by JB Hyppolite
Pianist Andy Trackman, 55, who performed with fellow Mt. Airy musician Gaille “Gypsy Heart” Hunter in a program of “Jazz Standards” on June 27 at the Germantown Town Hall, has been strongly influenced by music almost his entire life. “My father is a music teacher, and my mother was an art teacher,” he explained, “so growing up I got hit with both art and music.”
Andy’s foray into music began at the age of 9 when he started to play the piano. He grew up learning the piano classics and in high school learned jazz piano. Andy has the utmost respect for classical piano, blues and rock, but claims jazz as being his first musical love. Andy’s biggest influences include Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Hazel Scott, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Andy used to perform piano and tour with popular comedian Big Daddy Graham around the east coast, primarily Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He was also house pianist at the Comedy Factory Outlet, keyboardist in a rock band and in his own musical-comedy group, and he worked as a stand-up comic.
“When you’re a musician or an artist, you have to think on your feet and change on a dime,” Andy said, explaining that unless you are a superstar, you better have “a day job” in order to pay the bills. As a result, “The job situation wasn’t great, but I did land with a start-up company called MCI (in 1985), which was one of the first competitive long distance (telecommunication) companies. That was a very exciting company. We were competing against the big monopoly in AT&T; there was a lot of energy.”
MCI became WorldCom in 1998 before going bankrupt and changing its name back to MCI, which was bought by Verizon in 2006. Andy became motivated to venture out on his own after the constant reorganization, transition and layoffs he described as being “typical” in the world of corporate America. Andy left Verizon in 2011 and has since focused on his own business, AC Trackman Consulting, which focuses on independent marketing and communications for the arts.
“Since I’ve always loved arts and culture, historic preservation and community development, I decided to focus my attention on those kinds of clients. It’s certainly not as lucrative as it was in the corporate world, but I’m enjoying it a lot more,” said Andy, whose biggest adjustment in being self-employed is realizing that the freedom of being your own boss carries with it an extra sense of responsibility. “You can call in sick, but when you’re calling in sick, nothing’s getting done.”
Trackman was born in Trenton, New Jersey, but grew up in Bordentown, New Jersey, and attended Bordentown Regional High School. He has a B.A. in Communications from Temple University. Andy’s wife, Michele, who had a career in art and photography, died in 2010 after a 12-year battle with cancer. His daughter, Zoe, 16, will be a 10th grader at Germantown Friends School in the fall. Andy held a retrospective show of Michele’s artwork last October at the Mt. Airy Art Garage. (When his daughter attended Greene Street Friends School, Andy chaired the Annual Giving Campaign for two years and was the class annual Giving Campaign Captain for six years.)
Andy and his wife bought and rehabbed three old houses in Fairmount, Bella Vista and East Mount Airy. Andy acted as his own general contractor and engaged in hands-on construction and demolition work. Their houses always had gardens, where Andy would grow, maintain and manage flower and vegetable gardens. He enjoys gardening to this day.
For the past year, Andy has been president of the board of the Germantown United Community Development Corporation, whose mission is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of Germantown’s business corridor. Keeping his music chops intact, Andy also plays with The Sedgwick Sessions, a blues and rock band that plays regularly in Northwest Philadelphia.
“I see everything as a learning experience,” said Andy, “and I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. I believe in planning and adhering to plans, but I also know that many aspects of life are beyond my control. I do not get rattled easily, and I pride myself on my ability to think on my feet.”