By Hayley Gibson
Pianist Joel McCray began his classical training at age 5, but that did not stop him from exploring the keys of his family piano at age 2.
McCray’s musical journey came naturally to the Waco native, who believed his hearing overpowered his ability to read music. For McCray, music was simply natural.
The pianist has since explored his musical talents in jazz, gospel, contemporary and R&B music. As an established professional pianist, McCray now dedicates his time to teaching and inspiring students to find that same passion he had at a young age.
“I love seeing someone’s eyes light up and when you stimulate a passion for learning in someone,” McCray said.
McCray said he hopes to see that light this weekend at the inaugural Soul of the City music festival sponsored by The Artist Outreach. The festival will give students an opportunity to play with the pros at a workshop on Saturday, followed by a concert to showcase their talent.
Musicians, dancers and singers are all invited to attend the workshop taught by McCray, saxophonist Joseph Vincelli, trumpeter Byron Swann and pianist Dave Wild.
The workshop will be held at the Waco Convention Center from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday to educate and train students.
At 7:30 p.m. there will be a concert featuring McCray, Vincelli and Yarborough & Peoples, in addition to an opportunity for those who attended the workshops to perform.
Rick Edding, producer of the event, encourages young and aspiring artists to register for the event to gain experience with professionals.
“The workshop is designed for the students to explore creativity and the art of discipline in music,” said Edding, who is also the producer of Black Tie Music Productions.
McCray believes the vision of the Artist Outreach workshop is to challenge students to explore their musical talent beyond their educational knowledge by “stimulating self-expression and creativity through the power of music.”
“Oftentimes one will get into experiencing and learning information, but not finding that inspiration,” McCray said. “We hope to get inside the student to get the things they see out of their system.”
The nonprofit challenges students to go beyond their basic technical training and find creative inspiration that places more meaning in their music.
“We want students to step back and say, ‘Wow, I’m inspired to keep learning because I’ve realized there’s more in me that I want to learn how to get out,’” McCray said.
Applications will be open through today for students from sixth grade through college.
The workshop is free and open to the public, but the concert is a ticketed event.
Tickets for the concert are $25. To purchase a ticket or for more information, contact Edding at 254-749-8758.