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Samantha Boshnack: A Musical World Without Boundaries

Paul Rauch By

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The city of Seattle has an eclectic relationship with jazz historically, in terms of innovation and embracing the notion of music without boundaries, of musical communities interacting and supporting each other. Samantha Boshnack fits perfectly into that musical paradigm. Whether writing and performing with her 14 piece ensemble B'shnorkestra, or in a quintet setting, Boshnack has pushed musical boundaries in a multitude of directions. Her music carries a social narrative, an emotional intelligence uniquely her own. Her new release, Global Concertos, is a collection of five concertos performed live, for five different soloists, representing five musical continents, utilizing five different instrument groups. The result is stunning, and distinct. I sat down with Samantha at Vitrola Coffee, just following her performance of this brilliant work at the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle.

All About Jazz: Let's start from the beginning. When did the trumpet come into your life?

Samantha Boshnack: I started playing the trumpet when I was ten years old. I immediately fell in love with it. I lived up in the country of upstate New York, so there wasn't a lot of opportunities, so I did what I could, went to music camps, took lessons at the college, played in college groups, and just did what I could up there.

AAJ: So you played in grade school and High School bands?

SB: Yes I did.

AAJ: So public school band programs work! What musical influences did you experience in your home growing up?

SB: My Dad is a real music and jazz enthusiast, so he gave me jazz from a very early age. I remember listening to Miles and Dizzy, and Cuban music, really, all of the standard jazz intake.

AAJ: You studied classical and jazz composition at Bard College, who were your main influences there, and what composers became your early fascination?

SB: My main mentor, and also someone I play with now, is saxophonist and composer Erica Lindsay. When I went to college, I didn't know if I would do music, I thought I was going to go to law school or something. And then they needed trumpet players, and I got sucked into the jazz department! (laughter) Thurman Barker, he was the head of the jazz department, and I got sucked in! Then I worked with Erica, and she got me writing, I didn't write anything until college. She is such a creative force, and was so nurturing, such a great teacher. She hipped me to all sorts of stuff, Kenny Dorham, Dave Douglas, Steven Bernstein, William ParkerQuartet, Lewis Flip Barnes. I also studied composition with a trumpet player in Boston in the winters and summers named Jerry Sabatini. Sometimes in the winters I'd be down in the city taking lessons with Greg Glassman, but mostly Erica was my main mentor.

AAJ: You ended up in Seattle, what attracted you to venture here?

SB: My senior year of college, my teachers were telling me that they're struggling now in New York, maybe you should look around, and see other cities. I actually had my eye on Chicago, that's where I wanted to go, but then I came out to Seattle with my boyfriend at the time, to visit a friend. I also had a teacher at Bard who told me that Seattle had a cool scene, you should check that out. I had this random experience at Patti Summers' club, with Monktail Creative Music Concern. Ahamefule J. Oluo gave me his trumpet, and I sat in, and everybody was just so cool. It was just another level from where I was at college, in terms of listening, the music, everybody being so supportive. So I came out here, and I've been here ever since.

AAJ: There is some activism in your writing, as is so evident in your homage to journalist, and activist, Nellie Bly. Talk about your view of music as a tool of social awareness, and activism.

SB: I think right now, everyone is trying to find their voice in how to be active. I think in art, it seems you're always trying to make things better, you're always trying to find a way to make sense of it all. Feminism is a big issue for me, it's sort of part of my daily existence, because it's the struggle. With The Nellie Bly Project, I just thought she was such an amazing force in getting things done, when everything was against her. I feel that society forgets sometimes how much the struggle is still going on, to look at that. It wasn't that long ago, and it's still going on, we're still going through it. In some ways I'm sort of a private person, it's hard for me to be really super outspoken.

AAJ: And you're a trumpet player, that's interesting!

SB: I respect artists, and anybody in the public eye who can come out really strong and say all sorts of things and then take all sorts of abuse. Anybody who says anything gets a lot of attack. I try my best, but I definitely respect those who will go really out on a limb.Global Concertos and The Nellie Bly Project were ways to have these activist ideas, but in a subtle way. I think sometimes if it's subtle, you can get through.

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