The bassist plays classical and jazz music and studies the brain
Isaac Mingus originally wanted to follow his father and study the clarinet as a child. But his director of the Pine View Orchestra told him that with a name like Mingus – as in jazz greats Charlie Mingus – he just had to get down to double bass.
This is why the public can now see the 23-year-old perform for singer Carole J. Bufford in the cabaret show “Vintage POP!” or listen to him (when the live music returns) play with The Venice Symphony and other orchestras.
Ticket Information Bulletin: Sign up to receive the latest news on things to do, restaurants and more every Friday
FST summer season: Florida Studio Theater increases capacity with revised summer plans
Pine View director Christopher Mink “taught me volunteering for six years out of the goodness of the heart, so I owe all the skills I have to public education,” Mingus said in a recent Zoom chat. .
There is much more to the young student and musician than an instrument or a cabaret show might indicate. He picked up the cello – or baby bass, as he calls it – when he showed up to the State College of Florida and discovered that there were nine double basses but only two cellos. He brings his cello with him to certain services and programs of the Siesta Key Chapel, where he serves as interim musical director.
He also plays jazz with other musicians across the state and performs as a contract player with The Venice Symphony, and as a freelance or stand-in with the Ocala Symphony, Space Coast Symphony and others. In 2015, he was part of a trio with jazz legend Dick Hyman at the world premiere of Hyman’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No.2 with The Venice Symphony.
“I missed a call during the pandemic with the Florida Orchestra, which I really regret, and hope to work with them at some point,” he said.
Mingus is involved in a chamber music group at New College and sometimes he has to work to switch between cello and bass, which requires adjustments in his bow and other techniques.
He does all of these things alongside his workload as a full-time student at New College of Florida, where he is embarking on a career that sounds far removed from music.
He plans to become a clinical neuropsychologist, a physician who focuses on the relationship between the physical brain and behavior.
“The best way to describe it is to say that you are studying the dysfunction,” he said. “I want to help people, fill a niche. There is a shortage of neuropsychologists and they are going to become invaluable and even rarer, and I want to fill that gap.
He said music will always be a part of his life, but it will be “a calling, a paid hobby”. And he finds a way to relate music to his science studies.
His dissertation “will likely cover, if there are notable differences in cortical activity between monophonic instrumentalists, such as trumpeters and clarinetists, and polyphonic instrumentalists, such as guitarists and pianists.” He said he hopes to find a way that could help memory care patients.
On monophonic instruments, musicians can only play one tone at a time, unlike a piano or guitar, where multiple notes can be played simultaneously.
“Music therapy is a proven intervention in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
As if his studies weren’t demanding enough, he also took Chinese lessons, which he describes as a “very musical language.” It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and I thought it would be beneficial to understand at least part of it, if I can, ”he said. “I discovered that it is very musical, even if it is difficult to learn, especially for someone who has only had to deal with Latin or Romance languages.
It is all part of a “network of cultures” that fascinates him. “There is a lot of music to be learned from East Asian cultures that we don’t bring more. There is more research to do once I understand Mandarin.
The challenges are nothing new for Mingus, who dropped out of high school after his father died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“It was a difficult time and I couldn’t keep up with the rigors of school,” he said. He obtained a GED in 2014 which allowed him to start university.
In his first year in high school, he was part of the rowing team.
“I have a strange quote from that year. They named me student athlete of the week or something and before I row I said I prefer the lonely life with cats. I don’t know what that means.
For tickets for “Vintage POP! At the Florida Studio Theater, call 941-366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.
Jay Handelman, artistic editor and theater critic, has been an editor and writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune since 1984. Learn more about his stories of art and entertainment. And please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.