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Carlos Brown, Jr. is the final student we’ll be featuring from East St. Louis. A junior and a third-year member of the JazzU program, he credits Jazz St. Louis (JSL) for the leaps in his development as an alto-sax player. “I don’t think I would be in contact with so many different musicians or instructors, and I definitely wouldn’t be playing on the level I’m playing on now. [JSL] really means a lot to me,” he says.
But Carlos has been immersed in music for most of his life. He grew up in a musical family; his father, a trumpeter, introduced him to jazz early on. “Music was everywhere,” Carlos says. “It was meant for me to do it.” And so, as soon as he was eligible, Carlos auditioned for JazzU – and made it. With both hands, he seized the opportunity to advance his skill and learn from some of the same artists his father played for him as a child. “I got a chance to talk to the great Lou Donaldson. It was amazing to have him share his musical experiences with me,” he says.
And it’s the one-on-one time with musicians, like Donaldson, that inspires Carlos to share his gift with others. He is beyond his years in both wisdom and ability: “Our role as young musicians is to keep the torch burning, because if we don’t, who will?” he says. When finished with high school, Carlos looks to major in either music performance or music therapy. “I’m the type that loves to help people out. My main goal when I’m on stage is not to have the best solo, but to touch one person in the crowd. If one person is moving to my music, then I’ve done my job,” he says.
As you read this, Carlos (along with Brady, Everette, Marvin and the rest of the ESLH Jazz Band) is performing in New York City for the Essentially Ellington competition and festival. “It [has given] us something to work towards,” he says. And as a section leader, Carlos will guide the ensemble as they fill Jazz at Lincoln Center with that signature St. Louis sound.
For our part, we hope that you’ve enjoyed getting to know these four young men. It has been a pleasure to share their stories with you, and it has been an honor to help make those stories possible.