From Herald Tribune, May 5, 2021
Isaac Mingus originally wanted to follow his father and study the clarinet when he was a kid. But his Pine View Orchestra director told him that with a name like Mingus – as in the jazz great Charlie Mingus – he just had to take up the double bass.
That’s why audiences can now see the 23-year-old playing for singer Carole J. Bufford in the Florida Studio Theatre cabaret show “Vintage POP!” or hear him (when the live music returns) performing with The Venice Symphony and other orchestras.
Pine View director Christopher Mink “taught me pro bono for six years out of the goodness of his heart, so I owe any skills that I have to public education entirely,” Mingus said in a recent Zoom chat.
He also plays jazz with other musicians around the state and performs as a contract player with The Venice Symphony, and as a freelancer or substitute with the Ocala Symphony, the 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.
Mingus is involved with a chamber group at New College and sometimes he has to work at switching between the cello and the bass, which require adjustments in his bowing and other techniques.
He is doing all these things alongside his workload as a full-time student at New College of Florida, where he’s setting himself on a path toward a career that sounds a long way from music.
He plans to become a clinical neuropsychologist, a doctor who focuses on the relationship between the physical brain and behavior.
“The best way to describe it is to say you study dysfunction,” he said. “I want to help people, fill a niche. There’s a dearth of neuropsychologists and they’re going to become invaluable and even more rare, and I want to fill that gap.”
He said music will always be part of his life, but it “will be a vocation, a paid pastime.” And he is finding a way to connect music with his scientific studies.
His thesis “will likely surround, what, if any salient differences exist in the cortical activity between monophonic instrumentalists, like trumpeters and clarinetists, to polyphonic instrumentalists, like guitarists and pianists.” He said he hopes to find some way that might help memory care patients.
On monophonic instruments, musicians can play only one tone at a time, compared with a piano or a guitar, where several notes can be played simultaneously.
As if his studies aren’t challenging enough, he also has taken up classes in Chinese, which he describes as a “very musical language. It’s one of the most spoken languages in the world and I thought it would be advantageous to at least understand part of it, if I can,” he said. “I discovered it’s very musical, even if it’s hard to learn, especially for someone who has only dealt with Latin or Romance languages.
It’s all part of a “meshing of cultures” that fascinates him. “There’s a lot of music to be learned from Eastern Asian cultures that we don’t bring around more. There’s more research to do once I understand Mandarin.”
Challenges are nothing new to Mingus, who dropped out of high school after his father died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or A.L.S, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“It was a difficult time and I couldn’t keep up with the rigor of school,” he said. He earned a GED in 2014 that allowed him to start college.
As a freshman in high school, he was on the rowing team.
“I’ve got a weird quote from that year. They named me student athlete of the week or something and before rowing I said I preferred the lonely life with cats. I don’t know what that means.”
For tickets to “Vintage POP!” at Florida Studio Theatre, call 941-366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.