Sheila Anderson was born on June 12, 1957 in Buffalo, New York where she was raised in a household which relied on one record player as a focal point of family bonding. She and her three siblings were encouraged to take music lessons and to study theory. From a young age, she came to appreciate all genres, particularly jazz. Much of her youth was spent contemplating a career in music until, at the age of 16, she entered the field of civil rights as the New York State Youth President of the NAACP, and later became a youth member of its National Board.
With music still on the back burner, she earned a degree from Baruch College in New York, majoring in Marketing with a minor in English. However, she continued to nourish her first love by volunteering at the area's premier jazz station, WBGO, 88.3 FM, located in nearby Newark. This led to her landing an on-air shift for the 'Sunday Morning Harmony' program which she hosted from 1995 until 2004. She now has her own Saturday night show, 'Late Night Jazz,' at the same station. In addition, fueled by a desire to learn more about jazz from its creators, she decided to produce her own interview TV show, "The Art of Jazz," a program she has hosted on Time Warner Cable for ten years.
After working in the publishing field, first in production, and then in
sales, Sheila figured out how to parlay that experience into earning a contract
to write her first book, "The Quotable Musician: From Bach to Tupac" (Allworth
Press). Here she speaks about her new book, "How To Grow as A Musician: What All
Musicians Must Know to Succeed." (Allworth Press)
Sheila Anderson Interview with Kam Williams
Kam Williams (KW) When did you first develop an interest in jazz?
Sheila Anderson (SA) When I was about 6 years old. My late Brother, Chips, had an incredible collection of music and I gravitated to his jazz records. It was not until I was grown and noticed the dates of those albums that I realized how young I was when I first heard them.
KW: What does the music mean to you?
SA: It feeds my soul. To paraphrase a line in a Lou Rawls tune, there is a song for every thought and every special occasion. Music can uplift me from a funk or help me feel deeper about it, should that be my choice of emotion that I want to experience.
KW: Do you play an instrument?
SA: I own a flute' [laughs] Seriously, until the age of 16, I had toyed with the idea of being a jazz musician. Between hearing Eric Dolphy play flute and my involvement in the NAACP I realized that I did not have what it takes to be a working musician.
KW: How did you become a DJ?
SA: Sheer chutzpah and hard work. I had been a volunteer for WBGO, Jazz 88.3FM, for several years, and I noticed that there were regular openings during the weekend shifts. To my surprise, I was allowed to learn the board [engineering]. After one-and-a-half years, I felt I was good enough to handle the Sunday morning shift, but I was turned down. As fate would have it, about a year or so later, I was asked to host that Sunday morning program, Sunday Morning Harmony, temporarily, and that was in 1995. I did not go to announcing school, I learned on the job and it was rough!
KW: What period of jazz is your favorite?
SA: I would have to SA:say the bebop era, but I also like the early avant-garde period of Ornette Coleman.
KW: Who is your favorite musician?
SA: That is a difficult question, because I can't say that I have a favorite. Some of my favorites are Tommy Flanagan, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Reed, and Oscar Brown, Jr.
KW: What is your favorite album?
SA: I'll name three: Miles Davis' E.S.P, Eric Dolphy's Far Cry, and Richard "Groove" Holmes' Soul Message.
KW: Given that jazz radio stations seem to play either the revered icons or smooth jazz, how hard is it for new artists who don't play slick Muzak to get their CDs on the air?
SA: Well, being on public radio we are in a different position to play new artists. Each announcer programs her or his music. However, we are bound to a "clock" where we are expected to play certain type of music at various times of the hour which includes two to three new artists. Gary Walker, the music director is very good about rotating new artists for us to choose from.
KW: What made you decide to write this book?
SA: Two things. One, when I was working on my first book, "The Quotable
Musician: From Bach to Tupac," I was fascinated with the mind of the musician behind some of the quotes. For ten years I have hosted and produced a TV show where I interview musicians. My publisher was looking to do a new series of "How to Grow" books, so it was natural that I would do this one.
KW: Would you encourage your own child to pursue a career in jazz?
SA: I do not have any children but, yes, if it was his or her passion. I see how frustrating it is when people do not follow their passion. Life is not easy for artists in any musical genre, but with the right tools, I believe a musician can make a career in jazz.
KW: What do you see as the future of jazz?
SA: Wow... This is a difficult question to answer. I may get in trouble saying this, but I see more and more white kids learning and playing jazz.
Young Black children seem to gravitate to "Beats" and find jazz music boring. My concern is that it will turn into a genre of music of dead artists but when I hear musicians like Eric Reed, Gerald Clayton [son of John Clayton, nephew of Jeff] and other talented young people, it gives me hope that the music is in the right hands.
KW: Which of the musicians that you interviewed for the book did you learn the most from?
SA: Oscar Brown, Jr., Al Jarreau, Ruth Brown and Richard Smallwood.
KW: What pitfall dooms more aspiring jazz musicians than any others?
SA: I would say the business part of the music holds most musicians back. It is tough to navigate this business, and there are fewer venues for musicians to play. However, the A-Team will be working no matter what.
KW: The A-Team?
SA: Yes, those are the musicians who are the most visible and who command the higher fees. As I point out in my book, they have 100% of three things, talent, marketing and business acumen. The percentage of each does not matter but the three areas must equal 100%. That is why, in many fields, you might notice that talent is not always the factor that sets people at the top. The A versus B-Team concept can be applied to all areas of life.
KW: How does it apply in your book?
SA: My book is as much a book of success as it is about growth as a musician. Though there is no guarantee that we will succeed, there are things that people do that will determine failure. I use several true to life examples of things that musicians often do that do not help their careers.
KW: Who will benefit from reading your book?
SA: I had two audiences in mind when I started working on it, but now that it has been read by so many people, I see that there are three audiences.
First, young musicians starting out, who want to learn the nuts and bolts of the music business. Second, people who are interested in the stories of the musicians interviewed. And third, people who want to succeed.
How to Grow as a Musician: What All Musicians Must Know to Succeed
Click to order via Amazon
Format: Paperback, 256pp
Pub. Date: July 2005
Publisher: Allworth Press
Musicians finding their artistic voices and developing the right character for their craft will find solace and inspiration in this collection of intimate interviews. By revealing the large and small moments that have helped to define their lives and careers, musicians discuss how they developed as artists, how they approach performance, and how they handle the business side of music. Readers will learn how others selected musical genres; how they learned their craft or instruments; the difference between formal education and learning on the stage; personal approaches to practicing and composing; and much more. Candid advice is offered for overcoming success and failure; doing "ego checks"; and letting relationships affect art. From a musician's point of view, the book examines the role of contracts, self-promotion, getting and keeping gigs, and managing money. A special self-evaluation is also offered for readers to assess whether they have what it takes for a life in music. Anyone wanting to benefit from the wisdom of those who have learned their lessons the hard way will savor every word of this revealing guide.
The Quotable Musician: From Bach to
Click to order via Amazon
Format: Hardcover, 202pp
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Allworth Press
From Bach to Tupac, musicians through the ages speak out in this illuminating collection of quotations. Both the famous and the obscure from every genre of music'including classical, rock, Latin, country, blues, and hip hop'are celebrated in more than one thousand quotations sure to intrigue and delight. Quotes offer individual takes on the music world itself: other musicians; singing and the song; performing and rehearsing; success, fame, and fortune; failure and rejection; music critics; and the music business. Readers will also see both the more playful and the more serious sides of the music masters in sections on love, passion, relationships and sex; aging and death; nature and healing; humor and witticisms; religion and spirituality; and much more. Special sections pay particular attention to the words of Ron Carter, T.S. Monk, the Beatles, and Benny Golson.
Review of How to Grow as a Musician
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