Georgian Music Prodigy Beka Gochiashvili Plays for Tbilisi Flood Victims

Georgia’s young jazz musician and pianist Beka Gochiashvili dedicated a special concert to the Tbilisi flood victims of June 13. The 19-year old musical prodigy brought together hundreds of listeners at Tbilisi Rooms Hotel to unite for those who lost homes, families and lives during the natural disaster two months ago.

Georgia Today (GT) was interested in the early life of the musical genius of Georgia and the world, who has already been recognized by Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, among others, who have played a considerable role in the world of jazz.

Gochiashvili exclusively tells GT that being the main figure of this charity concert held on August 12 was a duty for him like for every musician, particularly when something is connected to his country’s tragedy. “This is the very bottom from where I am building my career. Moreover, it is my desire to organize such events much frequently like many known musicians in the world do,” Gochiashvili believes. He maintains that this path was, is and will be a very big part of his lifelong dream to be involved in activities, which will benefit his country. “I feel committed to assist those victims of the June 13 tragedy,” he admits.

Notably, some particular personalities have played a decisive role in establishing Beka as a jazzman and future star of world music. When asked what and who played a major role in his career choice, Gochiashvili names his father and adds he will always remember his early music teacher and mentor Zurab Ramishvili who played an invaluable part in raising him as an artist. There are also Gega Lortkipanidze and Nika Rurua [former Minister of Culture] who according to Gochiashvili have put a lot of effort to assist the young prodigy’s success. He also recalls winning an award at Montreux Festival in 2009.

Gochiashvili, the youngest winner of the Montreux Jazz Piano Competition, was born in Tbilisi, Georgia on March 11, 1996. Kakha Tolordava a jazz writer in Tbilisi says Beka was just two and a half years old when Valeri, his father, told him he would give him back his pacifier if he could play some of Scott Joplin’s Ragtime tunes. Beka’s response was a sad and confused look in return. Valeri took the pacifier and went into another room to run some errands. Just minutes later, he heard the sounds of the requested tunes being played on the piano. Valeri ran back to the room, and he could not believe what was happening. A few months later, a much grander toy replaced his rubber pacifier, a piano.

Genially, Beka was three years old when he watched Standards II by Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette - the video recording that triggered his devotion and passion for this sophisticated trio and their performance style. Subsequently, a year after, Beka was able to play several piano compositions. In 2002, Valeri took him to Zurab Ramishvili, the then most prominent jazz piano professor in Georgia. The child’s ability to play a few complicated jazz compositions impressed him. He advised them to enroll Beka in classical music classes at a school headed by Tengiz Chitaishvili.

By age eight, Beka won a competition at the Schwaigern Classical Music Festival in Germany, where he performed pieces by Ravel, Mozart and Handel. Afterwards, at 11 years old, he participated in Saulkrasti Jazz Festival in Latvia, where his performance caught the ears of Lenny White and Victor Bailey. The same year he played at the 10th International Festival “Georgians Play Jazz” held in the great hall of Tbilisi State Conservatory.

Some crucial moments for Gochiashvili’s career came when in April 2008 the US Embassy in Tbilisi hosted two State Department-sponsored cultural envoys – jazz pianist Dan Tepfer and Joel Harrison, Artistic Director, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Pianists Association, who performed with Beka. The well-known musicians highly acclaimed Beka’s unique talent.

“Beka is one of the best jazz pianists I’ve heard anywhere,” mentioned Condoleezza Rice, then the U.S. Secretary of State in her remarks at the conclusion of her visit to Georgia in July 2008.

Through the efforts of Ms. Rice, Mr. Harrison and John Teft, ex-US Ambassador in Georgia, Beka and Ramishvili travelled to New York in 2008 to participate in auditions at the Juilliard School and at the Manhattan School of Music, where Gochiashvili continued his studies soon after the visit.

In 2009, the Development and Reforms Fund of Georgia awarded Beka a full scholarship for studies at the pre-college division of the Juilliard School, where he takes jazz piano classes with Frank Kimbrough and classical piano classes with Victoria Mushkatkol. Concurrently he attends the Professional Performing Arts School in New York, NY.

After graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School, the then 19-year-old pianist was to live in the US and visited his hometown rarely; but on August 12 Gochiashvili performed as part of a trio with his friends Martin Jaffe – bass and Jimmy Macbride – drums.

Now, he is an established member of the Stanley Clarke Band and has toured extensively with the jazz master over the last year. His name is recognized in the jazz industry by people all over the world. His talents were praised by American Jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea, who said: “Beka Gochiashvili is a brilliant young piano prodigy. You’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the next few years.”

Gochiashvili played together with Corea in 2012 when the American musician came to Georgia and performed in the Tbilisi Jazz Festival. “Chick Corea was someone I always dreamt about to meet with. It was my childhood dream to meet a person to whom I had been listening my entire life,” Gochiashvili told GT.

Gochiashvili does not forget his second parents, Nora and Gia Shengelaias, who have done a lot for him; “I want this to be known forever what these persons have done for me - it is huge,” he said.’

Numerous diplomas were awarded to Beka including a diploma for participation in the Georgian-German Festival for Young Musicians-Performers Tbilisi-2003, diploma for participation in a concert (Children’s Album) dedicated to 165th anniversary of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and a diploma for participation in an international festival held in Germany in 2004.

Beka Gochiashvili is incentive pioneer for Georgian Jazz and music in general, which is developing. Importantly, Beka remains loyal to his home country, and states he would only ever play at Russia’s Kremlin hall if it gave up Georgia’s occupied territories.

Zviad Adzinbaia

13 August 2015 23:04