California Love! Spotlight on Pianist Dana Salzman..

Who are you as a musician artist? What is your story?

I am a pianist/ keyboard player first.

I also am a producer, songwriter, singer, musical director, bandleader and music educator. My mom is a Russian piano teacher with her own school. Music has been part of my life since day oneI played piano and saxophone growing up and was in every school band.

You could always find me in the band room.

I was that only kid at jazz concerts when I was little and the only little girl at jazz masterclasses growing up.

Currently I play in various bands as well as lead my own band.I also do a lot of music education work with youth in Richmond and Oakland.

I have released three albums of all original music (currently on iTunes and Spotify etc) and  currently working on a new one.

I also compose, arrange, and musical direct for ensembles, big bands,and choirs. I also produce tracks for other artists.

Who are your top musical influences?

Jazz had a huge influence on me and definitely shaped my whole life and sound! People like Charlie Parker and Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald had a big impact on me as a kid.  Also funk and soul like James Brown, Sly and the family Stone, Roy Ayers, Curtis Mayfield, Cameo. Stevie Wonder had a HUGE impact. Definitely R and B like Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. And music from the Carribean like reggae and dancehall, music from Africa like Mali and Ghana, and for sure hip hop, specifically early 90’s hip hop. I'm a west coast girl and I loved how the Pharcyde were one of the first rap groups to really sing and rap. I love that singing rap style. And definitely gospel, like Mahalia Jackson and more current artists. I came up during that new jack swing era of r and b so that definitely played a part too. And I've always loved my slow jams. Also classical piano was ALWAYS playing in the background of my childhood because my mom has her own piano school in the house, so I am sure that also played a part in shaping my musical identity.

What makes your music stand out in the music industry? 

What makes my music stand out is the level of musicality, the jazz sensibility. The deep down stanky fonk. 

Also down to earth lyrics that people can relate to. I've also never tried to make my music sound "current" which is probably a bad thing. But it stands out cuz of that too. I guess it sounds king of old skool, cuz I'm old skool!

What surprises you the most about music industry? Frustrates you? Inspires you?

What surprises me most is in the United States it seems much easier to make money playing covers and top 40 then it is playing your original music.

What also surprises me is how rude a lot of club owners and promoters are. And also how TERRIBLE most sound guys (people) are! What the heck. What inspires me is the people who take risks with their original music and create venues and places where that is embraced. Like my mom. She and her husband created a venue in their house and live bands come and play their music there!

What’s your Poison?

I guess my poison is being versatile. Whether you need me to come play keyboards for a live show or recording, sing lead or background vocals, produce a whole album, arrange string or horn parts or a whole big band chart, teach a choir, plan a mint condition (or whatever band) tribute show, etc.... I can do any of that. 

How is your Music “your Religion”?

Wow. I had to think about this one. What I do know is this. Every single time I have been going through a rough time or having a rough day, and feeling low energy and just not wanting to do anything or feeling down, when I go and teach or have a gig, I ALWAYS feel better after teaching or playing. It really is medicine for my soul. I can feel it. Also, music seems to give a place for my feelings to dance. Like it is this sacred space for all these feelings to just co-exist. It can also help you get in touch with certain chakras and/ or feelings that may need attention and TLC, but words and thoughts won't suffice.

What are you creating with your artistry that changes the world?

All I know is I play from DEEP DOWN.

I played at a retirement home today and my friend who lives there (a 92 year old guy. He plays sax! Very cool dude) was moved to tears by my playing. And was sooo sweet and grateful to me. 

And the smile on my students’ faces as they discover their own creative voice. 

And the people on the dancefloor moving and inspired by my music.

And more than a few people have also told me that my music has helped them thru a difficult time. 

What is your favorite life quote or philosophy that inspires you?

Hmmm.... I guess my philosophy is something like this:

We are chosen to be here and be alive right now! That is amazing and I don’t take it for granted. I am sooooo grateful. 

Move with honesty and integrity. Say what u mean. Treat all people with respect and kindness, even if they can’t do that. Speak lovingly to your own self. Listen to yourself. 



Don’t wait for some future happiness when x y and z happens. Life is right now.

And definitely don’t take things to seriously


Legacy: At the end of the day, how do you want people to remember you and your work of art?

I want to be remembered for making people feel something DEEP DOWN.

And for giving people some insight during difficult times and also inspiration to be their best selves. And those that knew me personally will remember how hilariously funny I am ;) and hopefully I made their tummy hurt from laughing.

Contact Dana Salzman Music Production