As a composer, Bunny composes contemporary classical music as well as jazz and ballads. Her most recent works include Breathe for jazz ensemble, Suite for Sarro for string trio (featured on PATTERNS), Fantasy for Saxophones, (quartet), Fantasy for Brass (quintet), and the suite Two Rivers and An Ocean for mixed percussion ensemble. Her client commissions include arrangements. Bunny holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Music Composition from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
As a pianist, Bunny is heard playing elegant background jazz at restaurants, cocktail lounges and hotels, as well as for corporate and private events, for which she customizes her repertoire to meet the client’s music preferences.
As a recording artist, Bunny’s albums are produced by PARMA Recordings. FROM THE SPIRIT features an array of her compositions performed by the Bunny Beck Jazz Ensemble. ABRAZO, a compilation album of works by American composers recorded in Havana, Cuba includes Bunny’s Jazz Vocal Suite and Jazz Instrumental Suite. Her SOUND TAPESTRIES on Big Round Records features jazz standards played by the Bunny Beck Trio.
Today, Bunny is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover why one night playing a restaurant gig became Bunny’s most unusual performance…
Who was your first favorite artist growing up?
My first favorite artist growing up was my father! He was also my favorite person (other than my kids) until his death at 94! Dad was a self taught banjo and guitar player, who loved to sing the hits of the 20th Century in his wonderful baritone voice. Dad started his own jazz band of 6 instruments when he was 20, and the band played New York hotels and summer resorts. Dad was an instinctive musician, as he couldn’t read music. He should have continued to be a professional musician, but had to support his family!
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I never consciously realized I “wanted to be an artist.” I think it happened organically – just a natural flow. Although trained as a classical pianist from ages 6 to 17, and receiving an excellent music education at High School of Music and Art (now La Guardia) in New York, I just did what came easily to me, and that was to play the piano, and in high school, learn the viola. I’ve always played the piano, and as a teen and a young mother, taught a few piano students, and sometime later, directed community musical theater. I’ve had many non-musical professional careers.
About 18 years ago I began to study jazz theory, harmony, improvisation, scales, rhythm and had the opportunity to informally jam with a professional sax player and bassist. I was working as a psychotherapist, and these guys would come over to the office – I rented a piano for the waiting room, so we’d jam in between clients! I learned a lot from these musicians and also learned as pianist in jazz workshops at The Collective (NY), jazz camp at Eastman, and with a few private teachers. So about 2004, I morphed into a professional jazz pianist and started playing restaurant gigs, which led to corporate and private gigs. I started writing ballads around 2008, but didn’t think of myself as a composer. Not until I had a few PARMA recordings under my belt, composed some contemporary classical music, and received my M.F.A. in Music Composition in 2018, did I realize that I am a serious artist. So I guess the natural flow has led me to this point.
What was your most unusual performance?
Hah! I was playing a steady restaurant gig. A woman and 2 men sat at a nearby table, dining, chatting, and apparently enjoying the music because they applauded, and several times each man would come over to the piano, compliment my playing and make musical requests. (And they tipped well!) Well! The next morning I got an angry phone call from the restaurant owner, who said that the woman had furiously complained that she had “had an allergic reaction” to my perfume!! “Omg” I said. “Is she in the hospital?” I innocently asked. (No, no hospitalization.) Anyway, I never again wore perfume to a gig – just in case!
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
I love composing music, and aside from gigging, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. Making a living at it is another issue.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I love Italy and would like to study composition there and be immersed in the kind of music I love. I’d also love to tour the villages of Romania to hear their wonderful brass bands. Those experiences would be tremendously inspirational for me.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
The organ. I love the massive organ sounds. Since November 2018, I’ve been taking organ lessons from a great teacher. The local Episcopal church kindly allows me to practice and have lessons on their lovely pipe organ. It’s a challenging instrument to learn because of the pedaling and the significant differences from playing the piano. But I love it, and am transported into a blissful zone of concentration. I do hope to compose for the organ – hopefully by the end of this year.
Suite for Sarro on PATTERNS is now available for streaming or purchase through Navona Records. Click here to explore this new album.