Home > About > News and Events > News Releases > News Releases 2005 > A Master Class with Jazz Pianist Bill Mays at Moravian
News Releases

A Master Class with Jazz Pianist Bill Mays at Moravian

Public invited to sit-in as Mays puts Moravian jazz players through their paces

Bethlehem, Pa., November 30, 2005—The jazz program at Moravian College’s will sponsor a master class featuring jazz pianist Bill Mays on Friday, January 20, at 1 p.m. in Foy Concert Hall. Mays returns to Moravian where he shared the stage last summer with jazz great Bud Shank at the 2005 July Jazz Getaway. The master class format will allow the audience to see Mays up-close and personal in a non-performance setting, providing instruction to student performers. A number of Moravian College students will have the opportunity to perform before Mays and receive expert instruction. Admission to the master class is free and open to the public.

Mays is well-recognized also as a composer and arranger. He has written many pieces for his own recordings and for other artists. The Aureole chamber ensemble, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Percy Faith Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Morgana King, Shelly Manne, Mark Murphy, Bud Shank, Marvin Stamm, Lew Tabackin, Turtle Creek Chorale and Phil Woods have all featured his work. Mays has published several books of his compositions, the most popular titled, The Bill Mays Songbook, which features 12 of his original pieces.

The artist was born William Allen Mays into a musical Californian family on February 5, 1944. His father, a minister, played several instruments and introduced his son to gospel music at an early age. Mays mastered the piano as a youngster and also learned to play baritone horn and trumpet in junior high school. His love for jazz began at the age of 16 when he attended a concert by Earl “Fatha” Hines.

His professional music career began when he became a U.S. Navy bandsman the following year. He spent a year at the Naval School of Music in Washington, D.C. and completed his Navy duty in four years. After his discharge, he returned to California where he played with several groups and began to compose. Mays moved to Los Angeles in 1969, studying under Victor Aller and playing with notable jazz musicians like Shank, Buddy Collette, and Art Pepper. He was also a long time member of the Bobby Shew Quintet. During this period of his career, Mays explored many techniques and styles while taking advantage of the opportunities that came his way, for example playing clarinet in a large ensemble accompanying Frank Zappa.

Mays hard work and talent gained him a foothold in the film industry also. While working in Hollywood he met jazz greats like Benny Golson and J.J. Johnson and accompanied renowned vocalists like Sarah Vaughn in live performances. In 1984, he released his first album as a leader and moved to New York. There he honed his craft still further and worked side by side with some of the jazz world’s best artists.

In 1999 Mays began an affiliation with Palmetto Records, and released three CDs as part of the Bill Mays Trio under the Palmetto label. In addition to playing with the trio, he performs and records as a solo pianist, in a duo with trumpeter Marvin Stamm, and as part of a Sextet. He has recently performed with the Toronto Chamber Jazz Septet in classical/jazz crossover concerts.

Foy Hall is located on Moravian’s Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus, at the corner of Main and Church Streets. For more information, call 610-861-1650.