Music really lives here

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Tim Mayer “Music really lives here”

Tim Mayer was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, grew up near Portland, Oregon, and finished high school in San Luis Obispo, California. He learned music in elementary school and joined the school band. Mayer originally played the clarinet but at age 10, he switched to the saxophone.

He graduated from Occidental College in 1988, and later attended a great jazz program at Mt. Hood Community College near Portland, Oregon. Between 1993-1996, Tim attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a member of their faculty from 2001 to 2014.

In 2005, Harry Schroeder brought Mayer and Jerry Seeco to Key West to play with the Paradise Big Band. Tim had a lot of fun and returned the next year for a longer stay and a few extra gigs. The visits became more frequent. He continued to play with a variety of musicians, making great friends and becoming an integral part of the Paradise Big Band.

Mayer appreciates the way music is really valued in Key West which helps to inspire creativity and bring people together. He says there is more music per capita in Key West than anywhere in the country. When visiting Key West, Tim always tries to host a clinic or lecture for the Bahama Village Music Program and the Key West High School. He feels the best way to learn is from the actual experience of live performance and hands-on exposure to high quality music. While growing up, Tim’s schools regularly exposed him to symphonies, concerts, and big bands. By the time that he graduated from high school, he had seen Count Basie twice and also a number of the big bands.

He feels children in Key West are more inquisitive and interested in music. Many of the local stars today, such as Robert Albury, Caffeine Carl Wagoner, Clayton Lopez, Paulie Walterson, Cliff Sawyer, and the late Coffee Butler, all came from families with musicians and were exposed to music and nurtured early in life.

The Berklee School of Music in Boston kept renewing Mayer’s annual contract but reducing his hours. In 2014, he was offered a position teaching jazz at the University of Vera Cruz in Xalapa, Mexico. Mayer is fluent in Spanish and the universal language of music. It was a very young program and he was able to contribute quite a bit with the students responding very positively. The school’s jazz program has become very well known throughout the nation. The size of the program grew from 120 jazz students to over 270 students by the time Tim left the program in 2020.

Mayer left the teaching program to continue working on new music and productions. One of his fellow professors, Gunther Schuler, composed a third stream of music between jazz and classical. He influenced Tim to leave teaching and start working on a Master’s degree in jazz composition. Mayer finished his dissertation, graduating with honors as COVID was shutting down the world. He currently produces music in his home studio, recording music, writing new music and arranging music for bands and orchestras.

Tim is familiar with our changing of the guard in the music scene. His early mentor Harry Schroeder has retired from performing, as have others. He has started to gig with some of the younger performers like Ross Brown and Channing Lynn and loves working with the newer players coming up.

Mayer has released a new jazz fusion album on Conch Town Records titled Island Time. The songs, “Arrival Lounge”, “Duval By Night”, “Monday Night Madness” and “Departure Lounge”, are related to an experience of visiting Key West.

He writes and performs music for a Hawaiian band, traveling to Honolulu twice a year. He has a gig in South Korea later this year. He’s also part of the house band at the Tennessee Williams Theater and will be performing with Paradise Big Band on March 24.

When Tim lands at the Key West Airport, he frequently takes a cab directly to Virgilio’s or another gig. No matter what was on his mind during his flight, it vanishes. When he arrives at the gig, he plays better than he has played in months and is filled with complete joy. This happens every time, and only, in Key West. Tim says, “The music really lives here. It resonates and reaches people in a way that it doesn’t in other places.”

When playing elsewhere, he usually goes home after the gig. When a gig ends in Key West, Tim usually goes to listen to another player or sit in at another gig. The night is usually topped off with a bike ride home through the cool night air, and his heart filled with the evening’s rhythms and melodies.



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