Peter Davis and Michael Johnson have been playing music together since high school. Davis went on to major in bassoon performance and conducting in college, taught high school music, performed in several films, and now chairs the department of visual and performing arts at Salve Regina. Johnson studied jazz piano with Russell Ferrante, played with the Navy jazz band for several years, and was a professional musician in San Francisco. When he returned home, he was advised to "find one person you want to play with." That person was Peter Davis. Johnson now teaches jazz at Salve Regina and, together, the two friends perform with the MSD Quintet, a local jazz group.
"MSD has a really strong jazz influence but we'll also use Cajun, Latin, gospel and folk - it is definitely a fusion thing," Davis says. Johnson adds, "The young guys in the band keep our energy going and keep us on our toes." Both musicians know that jazz can be challenging and a little daunting, but it also gives them a sense of incredible freedom. Davis believes that "MSD has a huge connection to our teaching. It's a philosophy of life. It is about sharing music we appreciate. It's also about presenting what we see in music as a challenge to our students."
Davis observes that not all students are exposed to jazz in high school. Johnson finds that when he asks students to write a tune, "once they get into it, a whole new person comes out."
Davis describes the growth and development of Salve Regina's music program as "a crescendo." Innovative instruction in a range of topics, including jazz and music education, along with plenty of performance opportunities, attracts students with a passion for music.