By Kara Boerio
The Ian Kinnaman Quartet is a group with ties to Youngstown State University and continues to remain local by playing twice monthly at Noble Creature Cask House.
The quartet is composed of YSU alumni: bass player Ian Kinnaman and guitar player Dave Lynn, as well as two current YSU students: trumpet player Darren Thompson and drummer Owen Davis.
Kinnaman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education from YSU in 2020 and created the group in May 2021.
Being a musician throughout college gives students a chance to practice their skills but can create challenges since it’s a big-time commitment, he said.
“My philosophy in college was just play as much as [possible]. I did a bunch of ensembles, joined as many groups outside as I could,” Kinnaman said.
Belonging to multiple groups in college will create challenges in students’ day-to-day schedules, but getting involved will improve their skills as professional musicians.
“It’s definitely going to get [them] more than focusing solely on the course load in [their] other classes, like playing is super important, any chance [they] get,” he said.
Kinnaman looks to musicians in New York City for influence, and he said infusing elements of that sound into his music has helped the quartet develop a strong following.
Thompson, a senior jazz trumpet performance major, decided to join this group because of the level of musicianship surrounding him.
“One of my great professors at YSU told me that I never want to be the greatest person in a band, and I always want to be feeling like I always have stuff to work on,” he said. “And in this group, I definitely do.”
Thompson said he has a good ear and is good at taking criticism, which he believes are strengths as a professional musician.
Lynn, who graduated from YSU in 2004 with a jazz performance degree, said the reason he’s a professional musician is because he doesn’t get discouraged.
“The only thing that makes me good is probably I could sit there and stink at something longer and I don’t give up, I just keep on doing it until I get better at it,” he said.
Davis, a senior jazz performance major, is passionate about music because it’s one of the few art forms that allows him to express creativity and emotion in his work.
“I know some people can look at a painting or a sculpture and it can be a powerful thing for them, but for me, it’s more the auditory, makes it way more emotional,” he said.
Davis said he tries to keep his ears open and listen to all the musicians around him so he can respond accordingly.
“The music that I play — there’s something very exciting about not knowing anything about what’s going to happen and just throwing yourself into the void that is performing,” he said.
Dave Morgan, a professor at the Dana School of Music, has inspired these musicians and is fascinated by all styles of music.
Morgan had teachers who showed him the way to a wonderful life as a professional musician and he is open to sharing this gift with his students.
“I just remember the 18-year-old me, and try to be present with everyone and help each person I work with find their own voice and realize their artistic dreams,” Morgan said. “I love nothing better than seeing former students doing great things out in the world.”
He wants his students to be well-rounded musicians and to develop a good ear and a great sense of rhythm. Morgan believes if a student is willing to do the work, they can acquire the level of proficiency needed for a music career.