Author: Chuck Nunley
Q&A: Zo!- Keys Open Doors
Ever since Henry Ford opened up shop in 1903, Detroit, Michigan has been associated with the motto, “Building from the ground up.” This means perfecting your craft as a “labor of love” at a perfectionist level, then taking your work to the people one by one to create loyal supporters. As a native of The D, Lorenzo Ferguson, better known as Zo!, embodies this motto. As a member of The Foreign Exchange Music family, a collective who represents “from the ground up” to the core, Zo!’s musicianship as been a vital piece of the +FE Music sound on record as well as on stage, while serving as the band’s musical director on tour. Now with the release of his sophomore album, appropriately titled ManMade, Zo! sat down with SoulTrain.com during a tour stop in Los Angeles to discuss bringing his latest labor of love to the people.
SouTrain.com: In your bio, it said as a kid, you aspired to be a Major League Baseball player and despised taking piano lessons. What was the moment that changed that and music became your passion?
Zo!: I think it changed almost overnight when I learned how to play by ear. Once I learned how to play by ear, then I was able to learn songs I wanted to learn rather than only classical pieces. I could turn on the radio, pick out songs and play them for other people. When you’re a kid, it’s important to you to be able to kind of show off and get your little praise. Once I was able to do that I thought, “Oh this could be something.” But at that point in my life, it had yet to trump baseball yet. It was there, but I never knew I would be making a living off it.
SoulTrain.com: For a number of years, while progressing in your career, you were a music teacher. Talk about the importance of music and other arts programs in schools, and how your experience as a teacher shaped you as a musician.
Zo!: . It helps you tremendously as a musician because you’re practicing all the time to teach your students. I think when you teach, you have to be on top of your game. This was especially [true] with the environment I was working in, which was kids with special needs that were also in and out of jail. They’ll come to my class, look at me like and go, “What do you know? What can you teach me?” And If I play on the piano and suck, then they’re really looking at me like, “Aw you’re garbage, now I don’t have to listen to you on any level, period.” So when you are on top of your game and answering all of their questions the way they need to be answered, then they are looking at you like, “he cares enough to answer these questions and is looking out for us.” The same applies with music education as a whole. If you are able to, for example, decipher different notes and signs while reading music, you’re able to unlock other types of reasoning that applies to other subjects and basic problem solving. Music and arts can be applied to math, English and science. When states get to cutting budgets, they look at arts as a hobby. I see it as a life changer; I’ve seen it save lives first hand.