For many who love jazz, Charlton Singleton is the voice and the face of the genre in the Lowcountry. He has performed prolifically for years, and serves as the conductor and artistic director for the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. Now, he will has an opportunity to share his love of music with the younger generation. The versatile and talented Singleton has been named the Gaillard Center’s first Artist in Residence and will be be bringing his love and passion for his art to schools across the Lowcountry. The part-time paid position will have the acclaimed musician visiting schools throughout the tri-county area, bringing his passion for music to Lowcountry students. We sat down with Charlton for this week’s Friday Fiver:
What is the biggest challenge you face when you are out in the schools meeting with students?
I don’t know if it is a challenge or not, but every classroom and every student presents a different situation. Sometimes you go into classrooms and there will be students that are doing pretty well, and then there other classrooms where students are just beginning and things can be challenging. As a former band director, I actually like the challenge of seeing how I can help and build off of what the students are doing.
For some students, this will be their first exposure to jazz. Tell us what it’s like to see a student experience jazz for the first time.
Unfortunately, most students today do not know a lot, if anything, about jazz. Once I explain it to them, share with them some clips of music, and talk to them about the history of how this great American art form began, they are usually pretty interested and excited to hear and learn more.
You have performed jazz across Charleston for years, and the music and the community have a natural union. Why are jazz and Charleston such a perfect couple?
Well…Jazz actually has roots here in Charleston, SC. Contrary to belief, New Orleans is NOT the one and only birthplace of Jazz. The truth is that there where a few cities in the South that had musicians playing what is now referred to as Jazz. One of the main places for us in Charleston is Jenkins Orphanage. Charleston has played, and continues to play, a huge roll in the development of Jazz.
If someone hasn’t delved deeply into jazz, what are three albums you would recommend as the essential jazz starter pack?
That’s pretty tough to narrow down into three albums, but I would say (not in any order) Kind of Blue (Miles Davis), Atomic Basie (Count Basie Orchestra), Winelight (Grover Washington, Jr.). I would probably say something different tomorrow, but these are usually the ones that I talk about the most.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure popular song?
That’s a hard one to answer. Most people that know me as a musician have seen and heard me play or reference a wide variety of songs. At this particular moment I’d probably say Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas. I only really know the opening lines, but I sometimes just belt it out at the oddest moments. That’s usually when my wife smacks me on the arm and snaps me out of it.