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pickens

Spiritually inspired musician Harry Pickens sums up the source of his creative energy: “Human beings have the capacity to live as instruments of grace and bringers of joy….At the very core of our being is a reservoir of joy, of love, of possibility.” Finding through his music a means of expression and communication that touches this source, Pickens’ music bridges the subtle distances between performer, audience, teacher, student, and most importantly, from one human being to another. The Kentucky Muse program Harry Pickens: In the Garden of Music profiles this singular artist as he explains his heartfelt philosophy regarding the simple, human, and joyous messages contained within all of us that music brings together.

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Pickens’ music draws its passion from many sources, from the musical family of his childhood home in Brunswick, Georgia, playing in church and school and learning from the talents of his grandfather; from his career as a professional classical and jazz performer; and from his work as a teacher, musical mentor, inspirational speaker, and participant in various charity programs. Reflecting on a life at the piano that has taken him around the world, surrounded by music and musicians of all varieties, Pickens describes how his understanding of music’s humbling, spiritual power grew from the introspective imaginings of a young boy into the powerful message he hopes to bring to all his fellow travelers on the road. He says, “Now, for me, music is about serving the larger whole, and so it’s the means, the channel, the medium through which this more comprehensive message can be articulated.”

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Throughout the program, Pickens performs classic tunes, including George and Ira Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?,” Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” and the traditional song “Motherless Child.” He also plays his original compositions “T.T.’s Blues” and “We Are All America.” His beautiful playing, recorded in the KET studio, demonstrates the message he has found and hopes to share in and through his music. Images from his past abroad and present life in Louisville reveal his enthusiasm for the people and places he has encountered and inspired.

The program also visits Pickens in his element—leading a choral ensemble’s rehearsal in a classroom for the Kentucky Refugee Ministries. People of various nationalities and backgrounds come together to practice songs, enjoy the music, and, as Pickens is clear to point out, discover the commonalities that exist between them through the expressive and communicative nature of music. The excitement in his eyes as he directs the singers at his piano is matched only by the energy of fun and joy in the room, making a very convincing argument to the accuracy of his simple message: “Music is a means of building community…a means of breaking down the barriers that separate us from one another.”