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About Harry Pickens


Harry Pickens was born in 1960 in Brunswick, Ga., a town on the coast between Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla. His mother played organ and sang at church. His grandfather, whom he describes as a “comprehensive musician,” played tenor saxophone, piano, and violin; sang and conducted choirs in church; and also played the trumpet for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1914 and 1915.

Pickens began playing music when he was 5 or 6, "annoying his family," he recalls, with endless repetitions of the first few songs he learned to play at the piano. Soon, he was accompanying his mother at church, she on organ and he on piano, and his excitement for music grew.

As a young boy, Pickens says, he was a rather “frail and precocious child,” prone to illness and shying away from athletic activities and the like. He preferred instead to spend time cultivating his own rich and fertile imagination, often retreating into this inner world. However, as Pickens grew into a young man, he became more comfortable living the life of an extroverted musician. He declares that these two periods of growth and the subsequent combination of values he developed—the solitary and introspective within the bright and extroverted—remain the essential elements of his personal creative process.

Pickens’ international career as a jazz pianist has taken him to 17 countries throughout Europe, Japan, and the Americas. He has collaborated with many legendary musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Milt Jackson (Modern Jazz Quartet), Don Braden (musical director for The Cosby Show), Bob Hurst (bassist for The Tonight Show) and hundreds of others. His performance credits include recordings on the Blue Note label, international radio and television appearances (including Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz), and engagements in top concert and club venues worldwide.

In 1979, Pickens moved to Southern California

Pickens enjoys teaching and working with several charity organizations, including the Kentucky Refugee Ministries program in Louisville. There he leads various musical ensembles in an effort to bring people from different nationalities and backgrounds together through the creative joy of making music.

In 2009, Pickens received the Education Award from the Kentucky Governor's Awards in the Arts program.