Music Prodigy Pursues Jazz Dream

Mariel Rossi-deVries, Lifestyle Editor

Hayden Hunt is a musical genius. Since his early childhood, Hunt has been obsessed with the exploration and innovation of music.

“I started playing classical piano when I was 5 and switched to jazz piano my freshman year, and I’ve gotten super into that,” said Hunt. “It influenced a lot of my other music playing. The jazz influence has found its way into my playing of other pop music and my interpretation of choir music and writing more classically based music.”

As a freshman, Hunt was introduced to jazz by Campolindo music instructor Johnny Johnson. At first, Hunt played saxophone, but switched to piano when he found that position was vacant in the school’s jazz band.

Hunt also sings in the school’s chamber choir and has led the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church’s Senior High band since sophomore year. All of these musical obligations have provided Hunt with frequent opportunities to perform. “Performing every week was when I knew I wanted to do [performing and recording] with my life,” said Hunt.

Hunt’s steady improvement has not gone unnoticed by his peers.

“I think he’s improved a lot since I’ve known him, especially with knowing how to approach a new song,” said sophomore Will Grubbs, who has been a classmate of Hunt for many years, and co-led the Senior High band with Hunt during the 2016-2017 school year. “He is so passionate about music and really a perfectionist. He’s super encouraging during all of the rehearsals too,” added Grubbs.

Sophomore Michael Gilmour also plays in the Senior High band. “I’ve played in the band with him at church and I think a lot of that emotional, second level spiritual stuff has come into his piano and singing,” he said.

Grubbs described Hunt’s style as “a mix of jazz and contemporary,” as well as “a lot of contemporary rock and alternative.” Although he has branched out to other instruments, Hunt said that he mainly focuses on piano and singing.

While jazz was not Hunt’s preference early on, it is now his primary interest. “I was kind of forced to do it, that was just how it happened, and then I got super into it and ended up playing at places like the California Conservatory of Jazz. It became a huge part of my life, we’ve been able to play at some jazz festivals and top recording studios,” he said.

One such recording was at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where Journey and Green Day recorded albums. “I got to play in that studio on the piano that Bill Evans, my favorite piano player of all time, recorded an album on with Tony Bennett. So to be able to touch those keys and play on the same piano as the jazz legend was pretty cool,” said Hunt.

“Jazz is definitely a hobby, but its also at the same time a great foundation for going into pop music and having a very wide skill set. I think jazz is definitely the most difficult form of music so anything else is a step down,” said Hunt.

While some view jazz and pop music as distinct genres, Hunt believes that there is room for integrating the different styles together. “It’s been a dream of mine to be a part of that movement and help integrate the deep history of jazz into modern pop music,” said Hunt.

“He focuses a lot of technical stuff but also uses his own inspiration. A lot of what he does is improv,” said Gilmour.

Hunt hopes to one day be a singer and songwriter professionally, and is headed to UCLA to study Music Industry/Technology in the coming year.

During his time in high school, Hunt has not only developed his own music style but has also inspired his younger peers to do the same.

“He’s helped me develop as a musician and being able to create my own sound,” said Gilmour.

Grubbs said that Hayden taught him how to be a good worship leader in Senior High Band. “He’s showed me that the work ethic can get you to a place where you want to be. If you work hard enough you can go anywhere,” Grubbs said.