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Country Day student lured by the ivories to create great music

At age 16, the La Jolla Country Day student is making a name for himself as a local piano talent.

His interest began at an early age, prompted by the music his parents, Zofia and Marek Migdalski, played at home. At first he wanted to learn the violin, until he attended a concert and told his mother the violin wasn’t for him. That’s when he chose the piano.

“I’ve been trained classically for nine years,” he said.

In addition to weekly hour-long sessions with his teacher, Galina Talis, Migdalski gains additional training by listening to other types of music and teaching himself from what he hears.

He listens to everything from classical music to jazz and old rock.

“I listen to a lot of bands,” he said. “I like this sound or this sort of style of music and how they use the instruments. They influence my style, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big part of it. It’s just giving me more to work with.”

It’s his original compositions that have drawn interest and reaction from San Diego musicians and media.

While at a jazz camp at UCSD, Migdalski had the opportunity to meet Peter Sprague, a well-known jazz guitarist and recording studio owner. That led to a recording session where the young musician recorded a number of his own songs.

“I had a real fun time doing it,” he said.

His performance credentials include occasional performances at school, playing for parties in private homes, and every Saturday evening if the dinner rush at his parents’ restaurant permits.

A junior at La Jolla Country Day School, Marius also plays on the tennis team besides working part-time at the restaurant and developing his music, a goal he applies himself to daily. In addition to continually polishing his technical skills, he also composes and arranges music.

“I would probably explain my style ... as fusion between some classical, some jazz and some impressionistic classical,” he said, “a lot of main jazz, ‘60s jazz and bebop.”

During a recent Saturday evening performance, all three songs were his own pieces, based around core melodies with a lot of improvisation thrown in.

“Sometimes when you try to force a song it doesn’t come,” he said. “The most difficult thing is, especially when trying to compose, when you have writer’s block and you can’t compose, and all of a sudden it comes out of nowhere.”

Migdalski said many of his songs are created in his mind when he’s thinking of other things.

“It’s usually a spur of the moment, spontaneous kind of thing,” he said. “It’s more like, in my head I hear an idea that I like. I might be washing the dishes or walking around. I’ll hear a song that I start humming. I hear how I want it to sound. I don’t use structural chords. A lot of times I base my chords and tone on how they sound, over how the chord structure is. I just try to have my own kind of style to my music.”

While he’s been trained classically and derives inspiration from classic composers like Chopin and Beethoven and all types of jazz, Migdalski said his taste in music is an eclectic mix.

“I’m a big fan of Bob Dylan,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Pink Floyd, and I’m also a big fan of Thelonious Monk. I’d say those are my top three,” he said, also naming Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 and Radiohead as favorites.

He said he’d like to have his own band one day, a group to perform the music he writes. If that doesn’t work out, he might try producing or song writing. For now, he’s philosophical about his music in the confident, carefree manner found only in a teen-ager.

“It’s a way to relax, have fun, loosen up,” he said. “When you find something you enjoy, you just want to stick with it.”

He’s a bit more serious about music in a broader sense.

“I think music is about expressing yourself,” he said. “A lot of music today is about how you look and the show, instead of your ability and how you’re playing. The most important thing is the music and the talent and the sound.”