In 'Soul,' Jon Batiste's Music Helps Bring Pixar's First Black Lead To Life

 Pixar's new animated film Soul is the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school school music teacher with big dreams about performing jazz onstage. "Music is all I think about, from the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night," he says. "I was born to play."

In the film, Joe Gardner reminisces about seeing a jazz musician improvising. "The next thing I know he floats off the stage. That guy was lost in the music and he took the rest of us with him."

Batiste actually grew up just outside New Orleans, in Kenner, La. As a youngster, he played drums with the family band. At 11, he began playing the piano and by 13, he was playing professionally, with his friend Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. He remembers them playing with the Rebirth Brass Band and sneaking into clubs to perform. After high school, Batiste studied music at Julliard. Shortly after he earned his undergraduate and master's degrees in piano at Julliard, he performed on The Colbert Report. Then Stephen Colbert asked him to be the house band for The Late Show.

Besides leading his band Stay Human on the show, Batiste is also featured in comical video segments. The chemistry and admiration between Colbert and Batiste is frequently on display. "I'm proud to work with you," Colbert told him on the show in June, just after Batiste led a peaceful and musical Black Lives Matter march through the streets of New York City. Thousands of people followed him like a pied piper, protesting police brutality with music and dancing.


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