ETIENNE CHARLES: (Trumpet, Percussion, Composer)
Trinidad born Etienne Charles is a performer, composer and storyteller, who is continuously searching for untold stories and sounds with which to tell them. His lush trumpet sound, varied compositional textures and pulsating percussive grooves enable him to invoke trance, soothing and exciting listeners while referencing touchy and sometimes controversial subjects in his music.
A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and 2022 Creative Capital Awardee, he researches his compositions by travelling to the regions on which he is focused, meeting with musicians and cultural leaders then observing and participating in rituals to be fully immersed into the
cultures that he is studying.
As an Afro-descendant, his work is actively connecting the diaspora and drawing lines to regions at the roots of migrations. Highlighting marginalized communities and engaging with them has been his mission, evident with projects such as Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1, San Jose Suite, Creole Soul, and Folklore.
A firm believer in music and performance as a tool for provoking thought and dialogue, Charles’ themes speak to the status quo while drawing parallels to history. With his latest commissioned project, San Juan Hill, he goes a step further by exploring the storied New York neighborhood to bring the culture of San Juan Hill to the mainstage.
His concerts engage, enlighten, educate and enrich audiences with energized multidisciplinary performance utilizing original composition, thematic improvisation, dance,
short films and spoken word to create a holistic experience.
In June 2012, he was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad & Tobago and the World. In 2013, his album Creole Soul reached #1 for three weeks on the Jazzweek chart and was eventually named #3 Jazz Album of the year by Jazzweek.
In 2013 he received the Caribbean Heritage Trailblazer award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies (Washington, DC). In 2016 he was the recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher Scholar Award, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Millennial Swing award and was a featured panelist and performer at the White House for a Caribbean Heritage Month Briefing. He made his debut as producer and songwriter on the album Petite Afrique by Somi (Sony/Okeh 2017) which won Outstanding Jazz Album at the 2018 NAACP Image Awards.
He has been featured as a bandleader at the Newport Jazz Festival (RI), Monterey Jazz Festival (CA), Atlanta Jazz Festival (GA), Pittsburgh JazzLive international Festival (PA), San Jose Jazz Festival (CA), Java Jazz Festival (Indonesia), Ottawa Jazz Festival (Canada), St. Lucia Jazz Festival, Barbados Jazz Festival, Library of Congress (DC), Carnegie Hall (NY) and Koerner Hall (Canada).
As a sideman he has performed with and/or arranged for Roberta Flack, Marcus Roberts, Marcus Miller, Count Basie Orchestra, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Big Band, Monty Alexander, Gregory Porter, René Marie, Paulette McWilliams and many others. He has been commissioned as a composer and arranger by Lincoln Center (2018 & 2021), Savannah Music Festival (2017), Chamber Music America (2015 2021), the Charleston Jazz Orchestra (2012) and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble (2011).
As an educator and conductor he has done residencies at the Juilliard School, Stanford University, Columbia College Chicago, Oakland University, Kent State University, Walnut Hills High School, Cultural Academy for Excellence, and the US Military Academy.
His dedication to the preservation of artistic traditions in his homeland inspired him to form and lead the Carnival bands, "We the People" (2017), "Street Party" (2018), "D longtime
Band" (2019) and "Euphoria" (2020) which featured a full live brass band on a truck going through the streets of Woodbrook and Port of Spain playing vintage calypso and soca.
Understanding his role as Artist citizen, he sees live music as a way to uplift all peoples and is dedicated to bringing it to those who aren’t able to attend concerts. Specifically, in his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, he has done performances and workshops at Princess
Elizabeth Center, St. Dominic’s children’s home, St. Mary’s children’s home, St. Jude’s school for girls, St. Michael’s school for boys, St. Margaret’s school for boys, Youth Training Center and Maximum Security Prison.
He currently serves as Associate Professor of Studio Music and Jazz at the University of Miami, Patricia L. Frost School of Music.