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Carving out her own sound

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Famed jazz pianist Mary Ancheta was just 13-years-old when she started playing in front of live audiences at venues in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.

And this weekend for the first time ever she will be performing for jazz lovers in Hamilton, Bermuda, alongside the Giant Steps Band at the ‘Caravan to Cuba' fundraising concert.

The talented musician will be sharing the stage at the Earl Cameron Theatre in City Hall with a host of other local artists, including Latosha Codrington, Darlene Hartley and Mitchell Trott, on Saturday at 7.30pm.

“I have heard lots of good things about Bermuda and I am very excited to make it over there,” Ms Ancheta told The Royal Gazette.

“I think there will be some real first-class musicians on stage and I am playing five songs, including a composition by a fellow Canadian, a pop hit by Neil Young, but the Bossa Nova version which changes the feel.”

Born in Canada, Ms Ancheta's parents were both originally from the Philippines, which she describes as “a very musical culture”.

“My sister who is a couple of years older than me was playing the piano and I just started playing by ear. I just sort of picked it up from there and started taking lessons later on,” she said.

“I realised I wanted to take my music serious and decided to study it at university to take it one step further.

“I went to McMaster University and wanted to have more of a trained background, in so much as you can be, to go into music.”

One thing she has learned about the music industry over the past five years is that no matter how well trained you are there will always be someone who does something different or better than you.

The key is to learn as much as you possibly can and try to find your niche in the business, she said.

“It's not enough to want to study your instrument and what you love doing now,” Ms Ancheta explained. “I think it's looking at the industry as well to see how you can contribute and carve out your own sound.

“Myself I enjoy jazz, soul and electronica. I enjoy live performances and creating original compositions for film and television.”

During her professional career, Ms Ancheta has seen her music featured on shows like “America's Next Top Model” and Showtime's “The L Word”.

She said she couldn't pick just one composition she was most proud of and admitted she has been happy to some measure with every piece put out.

For her the biggest joy that comes with composing songs for the big and small screen is being in the same company as other great musicians that she respects, she said.

Another perk of the job is getting to travel to far off parts of the globe.

Ms Ancheta has spent the past year or two touring throughout the Far East, in places like Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Shanghai, China.

“I would say for sure there are differences when performing in that part of the world,” she said. “When I was in Shanghai that was my first time performing in China.

“I found the audience was a little more reserved and they don't express much emotion, even when they do enjoy it, although they may tell you afterwards.

“Also I found generally in Asia that the people really appreciate music, but like their traditional songs.

“It depends on where you are, but in Shanghai, even though I am not Chinese, they would still request the popular Chinese songs.

“When you are in someone else's country and someone requests it enough times you start to learn those songs and people appreciate that.”

Journeying to different parts of the world has also taught her the importance of adaptability.

She said: “You realise that different countries are exposed to different things, for instance in China they can't access YouTube and all this, so they are listening to different things than people in North America.

“I did some gigs with a quartet and my ATC Trio in Qatar and Dubai in the Middle East, and that was different as a female going over there and performing.

“In one instance they asked me if I was actually pretending to play the piano because they have never seen a female play.

“They don't have those opportunities over there. It was kind of nice to be able to represent females and for them to see such things were possible for women.”

To see Ms Ancheta in action at the “Caravan to Cuba” concert, you can purchase tickets for $50 at the Music Box in Hamilton.

Other performers include The Dragon Girls, Elca Maranzana, Ricky Spence, The Filipino Dancers and Sheila Smith.

The fundraiser event will be followed by an after-party at Margarita's Grill on Bermudiana Road.

For more information, contact Dale Butler at 505-3409 or daledbutler@gmail.com.

Canadian jazz pianist Mary Ancheta (Photo by Ron Filio)
Canadian jazz pianist Mary Ancheta (Photo by Maria Petersen)
Canadian jazz pianist Mary Ancheta (Photo by Maria Petersen)
Canadian jazz pianist Mary Ancheta (Photo by Ron Filio)
Canadian jazz pianist Mary Ancheta (Photo by Maria Petersen)

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Published October 30, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 30, 2013 at 9:16 am)

Carving out her own sound

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