Roots, Jazz, and American Music faculty member Chad Lefkowitz-Brown gives a minute master class on what it takes to be a successful freelance musician.
- Applied Saxophone
- Fellowship Program, Brubeck Institute
- Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
- Clarence Penn and Penn Station
What is your hometown?
What is your favorite recording?
I couldn't possibly pick a favorite recording, but I've taken inspiration from artists ranging from Lester Young to Eminem.
What are you passionate about outside of music?
My passions and hobbies outside of music are always changing. When I was a kid, my first childhood dream was to be in the NHL, so I was really serious about hockey for several years. Most recently, I've taken up basketball. I always wanted to be able to dunk, so I'm finally pursuing that in adulthood. I've also become a pet lover over the past year. My fiancé and I now have a dog and two cats.
Who were your major teachers?
My father, Alan Lefkowitz, is a retired music teacher and big jazz fan. He played primarily woodwinds, and loved Charlie Parker, so I've been listening to "Bird" since birth. He gave me a really solid start on saxophone and improvisation and when I was 10 years old, he hooked me up with a local jazz musician, George Reed, who took me under his wing.
George was 78 when I met him, and I was lucky to spend so much time playing shows with a musician who lived and played through the tradition of jazz. George lived in NYC for a long time before moving to Elmira. He spent years playing with legends like Teddy Wilson, Buddy Tate, and Marian McPartland. I was lucky enough to start gigging consistently with George when I was only 11 years old, mainly playing at the local jazz club, Green Pastures. The club closed down after George and the owner passed, but while it was open it was a gem of the local community. I didn't know until later on in life how lucky I was to grow up being part of a jazz scene like that.
When I went on to college at the Brubeck Institute, I was fortunate enough to study under Dr. Joe Gilman. Studying with a pianist made me approach my practicing very differently. I don't think I really even started to get a hang of the material we worked on together until years later, and to this day, I still find myself circling back to study it more.
What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?
"How can I get better at playing through chord changes?" (It's also the question that I wish I asked sooner when I was in school.)
What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?
I remember being about 12 or 13 years old, playing a gig at the local jazz club, and the music just felt so good I knew that I would have to spend my life pursuing that euphoric feeling.
If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?
I think I would do something in the field of social work. I like working with people and I'm always looking to make a positive impact.
What is your daily practice routine?
Unfortunately, I don't get to practice daily, since I'm often slammed with any combination of touring, recording, composing, rehearsing, and teaching. But when I do get to practice, I try to balance my practice time between tone, technique, and tunes. There are a bunch of sub-categories of course, but it helps me to organize everything under the umbrella of those three "T"s.
If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?
Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Rachmaninoff.
From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?
1959 in New York. So many of the albums released that year are favorites of mine, including: Miles Davis’ "Kind of Blue,” John Coltrane’s "Giant Steps," “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco," and Ornette Coleman’s "The Shape of Jazz to Come."
What recordings can we hear you on?
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (Independent)
Clarence Penn - Monk: The Lost Files (Origin Records)
Adam O’Farrill: Stranger Days (Sunnyside Records)
Isaac Darche: Team and Variations (Challenge Records)
Ron McClure: Ready Or Not (Steeplechase Records)
What is your unrealized project?
I am in a perpetual state of trying to realize unrealized projects. I think most artists and musicians share that sentiment.