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Early years – 90ies

A family evening in the spring of 1985 in East Berlin nearly led to the premature end of Maria Baptist’s musical career. Together with her father, a swing pianist, she was watching the live television broadcast of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. It seemed like an endless montage, a parade of participants playing the same piece almost identically. It cast a shadow of doubt over her education as a classical concert pianist; she didn’t want to belong in this narrow frame.


Sometime later, Maria Baptist’s father brought her a copy of Jarrett’s Cologne concert from his travels; she was overwhelmed by the freedom in the playing she heard and by the improvisation, which was new to her.
The three kilometer walk to The New School started for Maria Baptist in 1993, from her room in the rough New York neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. For New Yorkers, the first East German student since the fall of the wall was close to a sensation- for Maria Baptist it was a true melting pot experience. Every single day of these nearly 3 years were filled with moments which still shape her today. Her composition studies with Maria Schneider were, in hindsight, one of the most important experiences of this period.


When Maria Baptist bowed for the first time at the end of a solo piano evening in the packed Leipzig opera house in her mid-twenties, it dawned on her that she had left behind her composition and piano student days at the Hanns Eisler university in Berlin for good.


She was a rising star, winner of multiple awards, with her first CD released. Hungry for the stage, curious for life—Paris, Berlin, New York, Havanna, and Ibiza were just some of her living quarters during this time.


Maria Baptist still asks herself why Michael Jackson chose her, winter of 2002. Behind the closed show window of a restaurant in central Berlin, she played Beethoven, jazz standards, and her own pieces for the King of Pop and his entourage.
At the beginning of her thirties everything was over, just like that. An emptiness seeped in between the keys and she gradually withdrew from the concert stage. She began a journey within: Buddhist teachings, meditation, Zen, spiritual masters and authors such as Eckhart Tolle and Paulo Coelho guided her way.


There was no specific moment of enlightenment during her retreat. After two years, the inner spirit and desire for playing and composing slowly returned. Maria Baptist had found her own voice, a language on the piano and on paper which went deeper than her original success as a virtuoso. Her style drew more strongly on her personality from then on.


Now Maria Baptist is sharing her time bewtween Berlin and her home of heart New York City. She inspires her audience wordlwide with the positive power of her music. Maria Baptist’s variety of facets and her soloistic skills have taken her to the forefront of the contemporary jazz scene.


She has been nominated for top prizes such as the ECHO Jazz or the German Record Critics’ Award and has led top orchestras such as the NDR, hr and RIAS Big Band. Maria Baptist gave more than 1,000 concerts worldwide as a soloist, with her trio and orchestra. “Her music is a gift, infused with all the creativity, power, emotion, generosity and warmth that she exudes in life”—the master Maria Schneider captures it wonderfully.

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