Jazz in the ‘Burgh – David Zahniser

Hi, my name is David Zahniser and I am a rising senior at Pitt. I am a Music Major on the Jazz Track and I love pretty much everything jazz related. I started playing the alto saxophone in 7th grade, but it wasn’t until 10th grade that I started delving deep into jazz. Throughout my time at Pitt I have taken various jazz courses such as Jazz Arranging, Jazz Improvisation, Small Jazz Ensembles, Music Production and Recording, etc. and I wanted to be able to put what I’ve learned in these classes into a creative project.

That’s why I chose to create an album for my project this summer. I will need to arrange/compose, perform, and mix the album myself which would be exercising all of the aspects of my musicianship that I have gained through the University. The goal of the album is to try and aurally represent the history of the Hill District in Pittsburgh in regards to the Jewish and African-American inhabitants from the early 1880’s to the late 1960’s. The Hill District in particular had such a diverse community, with two of the largest groups (Jews and African-Americans) going through immense changes throughout this period. By trying to meld the sounds of both communities I will hopefully be creating a sound world that is unique to the history of this area at this specific time. I think this project is important because the history of the Hill District is so rich, and will gain even more vitality by presenting it as music instead of as text or photos. Speaking of, I plan to provide an extensive set of liner notes that give the historical context to each song and elaborating on why I composed each song the way that I did in relation to my research.

My mentor for this project is Dr. Kenneth Powell who is my private saxophone instructor at Pitt. Not only is he an amazing musician, but he has also taught Jazz History and will be able to point me in the right directions historically, compositionally, and musically.

My professional goals as of now are to become a music educator, most likely at the high school level. This project will allow me to be a much better music educator because I am putting myself through the paces, musically, and those are always the best instructors: ones that can give you information confidently because they have had the experience. I am excited for this summer and to be able to meet you all.

Musician’s Club in the Hill District
Crawford Grill no. 1

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