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Meet Barbara Brighton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Brighton.

Barbara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
One of my earliest memories is of the chartreuse piano we had in the living room. As the story goes, at four years of age, I sat at the piano, as I often did, and knocked out Happy Birthday by ear. My father, who had been a drummer in his younger life, was thrilled. Determined to encourage my interest in music, my parents found a teacher in the neighborhood and I started lessons, which I continued for 10 years. Thus, began my life-long love of music. As time past, my dad would share his love and knowledge of music by playing big band albums and teaching me how to play the drums on my knees. I loved all kinds of music and even sang along with vocal jazz albums in the family collection.

At about the age of 14, circumstances changed. My life with my parents had become very difficult and I stayed away from home as much as possible and soon lost interest in playing the piano. But eventually, while in high school, I became involved in the drama group and went on to received numerous awards and found a place where I
was accepted and acknowledged. After graduation from high school, the conflicts with my parents became so extreme that I left home the day I turned 18. The next year was filled with poor choices, bad experiences and a marriage to someone I barely knew which resulted in the birth of my daughter.

Once again, I found myself in a situation that I could no longer tolerate. So after six years, I became the single
mother of a 4-year-old girl. My parents were completely fed up with me at this point and unwilling to help me. I knew I had to get my life together. I had this child I adored and I wanted to be able to provide for and I wanted her to be proud of me. I made the decision that my only hope was to go back to school and pursue a career. Understanding that I would only be able to work part-time, and since there was no assistance from family, I reluctantly sought out state aid. I was incredibly fortunate to be assigned to a social worker who thought I had potential. She helped me apply for and receive benefits and in return, I had to show her my grades every semester and keep her updated on my progress. That was the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist. I maintained mostly an A average, worked as a volunteer at the VA, applied for and was accepted to a work-study program as the assistant to the Chief of Staff, Robert Hoffman, MD. Dr. Hoffman changed my life. He got me access to training sessions that were designed for medical residents, he trained and supervised me and provided countless opportunities. I received grants and scholarships and took 18 units a semester. This was an incredibly challenging period for me. There were moments when I had to scrape together a quarter to buy mac and cheese, my daughter was struggling with being a fatherless child, I had very little sleep and there were days I didn’t know how I could possibly go on. But I did.

I recall one Jewish Holiday when there was a knock on our door and it was a few women who belonged to my social worker’s temple. They said she told them I should be the recipient of their goodwill and they brought us bags of groceries. I found myself crying in appreciation and also some degree of embarrassment. It only made me more determined to prove to this dear social worker that she was right and that I was going to make it. Dr. Hoffman and I had become best of friends over the years and when I received my graduate degree, we opened our first practice together in 1978. I still remember the call I made to my social worker, letting her know that I didn’t need her help anymore and thanked her for saving my life.

In 1979, Dr. Hoffman was invited to be part of a comprehensive and ground-breaking breast center that was opening in Van Nuys. He brought me into the development meetings, which led to my participation in the Van Nuys Breast Center. Psycho-Oncology became my specialty and over a 19 year period, I treated patients and their families and ran weekly breast cancer support groups. When the Breast Center closed, I continued my practice from home, which I do to this day.

Out of necessity, my musical interests were temporarily pushed to the background. However, music, and in
particular, jazz, continued to play an important role in my life. In 1993, my friend Ellen Cohn, a prominent Jazz recording industry executive, passed away. Ellen was always encouraging me to put my musical knowledge to work and start a music business and cut back on my practice. After her death, I decided to follow her suggestion and I created BJB Jazz Ventures. My first project was producing a memorial concert, in association with MAMA records, to honor Ellen at Catalina Bar & Grill. Catalina Bar & Grill is the premier jazz club in Los Angeles and Catalina
Popescu, the club’s owner, was more than happy to provide the space and support. With the assistance of
Catalina, I went on to produce several jazz brunches and tribute concerts, including a special tribute to Carmen
McRae. In 1996, while attending the Jazz Times Convention, I met with producer and manager Bill Traut. At
the time, Bill was managing vocalist Kurt Elling and he was interested in doing something special to introduce
Kurt to the Los Angeles audience. I suggested booking Elling at every venue in LA in a one month period. Bill loved the idea and so did Blue Note which was Kurt’s label at the time. Blue Note hired me to book the gigs and the tour was more successful than they could have imagined.

This led to Blue Note once again hiring me to do a similar tour for Danish vocalist Caecilie Norby. I continued doing promotional work for many great musicians, including Kenny Werner, creating a promotional
event for his iconic book, “Effortless Mastery.” My career in music continued to prosper and I cut back my
psychology practice to four days a week so that I could take on a part-time position doing A & R for MAMA
Records. I worked with the label for a year before they closed their doors.

In 1996, Catalina Popescu and I talked about doing something at her club that would benefit the jazz community and aspiring young musicians. This conversation led to the creation of the Young Artist Jazz Series. This ongoing series provided a venue for local young jazz artists to showcase their talents in front of a live audience. The series was an immediate success as requests to participate poured in from young jazz musicians almost daily. I expanded on the series by reaching out to local high schools that had jazz programs and inviting them to perform. The series quickly became booked a year in advance. As a result, on a monthly basis, the audience at Catalina’s had the opportunity to hear and discover these extraordinarily talented young people, many of whom have gone on to become professional jazz musicians. In fact, most successful jazz musicians under 45 years old who are from the LA area have likely performed in the series.

In 1999, Mark Winkler, a very successful smooth jazz artist, wanted to do a more straight-ahead jazz CD. Mark and I had met at Ellen’s funeral and became fast friends. He talked to me about the project and I had some ideas that he liked. To my surprise, he asked me to produce the CD. The album, “Easy the Hard Way,” was released in 2000 and garnered terrific reviews. This was a life-changing event for me. Being in the studio was my passion. I went on to produce 5 other Mark Winkler CDs, including “Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup,” “Till I Get It Right”, “West Coast Cool” (with Cheryl Bentyne from the Manhattan Transfer), and most recently “Jazz and Other Four Letter Words” and “The Company I Keep,” all of which have received stellar reviews. I’ve since produced 4 CD’s for jazz vocalist Judy Wexler, including “Easy on the Heart,” “Dreams and Shadows,” and “Under a Painted Sky” and her latest project, “Crowded Heart.” Other production credits include, “Happy to Be” for veteran jazz vocalist Julie Kelly. This CD was a favorite with jazz critics coast-to-coast. In 2018, I produced vocalist Gary Brumburgh’s CD “Moonlight” and Beverley Church-Hogan’s CD “Can’t Get out of this Mood.” Both of those projects have received outstanding reviews.

What is really great is that I have the opportunity to reconnect and use some of the musicians who did the Young Artist Jazz Series on CD’s I am producing. The Young Artist Jazz Series continues to be one of my most satisfying accomplishments. I was recognized early this year by the Jazz Journalists Association when I received their “Jazz
Heroes” award. It was a great honor. Looking back at my life, I feel such gratitude to the people who believed in me and created opportunities for me that I never dreamed of. My journey has not been an easy one, but through it all I
have made beautiful friends, had and continue to have wonderful experiences, I get to do meaningful work and I
have a fantastic daughter and 2 amazing granddaughters. Lucky me.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My biggest obstacle was believing in myself when I decided to go back to school. Being a single parent with little or no family support. Taking care of my child and trying to be both mother and father. Balancing my busy work life with being a parent.

Tell us about your business. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
I have two businesses. As a therapist, I specialized for many years in treating breast cancer patients and their families. I am most proud of that work, walking with patients through a very difficult time in their lives. I ran a breast cancer support group for 19 years that, I believe, gave comfort and support to all that attended.

Although my practice now is more of a family practice, seeing adults and teens, I still see cancer patients as well. I hope that I have helped all those I have worked with through whatever they were going through in life and that I have brought insight and clarity to their personal journey.

As a producer, I hope I have helped the artist to realize their dream of making a CD that reflects who they are and what music they want to bring to their audiences. I love all aspects of producing, from working with musicians, working on vocals and style and the engineering part of making a great CD. I am proud that I am among a shortlist of women producers in the jazz world, hopefully opening the door for young women who want to enter this field. I am very proud of the Young Artist Jazz Series that I produced for 23 years, giving young musicians and school groups the opportunity to perform and a great jazz club.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Going with my father to a used book store every couple of weeks and he would let me buy 2 books. He turned me on to great literature at a young age, that shaped much of my life. Also, we would play 4 hands on the piano and my mom would sing standards along with us. Nice memories.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The 2 pictures of me were taken by my daughter, Wendi Brighton

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1 Comment

  1. Cathy Segal Garcia Hoffman

    October 8, 2019 at 19:53

    A great story! You are a special person, and I love you very much.

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