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Meet Dr. Jaz Sawyer

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…

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Aurelia D’ Amore
Esther Sawyer

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1 Comment

  1. Edie Lynch

    October 16, 2019 at 10:11

    My son RB Lynch and I met Dr. Jaz Sawyer when both RB & Jaz had the blessing of knowing the great Jazz Singer Abbey Lincoln.

    RB called Abbey one day and told her he thought she had the sweetest sound in the whole Universe & asked if she would be willing ing to listen to one of his songs. That meeting led to Abbey recording RB’s songs, And, How I Hoped For Your Love; Love Lament ; When When Autumn Sings & Christmas Cheer.

    RB was so fortunate as well to meet a very talented, graceful, and humble human being – the great young drummer, Jaz Sawyer who recorded some of RB’s earliest songs in a studio session with Kenyatta Beaseley & other Gifted young musicians. Jump forward to Jaz’s diligent rise & leadership and working with Abbey Lincoln and top musicians throughout the world – and Jaz is today one of the most inspiring Musicians & Educators in the Country.

    RB had an emotional breakdown after the death of his beloved sixteen year old Irish Setter “Dayan” and the love of his life returned to Spain. He bravely took off to Brazil for a number of years, smitten by the Bossa Nova and Sound Of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

    RB returned to the States to do a concert with Abbey Lincoln at St. Peter’s Church in 1996 in New York City, but soon left again for Brazil where he embraced his passionate love for all of the Great Musicians – Ellington, Monk, and every great jazz and classical musician that ever lived – including his Grandfather, Dick Lynch, who played with Jelly Roll Morton during the Harlem Glory Years and RB’s grandfather returned to Columbus, Ohio to do his weekly Radio Show, “Poet Of The Piano.”

    RB never lost the discipline he acquired at Berklee School Of Music and everyday he sits at his piano in his little Chalet in Muriqui, Brazil and composes beautiful music despite being plagued with the voices that often return since the departure of his beloved Setter and the woman he still loves – and, add to his longing, his much longed for Dad.

    RB has just finished a musical that he co-wrote with his mother Edie Lynch who is an author & fimmaker and often works as a lyricist for RB’s beautiful and complex compositions. RB also writes Philosophical Essays, one much praised by Daniel Ellsberg – which is included in his Mother Edie Lynch’s autobiography, The Joy Boy’s Daughter.

    RB has tremendous affection and deep respect for his friend Dr. Jaz Sawyer and hopes Jaz will visit him in Brazil. RB says: “ I knew when I was seven that the only thing I could truly ever love was Music.”

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