Creating Scenes with Sound

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Wednesday January 02, 2019

From The Score: An Insider’s Guide to the Performing Arts

Etienne Charles: Creating Scenes with Sound
By: Shelley Worrell

Trumpet player, composer, and music professor Etienne Charles’“known for blending a variety of musical traditions into his own signature style’“premieres a work commissioned by Lincoln Center at the David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday, January 3. In advance of the show, cultural entrepreneur and CARIBBEING founder Shelley Worrell caught up with Charles to talk about his influences, latest projects, and the role of artists in society.

SW: Can you talk a bit more about your process, and what you hope people feel or take away from your work?

EC: My process is very simple. I write music by creating scenes with sound. And my goal is for people to feel what I feel. Because that’s all the piece is’“the piece is what happened based on how I feel about it. I hope people will feel like they learned something. I hope that they feel a little more energized to understand that there’s a game at play now to make human rights a political side as opposed to a basic need. That’s what it’s about for me. It’s about people understanding that any immigrant should be treated the same, and they should all be treated like human beings. It shouldn’t matter what color their skin is, it shouldn’t matter how poor the country that they’re coming from is, it shouldn’t matter why they’re coming, whether it’s for asylum or for work or for education or to visit the Empire State building. Immigrants should be treated the same: respectfully.

SW: What’s coming up for you in 2019 and beyond?

EC: The Carnival album is coming out soon, and I’ll be releasing videos online for that this month. We have some really fun shows, including San Francisco and L.A., which will include actual Carnival performers.

A big part of what I do is teach, so I’ll continue teaching at Michigan State University. I teach applied jazz trumpet, jazz orchestra, and composition. I always encourage my students to dig into their roots to understand what their musical perspective could be, no matter where they’re from. I make them figure out where their parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents are from, and I make them research that music as well because it’s a big part of who they are, whether they know it or not.

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