Brian McKnight Reflects On Teachers Who Helped Shape Him
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
While schools do often struggle to encourage and develop students' creativity, it's also true that many artists - actors, writers, musicians - when asked about a major influence, will name a teacher. That's certainly true of R&B singer Brian McKnight.
BRIAN MCKNIGHT: I was very fortunate coming up in high school and in middle school to have a few teachers that not only encouraged me, but there were a few that discouraged me as well. And I used both. In eighth grade, I had an English composition teacher. Her name was Mrs. Caldwell. And it wasn't that she discouraged me necessarily, but we didn't agree on a lot of different things. I really didn't want to listen to what she had to say because the way she was saying it to me didn't always make sense to me.
And I went back years later, and I apologized to her for being the troublesome kid that I was to her because a lot of the things that she said was the truth. And it was invaluable, the things that I learned in her classroom even in eighth grade. And then in high school, as far as a teacher who encouraged me - I never was in chorus, which people may - maybe hard for people to believe because when I was a kid, if you sang or danced or did anything artistic, you would get beat up. I played football.
But the kids at school didn't know I was a musician, only the kids that went to church with me. And there was a chorus, teacher's name was Les Nepper(ph). And I wanted to be a jazz pianist so bad. I wandered into his classroom one day because there was a piano in there, and I started playing. And he took me aside and really showed me the ropes from a real jazz standpoint because he heard that I was kind of doing it, and he really, I mean, I was in there every day for two years it seemed like, just under his tutelage.
In every bit of music I do today, there's something that I use that he showed to me. And I never really got a chance to thank him because he passed away before my career really took off. But I really am grateful to the things that he was able to show me and encourage in me to be a better musician. And I take that with me every single day.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE THAN WORDS")
SIEGEL: That's musician Brian McKnight. His latest album is called "More Than Words."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.