2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Gregory B.

Of all the great jazz musicians throughout history, perhaps no one has been as influential and groundbreaking as Herbie Hancock.  Hancock was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 12, 1940.  He learned to play classical music on the piano at a very early age, and by the time he was in high school, he was experimenting with jazz improvisation.  Although he initially went to Grinnell College to study electrical engineering, he soon decided to pursue his true passion for music; specifically jazz.

Throughout his career, Hancock would redefine what the world knew as jazz.  Imbuing his compositions with erratic and often conflicting rhythms reminiscent of traditional African melodies and elements of funk, he revolutionized the entire genre.  Fellow jazz musician Miles Davis said of Hancock, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven’t heard anybody yet who has come after him.”

My experience in musical performance, albeit not nearly as impactful as Herbie Hancock’s, has been enriching nonetheless.  I have played the alto saxophone since I was in the sixth grade, and the piano since the eighth grade.  In the same vein as Hancock’s diverse musical contributions, I have always enjoyed playing and listening to a wide range of musical genres.  My classical music training gave way to experimentation in a variety of styles.  More recently, I have found myself dabbling in improvisation, as Herbie did at the same age.

I am sure my years in college will be the most enriching experience of my life.  I plan to study psychology and eventually become a licensed psychiatrist.  Despite the difference in my hobby and my career choice, music will continue to be an integral part of my routine.  Even now, I can’t walk in the front door of my house without stopping to play at least one upbeat song to reflect the positive experiences of the day.

My dual passions of music and psychology mirror Herbie’s love for both music and electrical engineering.  It was his adeptness to the latter that allowed him to pioneer the sounds of funk fueled jazz he popularized with his keyboards and synthesizers. For my part, I have often thought that music can be therapeutic.  If I could assimilate music into psychological treatment, I could potentially find exciting, never-before-seen ways of helping patients cope with the problems they face.  I can only hope that through the combined strengths of my own two occupations, I will one day create something as powerful and impactful as the works of Herbie Hancock.




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