DU Alumni

Graduate music student embarks on cultural journey

Jon Parker hopes to host 'Traveling the World With Music,' a TV show that will explore the connection between music and native foods in different cultures. Photo courtesy of Jon Parker

By day, pianist, composer and conductor Jon Parker (BA ’08) is a master’s degree student in musicology and a graduate teaching assistant at the Lamont School of Music.

By night, the award-winning musician is a jazz bandleader and piano player at the Hillstone Restaurant in Cherry Creek.

Several weekends a month, Parker puts on his U.S. Army uniform and travels to Dodge City, Kan., where he is commander of the 364th Engineer Company, a unit of 103 combat engineers in the Army Reserve.

And soon, the 31-year-old father of two boys (with a third on the way) will take on another job: host and producer of Traveling the World With Music, a TV show that will explore the connection between music and native foods in different cultures.

“I’m the busiest person you’ll ever meet,’’ Parker says with an easygoing smile. “Musicians tend to have multiple streams of income in order to survive.”

Parker says he came up with the idea for the television show in January while watching one of his favorite travel programs, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” with his wife, Bonnie.

Parker says his wife liked his idea — “She said her mother would even watch it” — and suggested he discuss it with a filmmaker/producer friend, Jeff Reece. Reece found an investor for the show within two weeks. Reece and Parker will work with LCM Productions to shoot the pilot episode in Lima, Peru, in late summer or early fall, he says.

“We wanted someplace exotic, and we wanted to keep our costs down,’’ Parker says. “We want to focus specifically on Lima, and we’ll tie in food so people have several reasons to watch the show.”

The focus will include historic and new music and food traditions, he says.

“We’ll possibly hit up some dance clubs and nightclubs to see what kind of contemporary music they have,’’ he says. “Since I’m a musician as well, I hope to actually sit in and play with the musicians. I can also see two or three of us sitting around the table being filmed eating and discussing the food.”

Parker says he hopes the show will be picked up by the Travel Channel. Although he has “no idea” what to expect about the process of making the show, he knows it will be hard work.

“I’m fully aware that you can spend a week there and work 20-hour days, hoping for an hourlong TV show, which is about 46 minutes [of air time],” he says.

If the pilot episode is successful, Parker hopes to travel to other destinations in South America, as well as western and eastern Europe.

“I’m also fascinated by the Far East,” he says.

Meanwhile, Parker will be busy working on his thesis about black gospel music for his graduation in June. (He studies late at night and into the early morning when his family is sleeping.)

Parker — who began his musical studies at the age of 3 and began playing jazz piano professionally when he was 15 — also has another new interest.

He recently took up studying the pipe organ.

“I just bought one, just for fun,’’ he says. “It’s sitting in my living room.”









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