Eric Hirsh

pianist, composer, producer

I Have Been Invited To Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute

April 24, 2014 by Eric | 2 Comments

I recently received the most surprising, amazing phone call  – I have been invited to participate in a one week long jazz workshop with other young, rising jazz talents at the Chicago area’s famous Ravinia Festival! This is the kind of thing that you can’t even apply for – industry folks nominate you and…well, you ‘get the call.’

The full name of the program is Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI), which has been nuturing artists for over 25 years . Me and umpteen other artists will gather for one week under the guidance of an amazing faculty, learn each others’ latest compositions, and perform at the festival on Friday June 20th. I’ve already worked under two of the faculty at the 2009 Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Institute – Dr. Nathan Davis (saxophone) and Art Blakey’s legendary trombonist, Curtis Fuller. I hope they both remember me. Rounding out the faculty are David Baker, a hardworking figure in jazz education (especially composition and arranging) and none other than Rufus Reid on bass.

I am humbled, honored, and excited to take part in the RSMI this year. And I know I could not have gotten to a place in my artistic career such that the ‘right folks’ would take notice if it hadn’t been for the Durham music scene, all of my wonderful colleagues, and especially my bandmates in The Beast, Orquesta GarDel, New Music Raleigh, and Shana Tucker. Thank you, thank all of you so much. It takes a village to raise an artist. That’s a Hillary Clinton thing, right?





October 3, 2013 by Eric | 3 Comments

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the best decision of my life so far – to embark on the sacred journey of marriage with Lauren Ann Schlenger Hirsh. Early  in our courtship, Lauren gifted me a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 classic, The Prophet. Part of her inscription to me reads “Few books have touched me so deeply as The Prophet. The very act of reading Gibran’s words is like uttering a prayer. It has been the same way with loving you.” We carried this idea of poetry-as-prayer forward a few years, when preparing for our wedding ceremony. Though Lauren is not a musician by training, she has the soul of one (and is certainly a gifted artist in other media). We thought it would be both fun and meaningful to compose a song together for the ceremony, and it became obvious rather quickly that we should set some of our favorite parts of The Prophet to music (specifically, excerpts from “On Love” and “On Marriage”).

So many aspects of our lives were woven together in this collaboration. To this day I maintain that we truly did co-compose as equals, with me suggesting ideas for the rhythmic and melodic trajectories of text at the piano, and Lauren giving lots of feedback on those choices. We wrote the song for three (count ’em, three!) sopranos, as both of my sisters, Rachel and Rebekah, are lovely singers, as well as my college BFF, Catherine Jones. Another college friend, Yuri Broze, played piano at the ceremony, while Lauren and I stood watching, teary eyed, in front of my parents’ farmhouse in rural Chapel Hill on a beautiful fall day in October of 2009. A few months later, I brought Rachel, Rebekah, and Catherine into the profoundly magical acoustic space of Zenph founder John Q Walker’s recital hall to make a recording of this composition for posterity. But I have been sitting on the raw tracks for years, never finding time to mix and master the performance.

So, Lauren, today I gift you with the completion and publication of our first, but definitely not last, song together. We titled it “Orphalese,” for the city from which the prophet delivers parting words of wisdom to his community.

Here is the audio:

And for all you music-types out there, here is the score, should you want to study it or even perform it. On a professional note, I think this is some of my better arranging and engraving for classical piano. So far at least. I am ever a student of the craft.

Download (PDF, 195KB)

Love you, babe! Happy anniversary!

So Many September Shows!

September 9, 2013 by Eric | 0 comments

I am so excited for this particular month. It is chock full of great performances, and I get to play in no less than five configurations, from solo jazz piano, to singer-songwriter, to orchestral hip hop ensemble. Highlights include The Beast + Big Band opening for the great Nnenna Freelon, and a short tour with sister-from-another-mister Shana Tucker.

Here are all of the shows, grouped by artist and then date. Hope to see you at one of these!

Eric Hirsh Quartet  

Date City Venue
09/13/13 Eric Hirsh Quartet in Durham The Carrack
Time: 6:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 111 West Parrish Street.
Solo jazz piano set at a gallery opening for Gabe Eng-Goetz.
09/26/13 Eric Hirsh Quartet in Durham Durham Centre Plaza
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 300 W. Morgan Street.
Eric Hirsh Quartet at The BIG, a potentially-record-breaking community networking rooftop party.

The Beast  

Date City Venue
09/06/13 The Beast in Raleigh North Carolina Museum of Art
Time: 5:30pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Come for The Beast, stay for the wine and tapas.
09/14/13 The Beast in Raleigh Duke Energy Center
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 2 East South Street.
The Beast + Big Band opens for Nnenna Freelon

Orquesta GarDel  

Date City Venue
09/21/13 Orquesta GarDel in Raleigh Latin Quarters
Time: 10:00pm. Admission: $15. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 7335 Six Forks Rd.
Mojito Night
09/28/13 Orquesta GarDel in Durham Rock Quarry Park
Time: 12:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages.

Shana Tucker  

Date City Venue
09/15/13 Shana Tucker in Wilmington Thalian Hall
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: $14/$22/$28. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 310 Chestnut St.
09/27/13 Shana Tucker in Greensboro Greensboro College
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $10. Age restrictions: All Ages.
09/28/13 Shana Tucker in Roxboro Kirby Cultural Arts Complex
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $8-$20. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 213 North Main Street.

Emily Musolino  

Date City Venue
09/21/13 Emily Musolino in Durham CenterFest Arts Festival
Time: 1:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 120 Morris St.
First time backing this awesome soul/r&b singer songwriter. At The Herald Sun Stage.

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As A Sideman

August 1, 2011 by Eric | 0 comments

If you ever find yourself looking at the discography of a jazz artist, you’ll often see at least two sublists: “as a leader” and “as a sideman.”  The second list is usually longer, as this reflects the way in which a musician makes his living and cuts his teeth.  In my case, my musical life outside of technology research consists of little-to-no freelancing and two ensembles which of which I am an equal member or a leader.  So, my sideman list is nonexistent.  It’s more a tongue-in-cheek sort of game: I’m certainly not evaluating my career-to-date based on a certain amount of music commodities.  But you know how your LinkedIn profile “is 83% complete and will be 86% complete if only you would add some Interests and Hobbies?”  Well, now my musician profile gets another 2% because I am finally a sideman!

Two projects, two Durham-based artists whom I deeply admire and respect.

First up, Greg Humphreys explored some new territory on his latest album People You May Know by writing some songs in jazz-influenced, Tin Pan Alley style.  Greg called on me, Pete, and Steve to come to his basement on a frigid winter afternoon to track entirely live into some old ribbon microphones, myself on a beat-up Great Lakes upright with sticky keys.  Talk about an authentic production process!  Of the two tracks we did with Greg, my favorite is the ballad, “Must Be The Moon.”  I just wish we could have had Lester Young noodling in the background.


Around the time I was tracking for Greg’s album, another Durham bright light was releasing hers.  Shana Tucker, singer/songwriter/guitarist/cellist asked me to play on the title track of her debut album, SHiNE.  Ever since she moved to the area from New York, we had been itching to work together.  Shana and I teamed up recently to co-arrange and co-teach some songs to a new all-star youth choir in Chapel Hill.  More on that soon.  In the meantime, here is the hauntingly simple “Shine.”


Please support Greg and Shana by visiting their websites and purchasing their great music!

Top Five Artists Whose Work I WishTo Explore Deeply in 2010

December 27, 2009 by Eric | 0 comments

Over a year ago I wrote a post about my top 10 favorite albums, mostly with a metric of personal fondness more than any sort of aesthetic consideration. As I look ahead to 2010, I see a very busy technologist (researching instruments for Zenph Sound Innovations) and bandleader (with The Beast and Orquesta GarDel) and new-husband (hi, Lauren!).  I want to make sure I am never too far from my deep passion for the arts, that need to appreciate and explore music, soaking it all up and seeing what sticks in the end.  There are a few artists in particular whose work and whose real-life struggles and philosophies have struck a chord with me, yet I’ve not yet had the time to get to know their music.  So in the spirit of end-of-year listmaking, here are my top five artists to get to know better in 2010.

5. King Tubby

Who knew that a sound engineer from Jamaica would have such a significant influence on electronic and hip hop musics?  Mixing (and re-mixing) as an art form, I love the delay-drenched sound of dub music, and it’s high time I take an in depth survey of one of the great pioneers.

4. John Hollenbeck

He is being called a modern jazz master.  With a prodigious output ranging from big band to chamber music to experimental improvisation, I identify with a lot of Hollenbeck’s contrapuntal/ostinato/polyrhythmic concepts and look forward to studying them.

3. Darius Milhaud

I love this guy, there is something fun about a French composer ahead of his own time falling in love with jazz and the music of Brazil.  What’s his take on it?  Let’s listen to La creation du monde and find out!

2. Astor Piazolla

I suspect one could spend a lifetime studying the music of this tango innovator.  He tried to write “proper” classical music, was ashamed of his jazzy tangos until Nadia Boulanger chided him for not being true to himself.  The rest was history, I suppose.  Such a fantastic combination of heart-string romanticism with improvisation with exacting composition, and I can still appreciate that it is based on music of the people, music for dancing.

1. Charles Ives

I’ve been told on occasion that my career path and my music remind people of Charles Ives.  How is it that an insurance salesman could conjure such poignant images of American life in such quirky compositions?  Again, a man ahead of his time.  I cried a bit when I heard “The Things Our Fathers Loved” from 114 Songs as well as “The Unanswered Question.”  I also look forward to reading a collection of his essays and other writings.


Wayne Shorter, Fela Kuti, Bob Dylan, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Nas

New music posted!

January 15, 2009 by Eric | 0 comments

It pleases me to announce that I have reformatted the music page on my website and uploaded tons of new music for your listening pleasure.  Well, maybe not tons, but something from each of my major projects in 2008.  It feels good to have an up-to-date representation of my artistic journey, and I look forward to sharing the results with you.  I suppose I should re-code with a really interesting Flash player, but I kind of like the old-school html links and that you can download hi-res mp3s if you wish.

Of all of the new things you will find on the music page (jazz compositions, an electronica piece, tracks from The Beast and Orquesta GarDel), I am most proud of “Reach Me.” It is the most involved classical piece I have written to date: an 8-movement song cycle for soprano and tenor.  While I spent many hours in my room developing motives, dealing with a notated piano accompaniment (I’m a jazz guy! we just make it up!), the creative essence of the piece came from collaborating with some of my great friends from the UNC Music Department.  We had dinners together – composer, lyricist, pianist, and vocalists – and talked about what piqued our curiosity, what troubled us about the human condition.  Katherine Lloyd came back with an unexpected set of lyrics about love, fear, and cell phones.  Initial musical ideas where developed through improvisation, aided by wine and Tootsie rolls.  We ended up with something resembling more of a musical theatre piece: my job was more to give life to two characters than to use post-tonal harmonies and abstract structural ideas to assign meaning.  Patrick Massey, Rachel FitzSimons, and Katie Cole premiered “Reach Me” at Patrick’s senior recital in April of 2008, and we recorded it at Zenph a few weeks later.  Collaboration, friendship, open participation, improvisation, musical exploration, music as healing, these are things I love about being a musician.

I invite you to find some time to listen to the whole 15-minute piece if you can.  Close your eyes if you wish, you can almost see the two lovers running around the city.  And of course, let me know what you think of any of this music, criticism is most welcome.

Speaking of songwriting, The Beast is currently rehearsing before we go into the studio to start tracking our first full length album next Thursday!  This will be the first time I get to work at a professional studio (as opposed to self- or home- recording), and I will write about that process as the date nears.