Timothy Carpenter, or “Rev,” as students call him, began playing piano when he was three years old. As the Director of the Gospel Choir and an Adjunct Chaplain for the department of Religious and Spiritual life, his character and kindness carry throughout all of his diverse work.

Do you have a favorite song, either to perform or to listen?

Donny Hathaway was an R&B artist who passed away tragically, but he did a song called “Everything Must Change.” Nothing stays the same. It was covered by some other artists as well but “Everything Must Change” is one of my favorite songs—I like how it sounds harmonically, but I like the message as well. There are many things in life that you can’t be sure of, except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky, hummingbirds do fly…I just like that hopeful message that these things are definite. You don’t see hummingbirds crawling!

If you could meet any musician that you haven’t already met, who would it be and why?

Dead, it would be Johann Sebastian Bach. A lot of people call Bach the original jazz artist because of his syncopation. The stuff that he does in his two part inventions and his fugues are just phenomenal. I do some mashups with Bach pieces and gospel pieces on the piano. Living, it would be Quincy Jones. I did a project that he produced called “Handel’s soulful Messiah.” It was a Christmas celebration recording and I did a cut on there with Fred Hammond, but I’ve never met Quincy Jones.

Do you have any advice for student musicians? What helped you to where you are today?

Do not be afraid to experiment. I tell piano students when I’m teaching gospel piano to not be afraid to sit at the keyboard and just play. You never know what sounds good or what will sound good until you play it! And if you don’t like it, don’t play it any more! But don’t be afraid to experiment. In my gospel genre of music, that connection with the “spirit” of the music takes priority over the notes of the music, but you can only apply that through experimentation. You have to bring the music off the page, and do what your heart is playing.

April 14, 2021