ENCINITAS — Music lovers will be in for a rare treat Feb. 4 when the Peter Sprague String Consort with the Vocal Quartet offers a live concert at the Encinitas Library.
Legendary composer and jazz guitarist Peter Sprague is producing the free concert, funded in part by the city of Encinitas and the Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program.
Concertgoers can expect a performance that is both innovative and unique, blending traditional classical music with jazz.
“This concert is really special,” Sprague said. “Last year I wrote two grants to write music. One combines a choir and string quartet that is called, ‘Calling Me Home Suite.’ The other was commissioned by Chamber Music America for a string quartet and is called ‘Dr. Einstein’s Spin.’ We’re performing both pieces.”
Raised in Del Mar, and a graduate of the San Dieguito Academy, Sprague is known around the nation, and the world. Last year he toured Europe and Japan with Grammy-award winning jazz singer Dianne Reeves. He spent last week in St. Louis, Mo., recording with Reeves.
Sprague has performed with other jazz greats including Art Pepper, Hubert Laws, Chick Corea, Alfonse Mouzon, Al Jarreau, Joe Farrell, John Pattuttuci, Mitch Foreman, Ray Brown, John Klemmer, Eddie Harris, Stanley Clarke, Eric Mariental, Joe Pass, Sergio Mendes, Kevyn Lettau, David Benoit, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Alex Acuna and Charlie Haden.
Sprague credits much of his success to his late father, Hall Sprague, a social scientist at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute, and mother, Carol Harrington, a therapist in Del Mar.
“We had a creative home environment to grow up in where I would find my mom playing the piano and pulling off the most wicked version of ‘Frankie and Johnny’ you’ve ever heard,” he recalled. “She’d cart us kids to music lessons, let us have long hair, and allow us to stay out in the surf beyond sunset.”
He added, “We were all into The Beatles, but Dad was always interested in jazz so I began listening to it since I was a little kid and grew up knowing what good jazz should sound like.”
Sprague, who attended the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, is grateful to his parents for not pushing him to continue his formal education beyond high school.
“I decided not to go to college and to practice instead,” he said. “That was the nice thing about my parents. They didn’t freak out when I didn’t want to go to college. Instead, they let me work on the actual music and practice, practice, practice.”
Sprague said he got his big break when he was about 22 and was asked to accompany jazz alto saxophonist Charles McPherson on a recording for Xanadu Records. Afterward, he was offered a four-year contract with the company.
“Chick Corea was a hero of mine for many years growing up, and finally he asked me to join his group and I played on and off with them during the mid-1980s,” he said.
Sprague has won numerous awards including Best Jazz Artist — San Diego Reader’s Best of 2003 Poll, Best Jazz at the 2004 San Diego Music Awards and Best Jazz Artist at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards.
Since 1994 he has recorded his own CDs and those of other artists at his recording facility, Spragueland.
Sprague has made a point of giving back to the community by supporting local causes including the music program at his alma mater, San Dieguito Academy.
He offers this advice to young musicians.
“The biggest thing that made a difference in my career was practicing a lot and becoming really proficient,” he said. “That is a challenge for a new generation where everything comes so quickly. By practicing a lot, it will leave a good impression on whomever you come in contact with and lead to other things.
“Also, get clear on your ideals. If your vision is to be a musician, then you owe it to yourself and to your music to practice like a mad man.”
For more information, visit petersprague.com.