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Meet Daniel Seeff of Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz and KJAZZ 88.1 FM

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

Daniel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have been playing music and multiple instruments since I was five years old. I grew up in Maryland in a suburb of Washington, DC. After college in New York, I moved back to DC where I played in bands and started working at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (now the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz).

I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years later and began touring with different groups in all different styles of music and also began working the great producer DJ Khalil, with whom I still work today. Over the years, the Institute’s work has changed and expanded, and I have to develop many of the programs including the Institute of Jazz Performance now based at UCLA. Through the Institute I have been able to help many young musicians get exposed to jazz and develop their careers.

I have also been lucky to interact with some of my musical heroes including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter, with whom I have studied upright bass. It’s really incredible to be able to ask them questions about the music they have made and learn about their experiences first-hand. As a musician, I have traveled around the world performing and have recorded for Anderson Paak, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Aloe Blacc through my work with DJ Khalil and also with Cypress Hill and GZA of the Wu Tang Clan in session with DJ Muggs.

Last year, I was asked by KJazz 88.1 FM, the LA jazz radio station, to create a hip-hop and jazz radio show, which I think is the only one of its kind in the world. I play hip-hop tracks that sample from jazz alongside the jazz recordings they sample and interview jazz and hip-hop artists.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
All of the work I have done and I’m doing has challenges. There are bumps in the road along the way. Things often don’t go as planned, and you just adjust and make the best of each situation. But I have very little to complain about, and I am grateful for the life I have. If I could go back in time ten or twenty years and visit myself and tell myself what the future holds, my past self wouldn’t believe it.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz and KJAZZ 88.1 FM. Tell us more about the business.
The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz is a non-profit educational organization with music programs around the world. The Institute produces an annual competition, presents International Jazz Day with UNESCO at different city around the world each year, and presents jazz education outreach programs around the country for students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to study music.

Much of my work is with the Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA, where one ensemble of advanced jazz musicians study in a full-scholarship masters program. They learn from legendary artists like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Christian McBride, and many others. It is the leading program of its kind in the world and is internationally recognized.

As a musician, I have toured, performed and recorded in all different settings. Some of the highlights include co-writing Aloe Blacc’s “The Man,” which reached number six on the Billboard charts, recording and co-writing with Anderson Paak and writing and performing on a song that was featured in the Golden Globe-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Excursions, my radio show on KJazz, is the only radio show of its kind in the world. The show focuses on the connection between hip-hop and jazz and features both styles of music and special guests.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I have been lucky, but I have also put in a lot of hard work, so I think my life have been a combination of both.

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