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Meet Avery Scanlon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Avery Scanlon.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Avery. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As someone born and raised near a major cultural hub like Los Angeles, I had the immense privilege to be surrounded by a lot of different kinds of music and art. My father, Brian Scanlon, is a professional saxophonist and I would constantly hear him practicing both at home and at some of the gigs he played.

I started playing guitar in the fourth grade and joined my middle school’s jazz ensemble in seventh grade. It did not take long before I realized that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a professional musician. I continued playing throughout high school and was subsequently accepted to the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. I spent two years there studying both jazz and classical music until I decided that a change was in order. I transferred to California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where I am finishing up my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Jazz Guitar.

Throughout my time in college, I have had a number of wonderful musical opportunities, but perhaps the most fulfilling of these was making my debut album Aurora this year. The album features many wonderful musicians including Sara Sithi-Amnuai on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brian Scanlon on alto and tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Bennie Maupin on soprano saxophone, Jordyn Foley on voice, Josh Nelson on piano and keyboards, Ari Giancaterino on bass, and Aaron McLendon on drums. This experience was a culmination of a lot of my compositional efforts that go back to when I first started playing jazz in the seventh grade. The album can be streamed on all major online platforms and purchased electronically on iTunes. Physical copies will be available soon and will be announced on my website.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
If anything, music has been a means of escaping any personal struggles I have dealt with in my personal life. I was fortunate enough to have been born into a family that was incredibly supportive of all my pursuits. Having a father who is a musician gave me the opportunity to get practical advice about the world of music and how to develop my craft. I am very open about my struggles with my personal mental health and how music pulled me out of my lowest points. I am not much of a religious man, but I believe that music was a sort of divine saving grace that gave me hope and a strong case to look forward to the long life I have left to live.

There was a lot of doubt about my future during my time at Eastman, as I had some different artistic viewpoints from those that the school has. I was in a rather uncomfortable situation mentally which caused me to not be able to absorb all the new information I was being taught and to pass by on the skin of my teeth. Moving back to the west coast and attending CalArts has been a blessing and I have been able to zero in on my artistic goals while getting wonderful direction from my many mentors, such as my teacher, Larry Koonse. If I can impart any wisdom on any of my fellow young artists (and young people in general), do not feel that your mind has to be a prison; there is help available for you if you need it.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I play the guitar in many different styles and can adapt to a number of different musical situations depending on the desires of the client. While I feel most at home playing jazz music, namely contemporary and avant-garde jazz, I really try to fight labels since I want people to know that I am versatile enough to play in a variety of musical contexts. Often times I will reject when people call me a “jazz guitarist” as I feel that title sells me kind of short given the amount of work that I have put into embracing an eclectic palette of music.

Also, as I stated before, I do quite a bit of composition, both for my own use and for others. I feel strongly that my compositional work has been a huge part of my development as a musician. This work spans from traditional jazz arrangements to electronic noise music, depending on what my aim is artistically. It seems to me what sets me apart from other people doing something similar to what I do is my unique perspective on what music can be and how far into the stratosphere it can go. Some of my heroes are the classical composers of the twentieth century, such as John Cage, Arnold Schoenberg, and Karlheinz Stockhausen mainly because they were known for their risk-taking in spite of criticism. I hope to follow in a similar vein by composing more traditional forms of music and finding ways to push the boundaries into something fresh.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I have one more semester of study remaining at CalArts before I attend graduate school, which may involve temporarily moving to another city. In particular, I am excited to meet new musicians and to have some opportunities to mentor younger students. After graduate school, I plan to further my professional music career in Los Angeles. I am incredibly excited about what the future will hold.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Album art by Vincent De La Torre
Poster by Scott McMahan

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