Mikayla Gilbreath (18) is a jazz saxophonist and student journalist who has had the good fortune to meet, and be inspired by, a considerable number of well-known jazz artists.
My passion for jazz grew from my exposure to the music of Sonny Rollins. On November 19, 2006, I had the great honor of meeting Mr. Rollins and playing my music for him. I must admit that having him listen to me play was one of the most terrifying moments of my life! But by merely showing interest in me and my music, this legendary jazz musician has created many opportunities for me and has instilled in me a genuine desire for personal achievement.
Since March 2007, I have been featured on SonnyRollins.com as part of Meeting Sonny - The Sonny Rollins Podcast - Episode 3. In April 2007, I appeared on National Public Radio where I participated in Howard Mandel's interview with Sonny entitled Saxophonist Sonny Rollins Still Swinging Strong. I am exceedingly proud to note that Mr. Rollins is referred to as my mentor in that piece. And in the September 2007 issue of JazzTimes Magazine, I was featured in Nat Hentoff's article entitled Bridging Generations. In June 2010, world renowned jazz critic and journalist Nat Hentoff published his book At The Jazz Band Ball which includes a chapter featuring Mikayla.
My first article, a short autobiographical piece describing my motivations for wanting to become a jazz journalist, was published in the fall 2007 issue of Jazz Notes the Journal of the Jazz Journalists Association. The piece was entitled Why Would I Choose Anything Else?
Howard Mandel, President of the Jazz Journalists Association, has been an unwavering source of encouragement to me as a young writer. Without his assistance, becoming a journalist would still be merely a dream for me. I am currently the youngest member of the Jazz Journalists Association - and I hope to one day become the oldest!
On some of my projects I work in collaboration with my grandfather, Micheal Gilbreath, a retired financial executive who now spends much of his time acting as a voluntary advocate for jazz and jazz education.
Saxophonist Candy Dulfer has also played a crucial role in introducing me to jazz. Early on, her music caught my attention and now her influence is reflected in my own playing style. But it is her demonstrated success in a field dominated primarily by male performers that perhaps inspires me most, as I strive to reach my own goals. Her friendship and encouragement have given me the confidence to continue reaching higher.
And, lastly, I would not be writing this Contributor Profile at all if it were not for AAJ Publisher Michael Ricci, and AAJ Managing Editor John Kelman, who were willing to take a chance on me. I will remain forever grateful to them both, for allowing me to be a part of the All About Jazz team.