A Person of NOTE

Not even 40 years old, and instrumentalist Dave Eggar’s music career is about as legit as it comes. A musical prodigy, Eggar began playing cello and piano at age three. By seven, he had already performed on Broadway and with the Metropolitan Opera; by age 15, Carnegie Hall. Eggar went on to graduate from Harvard University and the Julliard School’s Doctoral Program. 

Of course, he didn’t stop there. Over the past two decades, Eggar has worked with everyone from Ornette Coleman and The Who to DJ Spooky and Coldplay in musical genres ranging from pop and rock to hip hop, avant-garde and Americana. 

On Saturday, April 15, Eggar returns to Jacksonville to perform with singer-songwriter, Morley, as well as members of the Jacksonville Symphony led by concertmaster and symphony violinist Philip Pan–dubbed The Chamber Symphony of Peace–or a special night of music bathed in peace, love and understanding. 

Folio Weekly: Tell me a about your childhood as a musical prodigy.

Dave Eggar: I grew up in a very musical family. My mother’s whole family all played instruments. When I first went to elementary school was when I realized that everybody didn’t play an instrument. Because of my mom, I was able to meet a lot of really interesting musicians at such a young age. Aaron Copland lived in the town where I grew up, down the road, and he was very old–in his eighties–but my mother knew him because she ran a little concert series at the library. When I was 6 or 7, I decided to write him a letter and I rode my bicycle down to his house and put it in his mailbox. The letter was like, “Dear Mr. Copland, I think you need to hear me play.” So he called my mom and I started studying with him in the last few years of his life, which was a really powerful thing.  

How did this MOSH show come about?

I first played in Jacksonville about five years ago at the planetarium at the museum with Morley, the same artist I’ll be playing with this time, and I immediately fell in love with the city. Jimmy Saal is the one who originally connected me with Jacksonville and over the years, we’ve done some really creative programming there. We did an “Inside Out” show at the Florida Theatre twice where we reversed the audience and put them on the stage and a collection of other things. Last time we were there, Philip Pan from the Jacksonville Symphony and I did a night of classical jams. We had this idea of what would happen if you had classical players construct a night that sounded more like a singer-songwriter night and it went really well. So this time, we thought it would be cool to expand on that and we have members of the Jacksonville Symphony, Morley, a bass player and myself. 

You’ve worked with Morley before, correct?

I’ve been working with Morley for a really long time and she’s an activist-writer and I also do a lot of work that deals with music and social justice. I’ve spent quite a lot of time working with and researching tribes in Southeast Asia and the use of music in conflict resolution. We thought it would be interesting to look at music historically and how composers handle issues of social justice and peace and things like that, so we put together a pretty fun program that looks at today and yesterday and how people have used music to enact change. I’m pretty excited about it. 

As an instrumentalist, I would imagine you have to find creative ways to get your message across when you’re not using lyrics and vocals.

It’s really powerful to see music on the frontlines of enacting change and I think that it is something that Morley and I have both dealt with very powerfully and one of the things that drew me to the work that I did with tribes. I was able to use music as a negotiation tool in tribal council where, for example, tribes that are ideologically conflicted…yet share the same music and dance. They actually begin their negotiations with a jam session. Music was the common ground and I found that incredibly fascinating. 

You’ve worked with some well-known musicians and performers including Beyoncé, Ray LaMontagne, Carly Simon and Roberta Flack. Tell me about that.

I have had a very flashy career. I’ve played with a lot of pop stars and I’ve been very lucky and blessed with an exciting touring life. But at the same time, it’s so important that with your music you’re able to make a change and make a difference. I feel like that doesn’t always necessarily happen when you’re just promoting music and getting it out there that way.

Do you have bucket list musicians that you haven’t worked with yet?

Of course. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to work with some of my real heroes like Paul Simon and James Taylor, but I’d say my bucket list people would be mostly songwriters, which is odd for an instrumentalist. It’s Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton. I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan.