Jazz musician to give Davidson Day a new sound
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – The halls of Davidson Day School may sound more like the hit show “Glee’s” McKinley High School this fall.
Davidson Day hired jazz musician Noel Freidline last month to expand the upper school’s music department. As upper school music director Freidline said he plans to develop a program that resembles “Glee meets School of Rock, with a heavy dose of digital technology and a sprinkling of music theory.”
“I think there’s a lot of talent out there that doesn’t fit into a traditional musical program,” Freidline said. “I want to see how we can do something to keep a traditional band program and augment it to include kids whose talents lie outside of music traditionally taught in school.”
Freidline comes from a jazz background. He said hearing jazz pianist David Brubeck’s albums as a child drew him into the musical world. His mother had to call a number of music teachers in his small town near Wichita, Kan., before finding someone who could teach him the style on piano.
“That record really opened my world, but there was nobody there to show me how to play it,” he said.
He eventually found a jazz teacher, and Freidline has gone on to become an accomplished pianist, vocalist and composer. He was named Charlotte Magazine’s Best Jazz Musician in 2006, and Metrolina Theatre Association of the Carolinas named him Best Musical Director in 2009. He recently completed a gig playing piano for the Broadway production “Jersey Boys” when the musical came through Charlotte and he often participates in the Charlotte Symphony’s contemporary concerts.
He also fronts the Noel Freidline Quintet, whose 2002 song “Four Nights at the Slammer” stayed on national jazz radio charts for 12 weeks. Television viewers who have recently tuned into Monday Night Football, the NBA All-Star Game and SportsCenter may have heard some of his featured work.
While jazz may be his first love, he said his personal musical repertoire really has no bounds. His father is a country pianist – “we used to rush home from the local A&W to catch ‘Hee Haw’ on TV,” he said – so he’s learned to appreciate a diverse range of music.
“Duke Ellington is famous for saying ‘There are only two kinds of music – good and bad,’” Freidline said. “I’m a fan of good music.”
Freidline said he envisions the school’s program will offer classes not typically found in a high school music programs that teach newer concepts such as digital music technology and online music marketing.
“If you’re going to market your music today it has to be on YouTube,” he said.
In addition to classical composers, the program will explore styles of music that have risen to popularity since 1945 – when rhythm and blues began to take root in America. Students also will study international music, which – as with the music from Indian Bollywood-style films such as “Slumdog Millionaire” – has become more accessible to Americans online.
“Everyone has access to it now,” Freidline said. “There’s a lot of really cool, innovative music coming from other countries.”
Students may find themselves playing anything from ‘80s new wave to ‘60s R&B and classic rock. Davidson Day Head of School Bonnie Cotter said she looks forward to the sounds that will be coming out of the revamped department.
“We have been searching for someone like Noel for a couple of years because we really want to take our music program into an expanded direction,” Cotter said. “If kids are listening to iPods and music all the time, why aren’t they creating music? We want to appeal both to classical musicians and others who have music in their heart and soul and don’t have a way to express it.”