Molly Ridley ’14 has been playing the piano since she was five years old. 

A native of Westbrook, Maine, she is now a jazz pianist and began playing gigs around southern and midcoast Maine in high school. 

Until middle school she had played all forms of piano music with no particular focus. In the seventh grade, Ridley turned to  jazz, and her interest in the genre has never abated. 

In high school, Ridley played in Westbrook High School’s jazz band and formed her own four-person combo group.

“They were like an extended family and a big part of my high school career,” she said.

The combo group still gets together to play when all of its members are home from college. Venues they play include Gingko Blue in Portland, Solo Bistro in Bath, Azure Café in Freeport, and the Inn at Brunswick Station. 

They have also competed in local jazz festivals, as well as one at Berkeley College.

The group has consistently placed in the top three brackets of all competitions. In 2010  they won first place in a Maine jazz festival. 

When not playing with her high school group, Ridley is often accompanied by local bass player Tom Bucci and saxophone player Jason St. Pierre. 

“Tom heard me playing in high school and asked me to join him,” she said. 

Since high school, Ridley has continued to play with Bucci and St. Pierre and usually asks them to accompany her if she is playing at an event or recital. 

When asked what she loves most about jazz, Ridley spoke of the musical liberty the genre gives her.

“One of the things I love about jazz is that I can improv on the spot and the freedom it gives me,” she said.

Ridley does not limit herself to jazz music and says she enjoys experimenting with rock, pop and funk. In the past she has worked with vocalist Tess Collins, niece of Senator Susan Collins. 

As her piano career progresses, Ridley says she is working to foster her other diverse musical interests on the side. 

Although she is a government and mathematics double major, piano playing is still a large part of her life on campus. 

“I guess I thought about being a music major in high school, but I knew I wanted it as more of a hobby or release,” said Ridley.

Ridley plays with Bowdoin’s jazz ensemble and sometimes accompanies on-campus bands and music groups, though she is not affiliated with one in particular. 

Along with being a member of the jazz ensemble, Ridley is a calculus tutor and has done research related to her major on campus for the past two years. 

On Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m., Ridley will perform in Studzinski Recital Hall, along with Bucci, Pierre and drummer Steve Grover.

The performance will feature some pieces that Ridley composed herself.
Ridley says she started writing music in 2008.

“I’m excited that the recital is all my own tunes,” she said. “I have been working toward this for a year and a half.”