Take Five with Delandria Mills


Sign in to view read count
Meet Delandria Mills:
A flutist and educator, I am a native of Houston, Texas. I began playing the flute at age seven and graduated from Houston's High School for the Performing Arts. Both my Masters in Classical Flute and Graduate Performance Diploma in Jazz Studies were earned from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, where I now teach in the Preparatory Department.

I also teach flute at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York and in my annual summer camp, Kingdom Flute Works, which I began in 2010. I have won national as well as international competitions and have seven recordings under my own name. I have recorded and toured with many artists including Fertile Ground, Mary Mary, Tye Tribbett, Israel New Breed, Billy Harper, and Hubert Laws.

C Flute, Alto flute, Bass flute, & Piccolo

Teachers and/or influences?
Influences: Hubert Laws, Freddie Hubbard. Teachers: Hubert Laws, Wendy Bergin, Emily Skala, & Marina Piccinini

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I was in fourth grade. My elementary band director, Walter Smith II had us playing "Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock, which inspired me for the first time to seek out a record to listen to play my first-ever solo—one bar, lol!! I could not seem to play the solo correctly during rehearsals, but Mr. Smith didn't give up on me. Hours before the show time, I shedded that one measure even harder and got it right during the concert! And my reward? He smiled at me and said, "Yeah!" I felt so awesome in that moment! I knew, right then, I wanted to me a musician. It felt so good to play such a slick line and get it right!!

Your sound and approach to music:
Hubert Laws worked on tone with me for 80% of our lessons. I was SO ready to get past tone, but he was all about it. To this day, the first thing people say to me after a performance is, "I love your tone." This past spring one of my young adult students played for me during a lesson and I said, 'Oh my GOD, you sound like me! She told me that she listens to my records a lot and had to get "that tone." Well, she's got it, and it was pretty scary. It was like hearing someone say "hi—to you in your own speaking voice. That's cool though, because that's how legacies begin!

Your teaching approach:
I give all I can and my students know it. There is so much to learn, and we can spend our entire lifetimes striving to get "it"! I tell my students that it can be an emotional journey; I know it has been for me. I am still striving and will intend to be striving for the rest of my life. It can be challenging at times, but hey, it keeps us musicians young. I set goals for my students, whether they realize it or not, and then I follow their pace. I listen to them a lot and I switch gears when necessary.

Your dream band:
Oh my. I'd say Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, Jimmy Greene, Janelle Gill, Warren Wolf, and John Lamkin. Each for different reasons. If it never happens in this life, all at once, so be it. I'm not wedded to any one outcome. But ohhhh, what a joyful night that would be, to have all those great musicians in one band! I've come very close to working with Roy. He'll call me up on stage whenever he sees my face in the audience, which is cool. But to be "on the gig" with him... I'd die VERY slap happy. I've recorded with three of those six people and have performed with five of the six so, it could happen.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
My best performing experience was playing at The Mall facing the Washington Monument in DC. It reminded me of a vision I had when I was about 12 years old, and I just had to reenact it, although this was not MY moment because I was only a sidewoman on the gig. There were at least a million people out there facing the stage. While the stage crew was preparing for our band to go up on stage, I went out to the center of the stage as though I was about address the crowd and simply adjusted a mic—I just had to do it.

Favorite venue:
Madison Square Garden. We were treated very well, and I was awed by the history of the place

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I really like listening to my Christmas album because I personally love each of the songs that I chose for the project, and I loved having the opportunity to record such classic tunes with some of my favorite musicians....Janelle Gill, Warren Wolf, and Corcoran Holt on bass—Killin! I also enjoy Tye Tribbett's album Victory. I really enjoyed touring that album. As a band, we had a blast.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
When I was 13 years old, I bought both Charlie Parker with Strings and John Coltrane's Gentle Side of Coltrane on the same day. Now, you may ask WHY would a 13-year-old be seeking those albums? Well, the answer is that I went to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts with great artists such as Jason Moran, Helen Sung, Eric Harland, Mike Moreno, Chris Dave, Beyonce, and Robert Glasper under the direction of the great band director Dr. Robert "Doc" Morgan. As you can imagine, there were a lot of self-motivated kids in that school. I was a classical major, but one night, I went to one of the school's jazz band concerts and was blown away by their arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Shiny Stockings."€ After the concert, I asked one of the boys in the jazz band, a boy by the name of John Schutza, who was very good, how I could start playing jazz, and he said, "You gotta listen to records. Start with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane." That weekend that is exactly what I did!

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Honesty. I desire to write songs that heal people. As a musician, I am constantly working to build my craft. I am very busy teaching, so when I practice I make the most of every minute.

Did you know...
I love nature. I enjoy sitting quietly in the woods or on a balcony overlooking water. We truly do have heaven on earth. I am not a landscaper, but my father has those skills. Besides watering plants, I won't tend the garden, but I will certainly appreciate and admire it!

CDs you are listening to now:
I listen to a lot of meditation music. Outside of that I listen to one of the masters at least once a day.

Desert Island picks:
Hubert Laws: My Time Will Come
Billy Harper: Destiny is Yours
Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay
Beyonce: 4
Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow
(I can hum all of my own album, lol!)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Alive and well. Period. Sure, it has its ups and downs, but it is rich with honesty. Truth is like light and can't be hidden. Everyone who hears it, ESPECIALLY in person, is affected and cannot deny its power.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
It must be shared. I have my students listen to a piece of music with me for three minutes every week, and I have them write up to four sentences describing what they "see." When I have a kid from East Baltimore being able to identify "Spain" on the radio, I know I've done my job. Jazz will continue to thrive and grow.

What is in the near future?
I have a number of things on the horizon. In the Spring of 2015 I am releasing a couple of books and a jazz hiphop project which I started a couple of years ago. I have a few other projects in mind also but I won't dare release them until 2016 or 2017. I am thankful to say my ideas are limitless.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
"Remember Who You Are," which I wrote in 2010.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Be Happy." I wrote that one also in 2010.

By Day:
I am a music teacher—A.K.A. Super Hero/Professor —by day, six days a week.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Music Therapist. Most of my friends know this about me. I can relate to most people and I love listening and learning about what make others tick, for the purpose of discovering "the" or "a" solution to personal struggles.
About Delandria Mills
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...


Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.