artist of the Week: Jack Kaminski


Artist of the Week: Jack Kaminski

May 14, 2024

Warwick Valley High School senior Jack Kaminski began playing piano right around fourth grade, when he was nine years old. He remembers the day his mom enrolled him in private lessons at Rock Underground in Greenwood Lake, primarily as a way to burn off some of his bountiful youthful energy.

“Yea, I was a pretty hyper kid,” Jack laughed. “So my mom thought maybe that would calm me down a little.”

As it turned out, not only did the piano capture Jack’s attention, it stole his heart. He remembers coming home his first lesson in love with the instrument, inspired by “all of the cool stuff” he had learned in an hour sitting at the keys. In fact, Jack can recall everything about that first lesson in detail. His teacher, Ben, was a young man himself to whom Jack felt he related well.

“The first thing he taught me was just the C blues scale,” said Jack. That scale’s familiar structure and tonality make it well suited for modulating to different keys and applying to a wide variety of musical styles. “It was a great way to start, because I quickly remembered the shape of all the notes, and we just started messing around with it. It was my first lesson, and I had a great time just learning how to improvise on the keyboard.”

He stuck with it and still plays piano eight years later! While he has performed outside of school on piano from a young age, it was in middle school that Jack decided to join school bands. To do that, he applied his piano knowledge to take up pitched percussion, specifically the marimba and vibraphone.

“Jack is an excellent piano player and an integral member of our jazz band,” said WVHS band director Megan Shafer. “He’s also a member of our concert band, where he takes the lead on mallet parts. He’s also the kind of player who is always willing to help out his peers, in jazz and concert band.”

Besides an active WVHS performing arts schedule, Jack also has a band outside of school. They have played the Doc: Fry Music Sessions a couple of times and are working on putting some gigs together for the coming summer. Jack shared that he and fellow WVHS musician, drummer Ben Poka, often jam together.

“I love that Herbie Hancock, electric keyboard¸ fusion era jazz stuff; the sound of a Rhodes,” said Jack. “So, Ben and I will just jam on standards or funk stuff. I use a synth bass with my left hand and my keyboard on my right.”

Jack also continues his private study on piano. He is currently working with a teacher to develop his understanding of classical music and continue to hone is reading skills and other fundamentals in advance of his move to college next fall.

Jack is off to Bard College, where he will be studying jazz in the BA program. He is excited to study with Angelica Sanchez, a pianist, composer, and educator whose work has been noted by publications like Jazz Times, DownBeat, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times.

“I got to do a camp at William Patterson during the summer between my sophomore and junior years,” Jack said. “She was one of the main instructors at this intensive jazz camp, and I just liked her teaching style.”

Jack sees himself developing a teaching style all his own in the future. He wants to become an educator.

“My plan is to eventually get a master’s so I can go into music education,” Jack said. He said that he found his previous experiences working with youth rewarding. He has been a camp counselor in Greenwood Lake and a snowboard instructor at Mt. Peter. “I love working with kids and I love music; I think I could be a good educator.”

For the rest of his senior year and this summer, Jack said he is “just looking forward to creating,” and planning to record some demos of original music with his friends.

“My friends and I have been writing a lot of music recently; really starting to kick that into overdrive,” he said. “So, hopefully we can record some stuff. Then, when I get to college, I’ll also be able to show people, ‘this is what I’m into, this is what I want to make. Want to be in a band?’”

What advice does Jack have to offer younger musicians as he prepares to head off to the birthplace of Steely Dan?

“Practice, practice, practice… then practice,” said Jack. “Sometimes, even if it’s just one day that I don’t touch a piano, I feel like it’s hard to get back into it. So even something like just sitting at your instrument for 30 minutes every day always helps!”


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