Pianist Geoffrey Dean grew up in the Washington, DC area playing classical piano, and did not originally set out to make a career in music. Having studied communications, he worked at NBC Sports for a little while, but he was also teaching music lessons on the side; and eventually he realized the latter was the path he wanted to follow. He remembers playing “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin as an experience that piqued his interest in jazz in particular.
Dean went on to earn several music degrees, starting with a bachelor’s in performance at Berklee College of Music. Following this he pursued his master’s in jazz studies at University of Tennessee, where he was mentored by Donald Brown, a former member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (a group whose lineup has featured such legends as Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea). “He [Brown] basically gave me all the tools I needed to be a jazz musician,” says Dean.
After earning his doctorate in piano performance from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dean relocated to Charleston in late 2019. “I just wanted to play where people are nice, and the weather is nice, and the food is good, and people embrace the arts,” says Dean. “I love the South in general. I’m impressed with the amount of talent here. Every time I think I’ve figured out who everyone is, I find some other person I haven’t discovered yet.”
Though Dean himself is in an electronic music duo, he does have something to say about music in a digital world. While he notes that social media has allowed small-time musicians to achieve exposure more easily than in the past, he believes the organic nature of live shows is unparalleled. “There’s a certain human aspect of music that a place like [Forte] has to offer,” he says. “I think people need a little humanity, and they’re looking for it somewhere.”
Geoffrey Dean will be playing at Forte Jazz Lounge on Saturday Sept. 5.
Find more about Geoffrey Dean and his music on Instagram at @imdopegetaddicted or on his website www.barakamakesmusic.com.