FAMIS is pleased to announce the addition of renowned pianist David Torkanowsky to the faculty of our Popular and Commercial Music program. Considered one of New Orleans’ premiere keyboard players, David Torkanowsky started playing piano at the age of three. Influenced by his father Werner, a world-class flamenco artist and symphony conductor, young David chose the piano because “every instrument is on the piano,” as he later explained.
During his high school years, David often gigged at the side of veteran New Orleans musicians. Working with gifted artists as drummer Walter Lastie, trumpeter Sam Alcorn, bassist John Breaux, and even pianist Errol Gardner provided him with an incredibly opportunity to learn music performance hands-on from living legends. “Every day for those two weeks, Errol Gardner gave me a piano lesson,” David says. “He basically instilled in me to just keep playing the way I want because he was a completely self-taught musician.”
Perhaps most fruitful of all the relationships came through his mother, flamenco dancer Theresa Torkanowsky, who would often take a young David to hear pianist Ellis Marsalis play with George French and the Storyville Jazz Band at Crazy Shirley’s. Marsalis’ eclectic mix of traditional New Orleans styles with modern solos created a lasting impression on David’s own style. Eventually, a professional relationship developed between Marsalis and David, who would sub for each other at gigs when necessary. In 1989, Torkanowsky produced a live Ellis Marsalis album targeted for release in Japan. Boasting a roster of all-star musicians and recorded live, it was re-released in 1995 as A Night at Snug Harbor, New Orleans.
After training at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, Torkanowsky returned to New Orleans and gigging, where he would team up with drummer John Vidacovich, saxophonist Tony Dagradi, bassist James Singleton and guitarist Steve Masakowski and form the influential Astral Project. David’s discography lists over 95 releases as a pianist or producer, including the New Orleans C.A.C. Jazz Orchestra’s Mood Indigo (1997, Rounder Records), on which he was arranger and conductor, and Steppin’ Out (1988, Rounder Records).