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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by Alaska Airlines and BECU.

School of Jazz guest DJ for July: Ryan Hsi


Pianist Ryan Hsi from Mercer Island High School in Seattle will join Abe Beeson as virtual guest DJ tonight (July 1) on Evening Jazz. He is in the school's jazz band and will start his junior year in the fall.

Which instrument do you play and why?
I play the piano, clarinet and drums, but I mainly play the piano. I began playing when I was 7, and as time went on, I became more and more drawn to the piano. First of all, it’s such a versatile instrument. You can play in any situation, from solo to trio to big band. Also, I’m a very visual person so I like that I can see the keys in front of me and what exactly I’m playing. I enjoy composing, so having the ability to accompany myself in the left hand and play melodies in the right hand makes songs sound more complete and whole. Ultimately, there’s just something so satisfying about sitting down at the piano and being able to express myself in a multitude of different ways.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
My all-time favorite jazz song is probably "Ceora" from Lee Morgan’s album Cornbread, one of the first jazz standards I ever played. It’s such a relaxing and smooth bossa tune. One of my favorite parts of the song is Herbie Hancock’s solo. He plays simple and elegant lines that reflect the same soothing vibe as the melody. Also, Lee Morgan is an amazing trumpeter. He has a crisp, natural and soulful style that is a big part of the reason why this is my favorite recording.

Who is your jazz hero?
My jazz hero is Joey Alexander. Ever since I met him when he played his original composition "City Lights" here on KNKX four years ago, I’ve been inspired by him. In his improvisation, he can play anything from full chordal movements to lightning-fast single-note runs. On top of that, he’s only 17. Seeing what someone around my age is capable of on the piano motivates me to continue playing and get better.

Why jazz?
Recently with the pandemic, I’ve come to reflect on the importance of jazz and music in my life. I realized that jazz is something I’ve relied on for as long as I’ve been playing it. It serves as a palette through which I can express my emotions and relieve my stress. Jazz has also allowed me to form new relationships with others who are just as passionate as I am about music. I think some of the most useful lessons jazz has taught me and reinforced are the importance of communication and creativity. When I play in a combo situation, it’s necessary to communicate non-verbally during the song. When I improvise, I need to be able to adapt and spontaneously come up with ideas. These are not only crucial in jazz but also applicable to my everyday life. Jazz has given to me in so many ways which is why I love it.


"Ceora" Lee Morgan (Cornbread)

"Just Friends" Charlie Parker (Charlie Parker with Strings)

"Tones for Joan's Bones" Duke Pearson (Now Hear This)

"Got a Match?" Chick Corea (Chick Corea Elektric Band)

"My Funny Valentine" Miles Davis (Cookin')

"Seeker" Hiromi (Alive)

"City Lights" Joey Alexander (City Lights)

Subscribe to Ryan's YouTube channel.
Follow Ryan on Instagram @r.h.music_