Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Jaz Sawyer.
Please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and started playing drum set at Glide Church. The Choir/Music Director John Turk and the band let me play on songs and jam after the celebration. My mother would take me down the street so I could play the store percussion instruments at my local music store “Haight Asbury Music”.
I played trumpet for two years and switched to percussion and drums in 7th grade joining the jazz band. Several of my friends had newspaper routes and we spent our checks competing to see who had the “flyest” sneakers. After I got six pairs, I started investing in my first drum set.
At 13, I had my first paid gig and I knew that I wanted to make this my career. During this time I attended the Ruth Asawa SF School of The Arts, the SF Conservatory of Music HS Preparatory Program studying classical percussion, learning Brazilian percussion at the Mission Cultural Center, performing with SF Symphony Youth Orchestra and playing Latin Jazz or Jazz gigs on the weekend. From there I went to college in New York and continued my journey.
Getting your first paid gig at 13 is quite impressive. Has it been a smooth road since?
The Road is always bumpy in the beginning, but that is how you learn to be better. One challenge as a drummer either just starting out or as a professional, there is the 50/50 chance that the venue or event will have drum equipment.
This means you have to develop skills and tools to plan for arranging transportation before and after the gigs or else it can be a barrier to getting called again if you don’t have the means.
I grew up in a single-parent household and had to take public transportation to lessons, rehearsals and performances. I did have family members and community educators that helped me transport drums to gigs and so forth.
School was always important to me so I had to squeeze in enough time for homework as well. There will always be bumps in the road. However, obstacles will always come and go and it’s how you overcome them that will get you on the smooth road.
What else should we know about your career so far?
My business is part performer, music educator and producer. I specialize in these areas which all intertwine. In addition, I am known for recordings and performances with artists such as Abbey Lincoln, George Benson, and others to name a few.
I have been recognized by the California State Senate for Community Outreach Excellence, as a co-Jazz Ambassador of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with their sponsored music outreach program, and Chair/Commissioner of the South Pasadena Public Arts Commission.
I’m proud that I have built a career based on reputation, skill-level, and the ability to do the job. Recently, I earned my Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership. Also, I feel strongly that one has an obligation to give back to their community whichever form it is appears. One thing I would say that sets me apart is that I’m willing to work for the greater good of the community and music education as opposed to just solely focusing on my career aspirations.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Music and The Arts are part of the human experience so that will not change in 5-10 + years. Technology and accessibility resources change rapidly so I’m not sure how many folks will hold on to their physical music collections. In addition, there will be more challenges for musicians and artists to earn valuable income in a new ever-evolving digitized industry. Other than that, I’m excited to see what the future holds…
- Website: www.jazsawyer.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jazsawyer/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/jazsawyerofficialpage/
- Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/jazsawyer?lang=en
Aurelia D’ Amore