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Brandon Goldberg

Youngest Star of LItchfield Jazz Festival

by Kathryn Boughton

For the first time in 22 years, Vita Muir, executive and artistic director of the Litchfield Jazz Festival, is breaking her own rule. “I have never put one of the young people from the Jazz Camp on the main stage with the orchestra,” she said.

But the prodigious talents of 11-year-old pianist Brandon Goldberg of Miami and his complete lack of nerves when performing, has persuaded Muir to change the rules for once. “I have decided to put him onstage in a controlled situation with the Jazz Festival Orchestra,” she said. “He is so comfortable within his own skin and is an incredibly mature kid.”

It will not be young Brandon’s first appearance in front of a major audience. He has appeared at Jazz at Lincoln Center at the invitation of Monty Alexander, at the Apollo Theater and the Blue Note Jazz Club as the guest of McCoy Tyner, and on Harry Connick Jr.’s Little Big Shots, where he declared, “the idea of performing excites me.”

He also said his favorite genre of music is jazz because it “gives me the freedom to do anything.”

This is not the first time Vita Muir has broken the rules for the prodigy. Normally, the youngest children admitted to the Jazz Camp are 12 years old. But this is already Brandon’s second year.

“I vet the daylights out of the kids who are younger than 12,” said Muir. “I don’t want them to get here and get homesick and want to go home in two days. I spoke to his mother, to Brandon and to Emmet Cohen, a former camper who is out on the road now doing wonderful things. He had actually met Brandon and told me what a wonderful kid he is. Brandon is safe where he is now. He is a child and his mother wants him to stay a child. Appearing with the orchestra will be a controlled experience.”

Like Cohen, Brandon had already found his way to the piano by the time he was 3. But in a TED talk the youngster gave when he had just turned 9, Brandon said he felt his music even before then. “When I was 2, I would sing and play the guitar,” he said, “performing the songs I learned in pre-school for my family.”

When he reached the advanced age of 3 and could finally reach the piano keyboard, the magic began. He started to pick out songs he had heard in school. “My fingers just started moving and that’s how it happened,” he said on Little Big Shots. “When I walk on stage, my hands just get this feeling. When my fingers touch the piano, I feel I can do anything and they just start moving.”

“My taste in music changed quickly and I found a whole new world when I began to listen to Frank Sinatra,” he said. “By watching I was able to learn by ear most of the songs from that time. People say I have an old soul but (I) think it is just good taste in music.”

Brandon’s parents soon realized their son’s potential. “My parents realized I was studying the music and analyzing the songs and their different instruments,” he said. They enrolled him in music lessons.

As he has “aged” he has discovered jazz. He has also started composing and arranging works. “Creating music gives me freedom to do whatever I want,” he said.

Brandon is slated to perform as a special guest August 6th at 12:30 PM under the baton of pianist/arranger Jen Allen. Allen is a pianist, composer, author and educator who frequently performs in New York, the Northeast and in venues throughout the world. She has taught at The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and The University of Hartford, and is currently visiting lecturer at Trinity College and on the piano faculty at Litchfield Jazz Camp.

The 22nd annual Litchfield Jazz Fest will be held at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen August 5th-6th.

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