Women in Music

Meet Guitar Picker K J Denhert

"K J Denhart"Meet KJ Denhert Musical Wonder from New York , NY

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in music.

I picked up a guitar at age 10 and wrote a tune. There were only four strings left on the guitar- I tuned them so they sounded nice together and made up a song.

What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place? What was the inspiration for your company/project?

I could say that music and musicianship chose me. I enjoy performing my music and exploring arrangements with my band. We’ve been together many years and the time we put in getting to know each other and the music make for an exceptionally gratifying experience as we play effortlessly as though of one mind.

I’ve tried to do other things- I had a career for many years working for Dannon Yogurt- I never stopped writing or performing and eventually it became too much. My day job was the hobby and the music is my vocation. Eight years ago I retired (early retirement) from my day job to devote my complete attention to music.

Let’s talk about Women in Jazz… a little bit about the organization including how and why you became involved.

Joan Cartwright contacted me to do an interview on her radio show – I read a bit about the organization and wanted to support Joan’s efforts so I joined a few days after the interview.

What has been the most profound result of joining WIJ?

I am new to the organization so I imagine some of the best experiences are to come. I was very pleased to learn that my tune had the lead off spot on the first compilation. I was honored to be invited. I am very grateful to have the chance to reach more listeners and WIJSF, and Joan, made that happen. I see it as a gift really.

Tell us about any new projects you have coming up (or recently completed).

I recently completed my 9th album called Album No. 9. It is a collection of tunes mostly from my early childhood, some 60’s pop and Jazz Classics and a few tunes of my own. I had a list of songs that I loved from my parent’s record collection. I’m happy to announce that I have just received two Independent Music Award nominations for this CD!

I have also begun performing with Bassist Jennifer Vincent and we have two shows as a duo coming up. Weekly, when schedules allow, we appear with Nicki Denner on keys

I expect to add more shows in this new trio format as well.

I am writing new material with my band and just added a few songs in St. Barth where I spent the last three weeks performing- so my band remains the ongoing project .

What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

Leaving my day job to return to music as a full time career certainly seemed like a big risk- I left Cornell university in the late seventies to do almost exactly the same thing- so I had said I wasn’t going out on the road again unless it was to do my own music and project. That wound up being exactly what happened. I always feel compelled to say – don’t try this at home. Professional driver on a closed course- as they say in the car commercials – my point is; I didn’t just walk out of either situation- it took planning and managing my finances. I had been performing at the 55 Bar as I do now for years before leaving my day job. I even performed the first two years in St. Barth while still holding down a day job. I made sure that I had no debts and it took me a lot longer to leave my day job than I thought it would. There are days when I think I am crazy and others where I am grateful to have a calling like this.

From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?

I am inspired these days by so many things- sports, movies , books, integrity is the leader. I watched a video about Joan Baez the other day- her commitment to her ideals was truly impressive. I have come to know Jen Chapin here in NY. She has that kind of integrity working for world hunger year, being a mom and performing her songs. I always go out to see what Jen is doing. Another guy that made an impression is vibraphonist Joe Locke, what amazing control he has of his instrument- he inspires me to work harder than I do. His support of what I am doing makes me feel good. I am forever grateful to the musicians I’ve met at Umbria Jazz who have taken the time to encourage me to continue, not the least of which is Dr. Lonnie Smith master of the B3 organ.

What do you do to keep yourself sharp? What one thing have you done in the past year that has made a significant difference in your life/your business?

Acceptance is the key. You’re going along, things get exciting – new venues festivals then one second it all slows down again. I’ve worked at being able to say what I am looking for more honestly. Sometimes I worried too much about other people’s feelings for too long. I still do- I want the musicians playing with me to feel like this is one of the best gigs they have-it sounds silly but I take great pride in the experience that playing this music can be. I wanted people to experience a freedom within the structure of the songs. I just had to remember to ask for what I needed also. That has helped.

What one thing would you like to learn this year?

I must, must, must learn to edit film- I’ve been swearing I would do this for two years now. I think I’m heading back to electric guitar for a little while too. I just received a present of a Goodin electric with a five position switch- I think I’ll be writing with it for the next batch of songs.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I want to be touring with my band- (traveling with a good road manger and guitar tech) meeting artists that inspire me. I want to be working with more film and multimedia independently and as a part of my shows too. I’d welcome any writing project- a musical a soundtrack. Those would be some new horizons to be facing in five years.

What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?

Books, movies, beach not in that order. I used to play golf and tennis and tell myself this year I’ll get back to playing both. Having a day job was so much simpler- trust me all of you folks thinking I’d like to quit my job and do this or that – do it now, don’t wait. You have as many hours in a day as Galileo or anybody else. One amazing realization is how much I got done when I had a day job plus a career as a musician- time is a magically deceptive thing. The day I retired from my day job, driving home I heard this on the radio and I thought uh-oh. “The day I opened my own fishing and tackle store- was the day I stopped going fishing” I took it as a universal warning- one of those coincidences.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I feel very lucky to have found the way to continue to create music for it’s own sake. I have gotten so much inspiration from music throug out my life. My performances and albums give me a chance to present a little happiness, a new perspective or a reason to dance to something funky, this is just a great honor for me. Like the hokey pokey ‘that’s what it’s all about’. Ok go on put y’er left foot in!

What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you?

www.kjdenhert.com and Facebook of course!

 

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