20 Questions with David Geist

The guy didn't even have to think about it!

(Cathy Maier Callanan)

How many musicians can be in love with reinterpreted show tunes and still be total badasses? Not a lot, but David Geist can. Homeboy has been around our city for years, so it was time to hang with the guy and get in his face with rapid-fire answers to 20 questions. Trust me, Santa Fe, you’ll love this dude.

How long have you played piano?

Most of my life. 


To help others.

Someone has never seen you…how do you get them to your show?

It’s better than Cats!

How does Santa Fe react to David Geist?

Spectacularly well. My artistic life has been more supported here than anyplace else I’ve been.

If you had to point to any source of inspiration, what might it be?

Keith Jarrett. 

"Not practicing too much makes perfect"

You've released several albums, are there more on the way?

Yes, a combination of originals and French-themed material.

Does being a pianist who plays show tunes and/or classical music present any challenges in a country-obsessed town?

I see myself as a preservationist, a lineage holder. I feel these are traditions worth preserving, and to get people interested while in competition with pop, rock, blues and country is definitely a challenge, but part of my mission is to remind people there are these incredible, beautiful art forms.

Do you ever just wanna rock?

Yes! I played in a rock band called 42 Wet Men in New York, and I wrote music and played bass. It totally gave a whole dimension to my piano/musical work. I love rock musicals, and I miss group work. It’s funny, but when I was growing up, I wanted to be a cross between Marvin Hamlisch and Steven Tyler…or at least I was told I looked similar to or in-between them.

Favorite locals to play with?

Julie Trujillo and I have done some nice work together, and I’ve worked musicals for Eldorado Children’s Theatre with Andy Primm and Pete Williams, who are so fun and talented.

Do you tour?

I recently toured with Kaye Ballard and Carol Channing. I went to Palm Springs and did this tribute, celebration of their careers kind of thing. 


We played LA and New York, and they traveled with us. These women embody a tradition that’s almost gone, and real showbiz buffs came out. 

Best show ever?

Passion by [Stephen] Sondheim. I was in the orchestra pit as part of the original construction of the show. It was probably the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. My favorite show ever that I admire is West Side Story. I just want to throw that in there.

Worst show ever?

I was playing auditions for the movie version of Annie directed by Rob Marshall. I had to play “Tomorrow” 300 times in one day. 

What advice would you give to hotshot young pianists?

Do your art for others. Don’t worry about becoming rich and famous! It’s a privilege to serve humanity with art, and if you can approach it from that place, you can have a good time. If you have your intentions aligned well, you’ll have a good time as performer.

Favorite musical song to play?

I love “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John from The Lion King. I played that show on Broadway, so it reminds me of that time. I do a suite from West Side Story that includes a lot of favorites. To paraphrase Tony Bennett, I never play a song I don’t love.

Favorite classical piece?

Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” He really was the fusion of classical and Broadway. 

Does practice make perfect?

Not practicing too much makes perfect. You can over-practice. My teacher Kenny Werner said it perfectly, “It’s better to practice something completely effortlessly for five minutes than to practice for five hours and be in a scattered frame of mind.” Efficient practicing makes perfect.

If it hadn't been the piano, what would you have played?

Electric bass. I played in a rock band in my New York days, and I like supporting others in the musical process. The bass is the ultimate support.

Best thing to ever happen to you as a musician?

I found my life’s calling. 

Why should we care about you?

Because what I have to offer is good for the world.  

David Geist 

6-9 pm Saturday, April 5.

No cover. Pranzo Italian Grill

540 Montezuma Ave.

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