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Music & Life with Daniel Szabo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Daniel Szabo.

Daniel, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I would say, my whole life is about living on and looking for bridges… I am a transplant, coming from Hungary. I had already spent a few years in Boston before coming here to LA; now I live in South Pasadena with my wife & two kids. I relocated to LA (with my newborn daughter & 5-year old son – quite a challenge!) to do my Doctorate at the Thornton School of Music (USC) and to work as a pianist-composer-educator. I am coming from a musician family, my father is a conductor, my mother is a pianist and my younger sister is also a pianist, living in Norway with her classical bassist husband. I like to say that when you have so many musicians in a family, you definitely need therapy 🙂 I started to play the piano at 4, and was lucky enough to be part of a special method, which integrated music & visual arts, and was centered around creativity development, including improvisation & composition. Therefore, instead of starting with some painful sight-reading drills or solfege, I was able to enjoy complete artistic freedom and self-expression from the first moment. In addition, searching for structural analogies and deeper connections between visual artworks, music pieces and sometimes dance was extremely beneficial to me regarding the development of my overall views about arts and life in general! The genre of jazz music also came into the picture at this school, so those years really taught me how to look at things with openness! Here, at USC, I had the chance to work in all my favorite fields: jazz, film scoring, classical music and theory, while studying with some true masters. Film scoring was especially exciting to me as it reminded me of my childhood’s training, in which picture & music embraced one another. One of my mentors was the amazing Thomas Newman whose music is one of my biggest inspirations in this genre.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I started to concertize at an early age, performing free or framed improvisations, pieces from the classical repertory, and jazz. Later on, still in Europe, I had the chance to play and record with numerous notable jazz artists, my albums featured such outstanding artists as the New York-based Chris Potter or Kurt Rosenwinkel. In LA, I started to play and became part of the scene quite soon. I’ve also begun to score documentaries, a few short films, which resulted in a very nice opportunity: I’ve just recently finished scoring a 2-hour long feature movie, directed by American-Romanian director, Andrei Zinca. On the jazz side, at USC, I met and studied, then started to work together with legendary drummer-producer Peter Erskine who played on and co-produced my two latest albums. The most current one, “Visionary” (released by Fuzzy Music, 2019) nicely symbolizes the “bridge-thing” I mentioned above: it’s a tasteful blend of jazz, classical and film music, featuring a stellar lineup! It was mixed & mastered at Igloo Music where “Birdman” or “La la land” was “cooked” too. I love this album because in this music you can hear all sorts of cultural roots, idioms, genres, and the “colors” of different continents! It also connects written & improvised passages. I really don’t like “boxes”, I prefer finding links between different entities! In the meantime, I’m avoiding eclecticism: everything has to be organically unified so that I can acquire a personal tone & style. I’ve been also commissioned to write several symphonic pieces in this 2019/20 season, which is a lot of fun (and work) to do. In the meantime, I am planning to make a new album or two, consisting of my new trio and quintet music. I also teach at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as an Associate Professor. Teaching is a mission kinda thing for me, which I truly enjoy and get inspired by.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
In my world, “interaction” is a keyword. Whether I play in a band or compose music for an ensemble, at some point, actually quite often, we have to get together and to explore, to rehearse, then to perform our repertoire. Jazz is about community, freedom and interaction. As a jazz musician, you can also go to jam sessions to meet people, to play with them and to establish new connections. However, when I compose, for example, a big opus for a large ensemble, this activity might feel a bit lonely sometimes… so usually, I can’t wait for the moment when I can share my new music at a rehearsal!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
In terms of live music, the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo and Sam First near LAX are my favorite jazz venues in LA where I would often perform with my trio, quartet or quintet. I highly recommend these spots to everybody who like jazz as well as for people who would like to explore this adventurous genre! On the other hand, in this coming Spring, my new symphonic piece will be performed by the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra in Long Beach – details TBA. I am very proud of this opportunity as being the winner of the ASCAP/SJO Commissioning Prize! I would also love to recommend two other major performances of another symphonic piece of mine but those concerts will happen in Europe, in Vienna and St. Polten, in February of 2020. Quite far from here…

My albums are available on each common forums, such as iTunes, Amazon, and so on. My website is also regularly updated. You can follow me on several social media sites too as an artist (aka Daniel Szabo) and see my current updates.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Bettina Botos

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