One meeting during his college days led to a mentorship that has shaped George Gee’s whole career. A few months after George created popular big band music show for Carnegie Mellon University’s radio station, the station manager asked him to interview William “Count” Basie before a campus concert in 1979. This inspiring conversation changed George’s life.

In George’s own words:

My December 1979 meeting with Count Basie was a pivotal point in my early big band days, as his encouragement and attention was invaluable in the formation of my confidence to pursue an unlikely career path: bandleader. That initial half-hour I spent one-to-one with this musical legend and trendsetter in his dressing room at Carnegie Music Hall was truly magical. For the next five years, I was blessed to continue my personal relationship with him and he always asked about the progress of my band.

Mr. Basie’s simplest words of advice were simply to persevere as a bandleader and I would recall this whenever times were tough and I wanted to give it all up.

Also, most significantly, it was from him that I learned the importance of how this “happy” music needs to be played by happy people! Experiencing the camaraderie of the Basie Band firsthand and the love and utmost respect the musicians had for their leader taught me the importance of such details, especially with a group of artists that spend so much time together. A swingin’ big band is a team, a family… a tribe.