Denise Young - Pianist, Songwriter, film composer, and educator
For pianist Denise Young, the path to becoming a professional musician seems a natural progression for this talented artist. Born in music tradition-rich St. Louis, Missouri, Denise was introduced to music through her musician father - also somewhat of a child prodigy, being self-taught on his mother’s player piano. She was also encouraged by her mother’s deep appreciation for music. As Denise recalls, my mother often asked me to play ‘Love Is a Many Splendored Thing’ to lift her spirits. I believe that experiencing the positive effects of music is part of what led me into music therapy."
Denise took to the piano with a natural affinity by first playing tunes by ear and began formal lessons at age five. Her piano teacher was strict and as her first recital approached, she was faced with a life-changing decision. The song she had to learn for the recital was "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and, according to her parents, Denise struggled with learning the piece and told her parents that she wanted to switch to dancing. "My father said that I had to choose between dancing and piano [lessons]. I made it through my first recital piece and decided to continue with piano lessons." This proved to be a pivotal event, when Young made a lifetime commitment to the instrument.
"...Passionata, a work hailed by many as her best work to date."
From Young’s love of movie themes (learning them was part of her formal training) it was an easy transition to composing her own songs, which she did by the age of 14. At about the same time, she started playing professionally, accompanying her father on piano duets and even filling in for him when he went on breaks. Soon after, college beckoned and she attended local Maryville University, studying classical piano technique with concert pianist Dr. Katja Georgieff and eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy.
Taking up a career as a music teacher and piano instructor, Denise continued composing her own unique style of music but she was puzzled as to how her style of music would be categorized should she ever decide to record it. Her "aha" moment came when she first heard the acclaimed George Winston song "December." Denise had found a kindred spirit to whom she could musically relate. "From there, it felt as if my music finally had a home." Over the years, her musical loves have included contemporary artists such as John Williams and Michael Nymann, as well as noted classical composers Chopin and Beethoven.
A major turning point occurred when she made a trip to Will Ackerman's Vermont-based Imaginary Road Studios to record her second album, the well received, (nominated for Best Instrumental Piano Album at Zone Music Reporter) Something You Dream Of...(2007). Six years later, Denise returned to Vermont, and, once again, asking Ackerman to serve as producer, recorded Passionata, a work hailed by many as her best work to date.
Now living in southern California, Denise continues teaching music and giving piano lessons as well as doing great work in her field of music therapy. "I’ve seen many wonderful outcomes working with children with autism, learning challenges, teens, and adult stroke patients who were eventually able to sing and speak through music therapy techniques. As part of my music therapy practice, I created The Special Little Piano Book which has helped young children and those with developmental delays learn to play the piano."