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All that jazz - and then some

David Parks
David Parks
For even the most experienced musician, this gig would make for a summer to remember.

University of Memphis senior David Parks, a 22-year-old jazz studies major in the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, will join what promises to be one of the hot-ticket concert tours of the year, a double-star billing of reggae pop artist Sean Kingston and teen singing sensation Justin Bieber. Parks will play bass on the 50-city tour for Kingston, a multi-platinum artist with one No. 1 hit under his belt, “Beautiful Girls.” The worldwide circuit includes a stop at FedExForum July 31.

For Parks, it will be his second tour with Kingston: he played London, Bahrain, Toronto, the Virgin Islands and other venues in fall of 2009. He also performed with Kingston on the Today Show, Regis and Kelly, The Wendy Williams Show and Dancing with the Stars.

“Touring with international artists of Kingston’s status is a huge opportunity,” said Parks’ mentor, U of M music professor Tim Goodwin. “Every major artist has a start under a mentor in some form or other, and even though David and Sean are not that different in age, Sean has the experience to bring David to the next level. In addition, the exposure is tremendous: television appearances, huge performance venues with audiences up to 30,000. The possibilities for his future are limitless.”

In the summer of 2009, a spot on the MTV reality show Making his Band launched the young bass player into the international spotlight. Parks spent three months living in a mansion in Los Angeles with other musicians who were vying for a spot in Sean Combs’ band.

“It was an exhausting experience,” Parks said. “There are cameras everywhere, every day, all day. When you are sleeping, there are cameras. You are competing with 20 or 30 other musicians who are after the same thing.”

Parks became a finalist, but didn’t win the overall prize of joining Combs’ tour.

But then came the unexpected — Parks received a call a week later from Kingston’s producer inviting him to tour with the pop star the next three months.

“I was in rehearsals the following Monday. It is quick. If you are not available, they will move to the next person. It is a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to musicians.

“The show gave me a lot of exposure. People knew my name. For someone who didn’t go my route, it can take years to get on a big tour. Some people are 40 or 50 and haven’t done some of the things I have been able to do.”

Goodwin says he is not surprised by Parks’ success.

“David has a natural talent for playing the bass. His sense of rhythm and harmony is of a very high level.

“My relationship with David is very similar to that of a coach with a talented athlete. I primarily guide his path of development while keeping and adding to the natural gifts he has.”

Parks said coming out of Overton High School in Memphis, he had won multiple awards for his musical talent and self-admittedly was “cocky.”

“I won’t lie, I had an ego coming from Overton. I got a big wake-up call. Goodwin is good at taking you where you are, stripping you down and building you back up again where you are a better musician. He is telling you the truth, not sugar coating. He will take you to that next level. Maybe I didn’t see it then, but it has definitely made me a better musician.”

Parks said his training in jazz has been a blessing.

“It gave me the best basis for music. It incorporates everything, every kind of chord, every kind of scale. It is not necessarily vice a versa for other kinds of music.”

He said he hopes to write award-winning music in the future, but is just happy now to enjoy his current ride. The summer tour, he said, ends just in time for him to be able to attend classes this fall.

“A lot of gigs like this don’t last. They will use you for a gig and that is it. I have been lucky. This is my second gig with Kingston.”

— by Greg Russell

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