Willis Delony calls what he does a “virtuous cycle” – performing and teaching music. Over more than 40 years, Delony has won acclaim as one of the nation’s leading classical/jazz crossover artists. He is also the Boyd Professor of Piano and Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Louisiana State University, where he has been a member of the music faculty since 2000.
Delony will be in Las Cruces Feb. 1-2, working with New Mexico State University music students and joining undergraduates performing in a free concert for the community. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the Atkinson Recital Hall in NMSU’s Music Building.
“By doing what I do through teaching and working with students, I get better myself,” said Delony. “I learn from them probably a lot more than they learn from me. What we do as musicians is much more meaningful because we have students to work with, to share it, to help them grow, to see them grow and see them get excited about things. It keeps us excited. It keeps our feet on the ground too.”
Delony has appeared as a piano soloist, guest pianist/arranger, or conductor with orchestras in the U.S., Canada, the former Soviet Union and China. As a solo and collaborative recitalist, he has performed classical and jazz concerts around the world. He has received numerous awards, including the LSU Distinguished Faculty Award in 2019 and was chosen as the Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year for LSU in 2020.
NMSU music students in jazz and classical studies will have the opportunity to learn from Delony in their classes during his visit.
“When we get somebody of Dr. Delony's caliber, we are eager to have our students realize the benefit of working with him,” said Laura Spitzer, an associate professor of music and piano in the College of Arts and Sciences. “He’s got so much to give. I mean, how many people do you know who are that talented in two distinct areas of music?”
Delony made an interesting discovery about his students during the pandemic. He started putting his classical and jazz students together in his weekly studio class instead of meeting separately.
“I'm lucky my students are, without exception, very open-minded people about music,” Delony said. “They’re very curious. I found they learned a lot more from each other than they learned from me. That's the way it works. Music is the kind of a communal thing. Even though pianists work by themselves so much, we hole up in our practice room for a few hours every day, but ultimately the music has to be shared.”
The program for Wednesday’s concert includes “Dance Suite (1985)” by Stephen Danker, “Ninth Piano Sonata, Op. 58” by Vincent Persichetti, “Between the Notes” by Willis Delony, “Olha Maria” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel and a collaboration with the NMSU Jazz Combo featuring Miguel Filerio, M.J. Robinson, Steven Rokowski, Nico O’Hara and Will Reeves.
For a preview of his performing talents, watch one of Delony’s recent recitals.