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 the great jazz Charlie Mingus – he just had to take the double bass.
This is why audiences can now see the 23-year-old perform for the singer. Carole J. Bufford in the Florida Studio Theater cabaret show “Vintage POP!” or listen to him (when the live music returns) play with The Venice Symphony and other orchestras.
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Christopher Mink, Director of Pine View, “taught me for free for six years out of the kindness of heart, so I owe all the skills I have to public education,” Mingus said in a recent Zoom discussion.
There is much more to the young student and musician than an instrument or a cabaret performance can 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 at the Siesta Key Chapel, where he is Acting Music Director.
He also plays jazz with other musicians in the state and performs as a subcontractor with The Venice Symphony, and as a freelance or backup 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.
âI missed a call during the pandemic with the Florida Orchestra, which I really regret, and hope to work with them at some point,â he said.
Mingus is involved in a chamber band at New College and sometimes he has to work on switching 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 sets out on the path to 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.
âThe best way to describe it is to say that you are studying the dysfunction,â he said. âI 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 âit will be a calling, a paid hobbyâ. And he finds a way to relate music to his science studies.
His dissertation “will probably focus on the important differences, if any, in cortical activity between monophonic instrumentalists, such as trumpeters and clarinetists, and polyphonic instrumentalists, such as guitarists and pianists.” He said he hoped to find a way that could help patients heal their memory.
On monophonic instruments, musicians can only play one sound at a time, compared to a piano or guitar, where multiple notes can be played simultaneously.
âMusic therapy is a proven intervention in the care of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,â he said.
As if his studies weren’t stimulating enough, he also took Chinese lessons, which he describes as “a very musical language.” It is one of the most widely spoken languages ââin the world and I thought it would be beneficial to understand at least part of it, if I can, âhe said. âI discovered that it was very musical, even if it is difficult to learn, especially for someone who only dealt with Latin or Romance languages.
It is all part of a ânetwork of culturesâ that fascinates him. âThere 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.
âIt was a tough time and I couldn’t keep up with the rigors of school,â he said. He obtained a GED in 2014 which allowed him to start university.
As a freshman in high school, he was part of the rowing team.
âI have a strange quote from this 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, editor and theater critic, has been editor and writer at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune since 1984. Learn more about his art and entertainment stories. And please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.