Fridays on this blog is “Makin’ it Happen Friday”, where I feature another musician who’s found a way to make a living playing music. I am constantly inspired by others, and hope to pass that inspiration on to you.The first time I saw Farnell Newton I had no idea who he was, but he made a big impression on me. I was in Portland for the night and dropped by Jimmy Maks to catch the Mel Brown Sextet. The band was cookin’ right along and I was enjoying the show greatly. Then a trumpet player appeared on the side of the stage and sat in for a tune, playing some really great lines and building a fantastic solo. Mel introduced him, and I kept that name in my head until I could get home and Google him (or Yahoo Search him, as I believe I was doing at the time). I found his MySpace page and contacted him, telling him I dug his playing, and we’ve been internet buddies ever since. It’s a shame we’ve not yet met face-to-face, as we live so close together. But one of these days…
Farnell was born in Miami, Florida, where he was exposed to many forms of music, including jazz, salsa, funk, and hip-hop. Moving to Philadelphia in 1992, he attended the High School of Creative and Performing Arts (C.A.P.A.) and gained more exposure to and experience with the music he truly loves — jazz. While in Philadelphia, Farnell also learned a lot from his uncles, saxophonist/arranger Conny Murray, and Sunny Murray, “the father of avant-garde drumming.” Farnell got his undergrad degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and then moved to Portland, Oregon, where he has performed regularly with musicians such as Mel Brown, Thara Memory, Bobby Torres, and Darrell Grant, among others. In 2006, Farnell released his first album, ”Sense of Direction,” co-led by pianist Marcus Reynolds on Diatic Records. From 2007-2009, he served as Graduate Assistant of Music Performance at Portland State University (P.S.U.) under the direction of Charles Gray and Darrell Grant, and in 2009, he finished his Master’s Degree of Music in Jazz Studies and was hired at P.S.U. as Professor of Jazz Trumpet.
Currently, Farnell Newton is performing with the Mike Phillips Band. He also recently performed as trumpeter for the 2009 Soul Train Awards house band, which played with notable artists, such as Erykad Badu, Ledisi, Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Charlie Wilson, Bootsy Collins, Ginuwine, Brian McKnight, Johnny Gill, Raheem Devaughn, Chrisette Michelle, Boyz II Men, Melanie Fiona, and Ryan Leslie.
Quite a resume, no? I’ve always been impressed with Farnell’s ability to play any style that comes his way with authority. This skill speaks to his dedication to practice and hard work, as you’ll see from reading his answers to my standard questions:
OWM: How’d you get started in the music biz?
FN: Well, I started playing music while living in Miami, FL in middle school but it was after I moved to Philadelphia where I was exposed to jazz at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts. As a youth I had great musical mentors like Duane Eubanks, Orrin Evans & Jaleel Shaw. After, that I caught the jazz bug and have been studying and learning ever since. I must say my first big artist outside of college I performed with was Aretha Franklin. I learned so much on that gig from the musicians and how you handle yourself as an artist
OWM: What 3 things have helped you the most in becoming a working musician?
1. Working hard practicing and putting in the extra effort.
2. Networking and managing myself as a small business.
3. Surrounding myself with like minded musicians.
OWM: What advice to you have for aspiring musicians?
FN: There are no short cuts in life. Be Patient and learn from the elder jazz musicians in your community. Submerge yourself wholeheartedly into the music! If you give your all to the music it will take care of you.
Thanks, Farnell! I hope to meet you soon and play some trumpet!
Here’s a video of the Farnell Newton/Chris Brown Quartet playing Kenny Garrett’s “Jackie & The Beanstalk”: