About Will Rast
Robert William Rast was born May 23, 1981, in Fairfax, VA. He was attracted to music from an early age, and soon found the piano as his instrument of choice. At school and at home, he was encouraged to pursue his interest in music and he began studying classical piano at the age of 7.
Will Rast & Friends, above, at Bohemian Caverns. Will has been nominated twice for Best Instrumentalist in the Washington Area Music Association awards (Wammies).
When he was 9, Will won a Piano Competition at the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. At 10, he was composing for the piano, writing classical minuets that emulated the style of his favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
When he was 11, Will was one of 12 nationwide finalists in the National Music Teachers Association young artists competition for his original composition, Fantasia in A Minor, and he was invited to perform it live at the NMTA annual meeting in New Orleans in 1992.
It was this trip to New Orleans that sparked Will’s interest in modern music. While visiting his grandparents in Savannah, GA, on the way back from New Orleans, Will visited his first jazz club, bassist Ben Tucker's Hard Hearted Hannah’s, and he was invited to sit in, much to the audience's delight. At that show, the late piano great Joe Jones encouraged Will to focus on jazz. From then on, each time his family visited Savannah, Will made a point to drop in and show his old friends how he was progressing.
By this point, Will knew what he wanted to do with his life. He immersed himself in the recordings of Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and every jazz artist he could get his hands on. Will began attending St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, MD, and quickly became the anchor of the school's award winning jazz band. He traveled to China with the group in 1998, playing in Beijing and Shanghai. Will also began playing at jam sessions and gigging at clubs and restaurants in the Washington, DC, area, including the legendary One Step Down and the National Press Club.
At 16, Will formed a jazz quartet and recorded his first CD at Louis Scherr's Warm Valley Studio in Washington, DC. By the time he was 17, Will was a fixture on the local music scene, playing three to six nights a week with many of DC’s most established musicians and studying intermittently with Washington pianist/arranger Ron Elliston. Will also studied music theory with pianist Bob Sykes at Washington's Levine School of Music.
After graduating from St. Andrew's in 1998, Will moved to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music and study jazz piano with pianist and composer Fred Hirsch.
Moving back to the D.C. area in 2000, Will jumped into the local scene and started meeting people and making a lasting impression as one of the most musically versatile players in the region. Around this time, Will met local singer/MC W. Ellington Felton, the son of legendary pianist Hilton Felton Jr., and the two began to work together frequently.
DC-based keyboard wizard Will Rast has been delighting audiences for more than 10 years with his extraordinary piano virtuosity and distinctive style. At 25, Rast is a groundbreaking force on the contemporary jazz scene.
Rast appears regularly in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region with a variety of popular acts, including Rob Coltun's Touch Acoustra and neo-soul/spoken word vocalist W. Ellington Felton & Art Hurts!; He was recently invited to join the touring band of Grammy-award winning R&B star Mya Harrison. Will appeared with Mya at her Nov. 26 Kunduchi Wet & Wild Water Park concert in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
He also is the creative catalyst behind his own jazz fusion ensemble, as well as critically acclaimed urban contemporary bands including W. Ellington Felton & Art Hurts!. Rast has been nominated twice for Best Instrumentalist in the Washington Area Music Association awards (Wammies), in 2002 and 2004. He has appeared nationwide , including recent gigs at the legendary Funky Butt and Tipitina's in New Orleans, 55 Bar in New York's Greenwich Village and the Temple Bar in L.A.
He is music director and keyboardist for W. Ellington Felton and has arranged and played keyboards for Urban Ave 31, featuring Jive Records recording artist Raheem Devaughn.
Rast is an accomplished composer and arranger, and did the arrangements and keyboards for the Felton-Devaughn duo collaboration CrossRhodes (Will's Fender Rhodes Piano was the genesis for the CrossRhodes name).