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WHS freshman jazzed for debut album

Woodbury High School freshman Michael Carter Jr., 14, will release his debut contemporary jazz album, "The Future," Aug. 15. Submitted photo.1 / 2
Woodbury High School freshman Michael Carter Jr., 14, will release his debut contemporary jazz album, "The Future," Aug. 15. Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith.2 / 2

Woodbury High School freshman Michael Carter Jr. has spent most of his life playing music.

Carter, 14, started playing piano when he was just 5years old and started composing his own music three years ago.

"When you're bored, or if there's anything wrong, you can just go to music and have fun," Carter said. "It lets your creativity flow and it just allows you to put it all out there."

Carter's debut album, "The Future," will be released Aug. 15.

An album release party will be held Aug. 17 at Arnellia's Night Club in St. Paul.

"The album was my dad's idea," Carter said. "He thought we should get serious with the music."

Carter describes "The Future" as "urban contemporary jazz."

Starting early

Carter began taking piano lessons at K&S Conservatory of Music in Woodbury after his sister started taking lessons at the music school and Carter was feeling left out.

Initially, the music teacher didn't want to take Carter on as a student since he was just 5 years old, but eventually agreed to teach him after witnessing the youngster's musical ear and maturity.

"Music was kind of always there for me," Carter said.

Carter said he primarily plays piano by ear, not necessarily by reading music.

"I like how it doesn't really matter if you have music in front of you," he said. "You can always make music no matter what."

Over the years Carter has dabbled in classical, R&B, jazz, blues and gospel.

In addition to piano, Carter is also skilled at saxophone, which he plays in the school band.

Composing on the computer

Carter started composing seriously about three years ago when his father gave him the Pro Tool composition software.

However, Carter's music-making started much earlier.

Carter said he would frequently play around with Guitar Hero and a feature in the video game where he could make up his own music.

"My dad thought I was doing too much on Guitar Hero I guess," he said.

When it comes to composing music, Carter said his process is simply recording a melody when one pops into his head.

"Usually something will pop into my head, like a melody or something," he said. "I'll try and remember it and when I get home I'll record it immediately and then I'll put tracks around it and make songs."

To date, Carter has composed 13 songs.

"It's really fun to just play around with since you can kind of be creative with it," he said. "That's what I like about it."

Carter said it took him more than 40 hours to complete "The Future."

He and his father came up with the title for his album as a metaphor for ambition, maturation and the "creative development of a young artist," Carter's mother Cheryle said.

Carter said he doesn't have any aspirations to be a best-selling musician; he would rather compose songs for other artists.

Carter said he hopes his music will inspire those who listen to it.

"I want them to see how I'm a 14-year-old who just loves music," he said.

Videos of Carter performing are available here and here.

An album release party will be held for Michael Carter Jr.'s debut album, "The Future," at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 at Arnellia's Night Club, 1183 University Ave. The party will feature performances by Carter, Wenso Ashby featuring Zsame, saxophonist Willie Moore and DJMJ-Malcolm. More information on Carter can be found at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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