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Meet Brice Winston of Tucson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brice Winston.

Hi Brice, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I am a saxophonist and Tucson native and left in 1989 to study jazz at the University of New Orleans with Harold Battiste and jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis. After finishing school and a short stint in Los Angeles, I worked professionally in and around New Orleans before joining Grammy award-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s band for a year, then joining multi-Grammy award-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s band for more than 15 years. My association with Terence led to several major label recordings, numerous recordings for movie scores he was working on, and opportunities to perform with some of the most iconic jazz artists in the world. Hurricane Katrina bumped me back to Tucson in 2005, where I have been extremely active in education. I am a co-founder of the Tucson Jazz Institute (2009), currently going strong, and an adjunct professor at Arizona and Pima Community College. I have been a guest lecturer at ASU and NAU in the state and other institutions nationwide. My ensembles have won numerous awards at jazz festivals, including the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival with the TJI Concord Combo and an outstanding performance award from Downbeat magazine for my Arizona ensemble this year.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been fairly smooth?
After graduating college, I briefly moved back out to Los Angeles with the idea of working my way into the studio music scene. Upon arrival, I immediately knew it was the wrong choice and worked feverishly to earn enough money to return to New Orleans. It was more than a year working in a cafe before I could make a living in music. A good friend lobbied for me to play with a blues and R&B band on Bourbon St, which I did for around 3 1/2 years. I appreciated the opportunity to play my horn for people and make a decent living, but it wasn’t was I had set out to do. My heart and soul were yearnings to play jazz. For me, it was jazz or nothing. So after I saved enough to pay for a house, I quit the Bourbon St. gig. I was extremely fortunate to be given several opportunities during that time in the playing and teaching arenas. It was just enough to survive, and I still believe that my firm decision to play jazz or nothing was the necessary message the universe needed to hear to open the path for me.

Although landing the gigs with Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard, things weren’t always easy. The challenges during those years were related to balancing family with my professional life.

Hurricane Katrina was a major challenge for us as a family, as it was for countless families during that time.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
As a player, I think I’m most known for my time with Terence Blanchard and the impact of that band’s incarnations on the jazz world. All the experiences playing with that band inform my musicianship daily. As an educator, I think I’m recognized as an effective teacher who gets precise results and helps students see and explore their talent and ambitions.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
I think the democratic nature I bring to both classroom and performance settings helps to engage all participants and helps to foster creativity and buy-in to the result.

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Image Credits
Diane Banyai Dan Williams

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