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2015 Jazz Program: Interview with Frank Potenza

Frank Potenza Headshot.JPG

Illustrious jazz guitarist, professor at USC, and new ACMAF faculty member Frank Potenza shares a bit about his own musical beginnings and approach to teaching, as well as explains the unique experience he believes the Amalfi Coast provides for young jazz musicians!

Who first ignited your passion for the art of performing and teaching music?

My parents were both passionate about music, and wanted to pass that on to their children. Two of my brothers still play professionally, but all five of my siblings took music lessons on different instruments. The accordion was actually my first instrument. I started taking private lessons in the first grade. However, I had a cousin who played the guitar professionally, and I decided that I wanted to be just like him. He drove a convertible, he could blow perfect smoke rings, and he looked like Elvis. He also showed me the first few popular songs that I learned on guitar, so he inspired me to switch instruments.

What rep do you find the most personally inspiring and why?

My mother and father listened to a wide variety of music when we were growing up. I love playing songs from the Great American Songbook, and I hope to raise awareness of that huge body of music in my audiences.

How would you describe your method/approach to your students’ musical development?

I don’t want them to be me. I want them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. My job is to help them discover what their passions and interests are and encourage them to develop as individuals. I am certainly going to influence them by the way I play and the material that I choose to focus on, but they need to discover their preferences for themselves.

What do you think is the greatest advantage for students studying jazz here at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival?

Sunny (Sunny Wilkinson, ACMAF Jazz Faculty – Voice) and I have played together for a very long time and we have a relationship that goes far beyond the music. We laugh about the same things, and we’re silly in the same ways. When we get together to play, we pick up right where we left off the last time, even years later. The duo format is very special to us, because it’s so intimate; it’s a very lean and exposed setting that allows for a lot of spontaneity and excitement. We’ve made a lot of great music together over the years, and we treasure those experiences. We want to share that enthusiasm with our students.

What are you personally looking forward to the most about being at the festival?

I’ve never visited Italy, so to be that close to the town of Potenza, and to possibly go there will be really exciting! I have close relatives who have been to the Amalfi Coast. I’ve seen their photos, and I’ve been jealous ever since. A few years ago one of my students sent me a photograph he’d taken of the town of Potenza on his family’s trip to Italy. So, a lot of people I know have been there and told me about it, but for me to actually see where my ancestors came from is going to be amazing.

For more information about Frank Potenza click here.

For more information about the 2015 Jazz Workshop and how to apply, click here.


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