Clay Ross ’98 — Artist In Residence at Carnegie Hall

Clay Ross ’98 — Artist In Residence at Carnegie Hall


– You wanna be a musician kids? Music is my passion and I think that if I could
encourage other people to follow their passion, the world would
be a better place. I wasn’t sure that I wanted
to choose a career in music right out of high school, but I saw the
College of Charleston as a place that
encouraged the arts. When I went to college
my freshman year, I had the thought that
I would study psychology and I took a psychology
course and I was amazed at how difficult it was. So I decided that, you know,
anything you do in life you’re gonna have to
put a lot of work into and you should put a lot of work into the thing you love most and then you’ll never feel like
you work a day in your life and that has been
so true in my life. I decided to put all
my energy into music, I’ve worked really
hard at music, and I’ve never worked
a day in my life. I came to New York, I was seeking out musicians. I was running around scrambling, playing restaurant
gigs, you know, for $30. And I met a musician who,
he sort of casually said, oh yeah, I just got
back from Madagascar. And I said you
went to Madagascar? How on earth as a musician, do
you get to go to Madagascar? I said, I wanna do that. And he said, I did
it with a program called Jazz Ambassadors through
the US State Department. I’ve been involved with
this program since 2005 and I’ve been to over
20 countries abroad. We go into underserved
communities, we collaborate with
musicians in these places. And what it is, is a
peace keeping strategy that they’ve implemented
in the State Department. It’s a program that Dizzy
Gillespie was a part of, Louis Armstrong was a part of,
Duke Ellington was a part of. So to be like a part of
this history, this legacy, of amazing American artists that use music as
a form of diplomacy has been a real honor. I love that type of synergy
that I’m able to create with reaching out to communities
and community outreach that really drives me. And I found out
about the programs that they offer here
at Carnegie Hall and it’s much like the
work that I’ve been doing for the last decade with
the State Department. Our most recent project was
at a school called Bronx Hope where we worked with
11 court-involved youth on song writing projects. So we come in with
laptops, we create beats, we create production for them. We bring our instruments and
we create demos with them and we help them literally
from start to finish build their own
album from scratch. Carnegie has the facilities
and the resources to make that happen and it really can be a
life changing experience for the youth. ‘Cause they can
see their talent, they can see a project
start from nothing and go to completion, and
they have something at the end that they can be
really proud of. I think the College of
Charleston is a place where you can access a community and you can access the
support for your own vision. I have access to
excellent composers, excellent music teachers. I feel I have just as
solid a music foundation as any student could get because I pursued it
and I tried to absorb as much of that knowledge
that was available to me. And the College of
Charleston is a place that’s gonna provide you
with that information and that knowledge and guidance. My job is cool because
I’m following my bliss. I’m following my passion. You know some days, I don’t
feel like going to work just like anybody,
but once I get to work and once I get involved
doing the thing that I get to do,
time stands still. And whether you’re a
surfer or a skateboarder, whatever your thing
is that drives you, I’m living inside of it and that’s what I
hope every one of you can find for yourself. (gentle guitar music)

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