Cindy Bradley: Ready to Bloom
AAJ: Who were some of your influences?
CB: There were people like Bob Brookmeyer and Steve Lacy and George Russell, Jerry Bergonzi and John McNeil who were teachers at the New England Conservatory of Music, especially John McNeil. I studied with him the most.
By studying with all these different great musicians, that is what affected my sound the most. I didn't just study with the trumpet players. Studying with different types of horn players and rhythm section instruments really made me more balanced as far as the music I play and how I branch out when I'm being creative. It gave me a lot more tools to use musically.
AAJ: Is playing in an academic setting drastically different from playing live on stage?
CB: I would say they're completely different environments. One can't necessarily prepare you for the other. There are a lot of incredible players that never went to school. Most of the players I look up to never went to school. It's just different. If you do both it's going to help, but the pressures of playing live are much different from the classroom environment. The classroom is more nurturing and it helps you gain skills, while onstage is like going out in the work force and doing the real deal.
AAJ: Have you ever encountered sexism as a woman breaking into a male-dominated field?
CB: I've run into it a lot. When I first started going out, trying to network and go to jam sessions, I would walk into a jam session and they would not let me play. That was a really common thing. I would go up and try to sign up and ask if I could play and they would say, "Oh, sweetheart, sit down. The list is full."
It happened repeatedly to me. I used to go to jam sessions with male musician friends and they would be allowed to play, but not me.
They would look at me and presume I can't play or I would show up at a gig with a new band and they would turn my microphone down. They assumed I wasn't very good.
That's why it's important the more women there are out there doing thisplaying well and being role models so people can see the stereotypes aren't true. I've definitely dealt with my share of sexism.
AAJ: Has it ever gone beyond insensitivity and boy's club hazing to outright and obvious sexism?
CB: I was called for a tour of Europe one time and I was pretty much ready to go. The musical director of the band heard I was a woman and said, "Oh, they can't play hard enough." He took me off the tour and he had never heard me play. That is blatantly sexist.
AAJ: No argument there.
CB: Fortunately, being a woman can work for you too because it is a unique quality and people embrace it more than they put it down.
CB: I don't model my playing after Rick Braun or Chris Botti. I think I have my own sound. When I was learning to play and studying and practicing, I listened more to hard bop and straight-ahead trumpet players and musicians who played instruments other than trumpet.
I haven't modeled myself after Rick or Chris, though I think they're great.
AAJ: When you're playing in the smooth jazz genre, comparisons to those guys would seem more natural than to a straight-ahead trumpet player like Wynton Marsalis. Plus, Trippin n Rhythm is a record label that features smooth jazz artists.
CB: Oh definitely. There's not that many trumpet players in the smooth jazz genre, so for people hearing trumpet playing in this style, the immediate comparison would be to think Rick Braun or Chris Botti.
AAJ: It's a short list.
CB: Yeah, it is. That comparison is a nice one because I love the way both Rick and Chris play, but I think the tracks are really different if you give them a listen.
AAJ: How do audiences react to a woman playing the trumpet?
CB: The audiences always embrace me. There's always an initial reaction of surprise at seeing a woman playing the trumpet, but they get over it and enjoy the show.
AAJ: We have to get past the surprise over that type of thing.
CB: I think it's getting less and less with Jessy J. and Mindi Abair and other role models doing their thing. There's less of a shock factor to seeing a woman playing the horn, but I think there's an exciting quality to it as well.
AAJ: I understand that you teach classes and conduct workshops in music.
CB: Yes, I teach a lot. I teach kids all types of instruments and improvisation. Most of the work I do in New York and New Jersey is with elementary school-age kids. I really like working with them. The kids enjoy classes with me and they love learning about music. Getting them to practice isn't always that easy because they have a billion other things they're involved in, but they're there because they want to be. Music classes are definitely really special.
AAJ: So much of the music kids today hear is made without real instrumentation. Does teaching these kids give you hope for the next generation?
CB: It does, because the more you can expose them to live performance and an area of music which is different from what they're hearing on the radio, the more they are going to understand and appreciate that type of music as they grow up. It definitely gives me hope for the future.
That's the age where they can most be influenced. They may not understand how much work it's going to take, but I want them not to be afraid and to just play. I want them to develop an appreciation for improvising and doing things that aren't written down on paper.