Blake Shaw to play original compositions for virtual ‘Stages’ performance

Bass player and singer Blake Shaw recorded a virtual concert through the Englert Theatre as part of their ‘Stages’ programming to be available to viewers on May 5 at 7 p.m.


Kate Heston

Blake Shaw poses for a photo at the intermission of his and Dan Padley’s show outside Goosetown Cafe on the evening of Oct. 7, 2020.

Abby McCusker, Arts Reporter

In high school, Blake Shaw’s band director converted him from a guitar player into a bass player to perform in the school’s jazz band, and Shaw ended up falling in love with the instrument. With too small of a high school to support an orchestra, the school purchased an upright bass so he could learn how to play. He ended up pursuing an undergraduate degree in bass performance and a master’s degree in jazz composition and performance at the University of Iowa.

A virtual showing of Shaw’s original music will air on May 5 at 7 p.m. as a part of the Englert Theatre’s ‘Stages’ series. Shaw recorded the 30-minute program in February. Viewers can purchase access to the performance on the Englert website.

Shaw is involved in music in all aspects of his professional life. He said that right now all of his income comes from music. He teaches music to young children at the Hiawatha Cedar Rapids Day School, provides one-on-one instruction at the School of Rock, and spends his weekends performing live for audiences.

Before the pandemic, Shaw performed live multiple times a week. Those opportunities disappeared very quickly and have just recently begun to pick back up, he said.

Shaw added that the “Stages” performance was a great opportunity to create a performance that makes him proud.

“The performance that I did for ‘Stages’ was the first time I could open up and do something emotional and put my heart into it,” he said. “I remember afterward feeling really good after it.”

Shaw will play original compositions during his performance. He said his creative process involves a lot of “noodling,” an artistic means of producing music where an artist will simply sit down and play without anything in mind.

The musician said a previous professor of his taught him that it was easier to fix something than create something new.

“That means when I’m trying to create something I get stuck with an empty sheet of paper and he told me to just write something down then fix it,” he said.

RELATED: Penny Peach Jr. performs new music as part of Englert’s ‘Stages’ program

Shaw said he dislikes the idea of pinning himself to a genre. The performance will feature numerous genres including jazz and R&B, but he said there is a lot of variety in his music. Shaw said that the most important aspect is not the genre being played but that the music is played well.

Shaw equates mixing genres with mixing cultures. He said that genres have different dialects that can be mixed to create a new sound.

“To me, music is all quite the same, the only thing that changes are the grooves or the rhythms. One of the biggest things that change is the dialects. I use that word a lot when I’m talking deeply about music because when I’m playing jazz I play differently, I play different notes, I play different directions than I would if I was playing a country song or a bluegrass song,” Shaw said. “Every genre of music has its own dialects. I love to mix all those dialects, just like talking, just like speaking, we’re always borrowing from other cultures and that’s how I do my music.”