1. You recently joined the group Imani Winds, what’s that like?
Joining Imani Winds has changed my life in so many ways. I've been so fortunate to able to travel the world and play so much incredible music. Imani has such a diverse and rich musical palette , and I'm so happy to be a part of it. We regularly collaborate with incredible artists and composers outside of the group, and get to work in multiple genres and traditions, which is always very exciting.
2. How do you become so adept in multiple genres? Do you have any tips for diving into a new genre?
I've been playing jazz since I was in high school, so for me playing in multiple genres has been apart of my life for many years. I think it's important to realize that it's never too late to get into a new genre. The most import thing to remember is to always approach a new style of music without self judgement and criticism. Spend as much time listening as you do playing, keep your ears open to new sounds, and don't be afraid to do things that push you out of your comfort zone.
3. How did you come to commission the piece “Non-Poem 4” by Jonathan Ragonese?
Jonathan has been a very close friend of mine since I first moved to New York. I've been wanting him to write something for me for years, and finally got around to pestering him about it 2 years ago.
4. What current project(s) are you working on?
Imani Winds is going into the studio next week to record a project written for us by the incredible composer/pianist Edward Simon and his band Afinidad with David Binney, Brian Blade, and Scott Colley.
I have been busy working on my duo project with with pianist Jeremy Ajani Jordan. We are working on writing, arranging, and recording a lot of music right now. Most of our music is highly influenced by hip hop, gospel, jazz and classical music.
5. What is your current setup?
6. When did you decide you wanted to be a musician, and what drew yo to that decision?
I was 13 when I knew I wanted to become a professional musician. I was in my 8th grade jazz band and my band director gave me a solo. The feeling I had playing over the band felt so free, and I knew I had to spend the rest of the my life chasing that sensation.
7. Who have been some of the most influential people in your life?
My teachers David Krakauer and Deborah Chodacki have had an enormous impact. Both were fundamental in shaping the way I think about music and creativity.
8. Who are your musical inspirations?
If I had to name 5 it would be John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Donny Hathaway, Bach and Brahms.
9. What are the greatest challenges you have faced as a musician and how have you overcome them?
Working in multiple genres at the same time can be overwhelming. It's hard to balance maintaining my life as a classical musician and the practice and dedication that goes with it, and still working towards my own musical projects outside of classical music. It's really all about putting in the time. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, and I always feel like I'm trying to catch up to the incredible musicians around me. That struggle is part of what makes me love music so much, you're always trying to get to that next rung in the ladder.
10. Do you have any particularly memorable performances?
So many great memories! In the past year, playing a show with Vulfpeck at Central Park Summerstage was a highlight for sure. Bernard Purdue, the legendary drummer, sat in with the band and it was incredible playing with him and listening to his stories.
11. What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your life as a musician?
Really at its core, for me music has always been about connecting with people, whether it be a musician in the stage or the audience. The friendships that I've formed through my years as a musician have made all the sacrifice and dedication worth it. As a performer, knowing that I made emotional impact on a listener is extremely rewarding.