Note: The below story was written by Karen Valentine. We would love to add a few links to places you might be able to find her on the Internet … but she doesn’t have a website, Twitter account or Facebook page, and for that, friends, she should probably be commended.
If you love hot jazz in the tradition of the great Louis Armstrong, the cool jazz of Miles Davis, and the swing of Benny Goodman, get ready!
Trumpeter Bria Skonberg is bringing her soulful musical styling to the Weinberg Center tonight. The Bria Skonberg Quintet are appearing courtesy of the Tivoli Discovery Series, a pay-what-you-can series of up-and-coming acts.
Skonberg has assembled a group from the United States and Canada, including Evan Arntzen (clarinet/saxophone), Sean Cronin (bass), Dalton Ridenhour (piano) and Darrian Douglas (drums).
Skonberg hails from Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, a city of about 80,000. The musician, composer, vocalist and band leader was gracious enough to chat with 72 Hours via Skype amid a busy schedule while in Europe attending a world music conference.
Your bio says that you started your professional career at age 16 as a vocalist and trumpeter. Sixteen! How young were you when you first began playing the trumpet and singing?
I started with piano at age 7. I began trumpet in seventh grade and played in my school jazz band in eighth grade. My father played trumpet in high school, and my parents were very supportive and encouraging of me and my siblings when it came to the arts. Canada as a country is very supportive of education in the arts in the public schools. I played sports and was president of student council in school and also held part-time jobs. These provided me an entrepreneurial skill set that helps with the creative side.
It’s amazing for many of us to see women as lead musicians on certain instruments: Bonnie Raitt and Nancy Wilson on lead guitar; Candy Dulfur on saxophone; Sheila E. on drums. How has it been for you as a female trumpeter?
There are female jazz trumpeters out there. There’s nothing anatomically different between men and women when it comes to playing trumpet or other horns. I had the lung capacity. You just have to practice like anything else. One of my favorite trumpeters is Ingrid Jensen. There were three or four other girls in my jazz music classes throughout high school and university, and I had an all-female jazz band (formed in 2005) for a few years called Mighty Aphrodite. Diva is a female big band group out of New Jersey that’s been around for 25 years. I got to sub in with them once.
What is the jazz scene in Chilliwack like compared to the States?
It’s not as strong or prevalent as in the States, but the music scene there is changing. With a growing immigrant population and with Canada being a nation of immigrants, musical cultures are blending and fusing together such as with world music. (World music is music embracing many different styles from around the world, including traditional and neo-traditional forms, and music created in which more than one cultural tradition come together.)
Do you write most of the music for your albums and performances? Your music reflects a deep respect for the more traditional forms of jazz.
Yes — almost all original music. I use experiences to write music. I do feel that people going into jazz should study the earlier forms of jazz. I moved to New York five years ago, and I had my ears and eyes open to gather material. Music is the soundtrack to everything we are as humans. I do feel that people going into jazz should study the earlier forms of jazz. I did just record a new album with a few more covers than usual. I’m using crowdfunding to help fund the production of the album and am now shopping it around to recording companies.
What do you like to listen to when you aren’t performing?
I like punk, ska, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll and other genres. I’m really into and influenced by world music. There is a lot of cool connection happening in music now.
Is there an artist you haven’t worked with but would like to collaborate with on a project or perform with on stage?
Harry Connick Jr. He’s tapped into the history of the great piano players of New Orleans.
Your website says that you work with “programming music education workshops for all ages.” Will you elaborate on that?
Music can shape the environment and jazz music is like a democracy. It’s a team sport. I’ll ask venues where I perform to put on a master class in the afternoon prior to a performance. I am currently participating in an outreach program through Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City that explores jazz and democracy (http://letfreedomswing.org).
Is this your first visit to Frederick? Have you played or are you planning dates in some of Maryland’s other cities?
Yes, this is my first visit to Frederick. I have played small clubs a few times in Baltimore but am hoping to learn more about other possible Maryland venues.
For more information on Bria Skonberg and the Bria Skonberg Quintet visit jwpjazz.com/bria_skonberg.html.