Holger Marjamaa: a dreamer who works hard

26. April 2013

Each year Jazzkaar gives out award of Young Jazz Talent. Its aim is to acknowledge a young musician who has achieved something remarkable. . This year the award went to 20-year old Holger Marjamaa, who recently released an album “Message/Serenade” with his band Holger Marjamaa Chamber Ensemble.

Interview by Maarja Hindoalla.

To top the album off, he is already working towards the release of Marjamaa Brother’s debut album and is planning to travel to United States to record with Kevin Walker. Holger’s hopes that the joy of making music never disappears from him.

What does this award mean to you?
It was a great surprise, obviously. I am very happy indeed that I was chosen! This means I can continue recording my album. It is special as it is a jazz award. I have received prizes in classical music field, but the Young Jazz Talent award shows that I have achieved something in both genre. Awards are handy and needed, especially for young musicians. I think young ones need encouragement as this gives them stealth to move on.

I was 13 when I first stepped on Jazzkaar stage. I am very grateful to Anne Erm, who has given me many opportunities to perform – both at Jazzkaar and elsewhere. Also, Raul Sööt and Siim Aimla are in for a thanks. They gave me opportunities to perform with them – I have had many choices to make music with great musicians. Jazz circle is so small in Estonia that we can call ourselves a family.

In the last interview you said you have chosen the jazz way. Is this choice final?
I have been asked this for the last 10 years. Naturally, my opinion has changed several times since. Until the end of secondary school I was sure I am a jazz musician. Studying classical piano with Aleksandra Juozapenaite I was sure I am going to stick with classical music. In the end I chose both.

What about composing?
At the moment I am writing a sonata for solo cello and would like to write for string quartet. It is a genre where you could express ideas in many ways. My generation has many great musicians who understand me as a composer.

With my brother write music for Marjamaa Brothers debut album – it will be a mix of fusion and gospel. We try to avoid 4/4 as this is just plain boring! We are hoping for the album to be finished by autumn.

What are your plans for future?
I would like to go abroad, to study. I have answers from Royal Academies in Sweden and Denmark. Paris Conservatorium and London Royal Academy are still on hold.

In near future, in May, I will travel to United States to record with Kevin Walker, for his album. It is named “Life upon a dream”. Legends such as Dennis Chambers and Marcus Miller are recording for it, too. I have listened to them since I was small, so I am still processing this idea that I can record with him.

How did you join this project?
Four years ago I toured with Lee Pearson and Lonnie Liston Smith who both have played with Walker. They are friends and from the same area in Baltimore. Lee and Lonny spoke of me with Kevin and gave some of my music to listen. So, Walker called me and said he wants me to come and record with him. It was like an angelic moment for me.

I remember the exact moment he called. I was just been to a concert in Estonia (a concert hall in Tallinn) and saw a secret number calling in – it was kevin Walker. He told me everything and my first response was: “For real?”. I could not believe why me. But, I am extremely grateful!

Are you coming back to Estonia after your studies?
I would like to stay abroad for a while but in the end I want to live here and give concerts all over the world. I can’t imagine myself living in New York for many years – it is too big for me. Though, never say never – life is unexpected! If I have to live in places I do not like that much to make music, I would do it.

Where do you see yourself in 10, or perhaps 20 years?
Of course, I would like to be one of the best musicians but above everything I would like to be fresh! That my ideas are fresh and that I can keep the joy of making music within me. Many of us have forgotten this as money and getting by in life becomes primary. I hope I can continue doing what I love. If music loses the spark… there is no reason to continue playing.

Also, one of my dreams is to give a concert together with Chick Corea on two pianos.

What does music mean to you?
Music and the piano are my life! I can express all the beauty and everything else with it. I do not want to become dry or machine-like. There are plenty of musicians who are like this – fast and very technical but no heart in what they do.

Music must override the player and it must be alive. When I go on stage I always forget myself and play what I feel and what I want to express.

Does your success comes from hard work of from happy chances?
I have always been a dreamer. Many of my dreams have come true but not because of chance. Dreaming means actual work to get there. It was quite usual that I went to the music school at 8AM and finished there 10PM. I even dreamt of practicing at night. I think it is necessary to dream, but hard work is more important.

What would you say to other young musicians?
Hard work pays off. It is so, so true!