Bassist with Musical Roots at Tri-C Preparing for Studies at Juilliard

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Jazz musician Devin Starks, who honed his chops on upright bass in Tri-C’s Jazz Studies program, is off to The Julliard School this fall to join the elite conservatory’s master’s program for jazz performance.

Starks, a 2010 graduate of Cleveland School of the Arts, participated in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Program (PSEOP) at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®). He will earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the New School in New York this spring, and has been living and performing in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Tri-C gave me everything to go out and play with whoever, whatever gigs I needed to play,” said Starks. “Last summer, I played in with this trumpet player, Charles Tolliver. We played with this big band at the Blue Note with McCoy Tyner. That was by far one of the most exciting gigs.”

Starks played piano as a child in Cleveland Heights before diving into bass studies as a seventh-grader at Tri-C’s Saturday non-credit music classes – what’s known now as the Performing Arts Academy. In 2005, he joined Tri-C’s summer music camp, Summer with the Jazz Masters, and quickly demonstrated unique talent.

“He’s made to play the bass,” said Stephen Enos, director of Tri-C’s Jazz Studies program. “Just the way he’s built – his hands are huge. But the thing that separated him from other students was his keen insight. He was mature for his age. And his ability to swing – he’s got a really mature sound on bass.”

Starks studied bass with Tri-C faculty member Demetrius Steinmetz, and studied piano with Clevelander Jackie Warren. Enos noted that as a PSEOP student, Starks followed curriculum set forth by the transfer agreement between Tri-C and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Starks first was accepted into Berklee’s undergraduate program, then the New School honored the Tri-C/Berklee conditions.

Starks said his Tri-C training “was really the preparation for being a professional musician. All the people who were teaching the ensembles were at the same time hiring us (students) for gigs. It was one big thing, where they taught us how to perform. But also, at that age, I didn’t know anything so I learned everything from how to dress to little gig-etiquette things. Musically, they taught me everything I need to know.”

This July, he’s touring with saxophonist Matteo Sabattini in Italy. And he’s thrilled to begin his Juilliard studies.

“I’m trying to write a lot more music recently, and I have a band,” he said.

“Starting now and as I go to Juilliard, I’m going to push to make that band successful.”

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