Primary Instrument: Trombone
From playing in the Sahara Desert, just North of Timbuktu, with Roswell Rudd’s Trombone Shout Band (2004), to creating music in a grain silo at an artist colony in upstate New York, to traveling all over the world with Frank Sinatra (1987 - 1994); trombonist/composer Deborah Weisz’s life in music has been filled with diversity.
Originally from Chicago, IL, Deborah’s family moved to Phoenix, AZ where she began playing the trombone at the age of 10. When asked why she chose the trombone... “when the band director was naming instruments I thought I would play flute or clarinet, but when he said ‘trombone’ my hand went up. I don’t know why, it just did. It was the beginning of my life-long love of the trombone!”
As a young musician coming up in the public school music programs there was plenty of opportunity to play all styles of music, but Deborah was always attracted to jazz and improvisation. “I had many wonderful teachers, in particular, Mr. Pat Lebs. He was my band director my first two years of high school (Alhambra High School, Phoenix, AZ). While working with me on Ave Maria, as a solo piece, he would have me sing the melody and spoke about how I should always focus on ‘singing’ through my trombone.
After high school Deborah chose to attend Mesa Community College (MCC) in Mesa, AZ. “I had heard from other young musicians that if you wanted to be creative and play jazz, that this was the place to go. The program at MCC was all about communicating through music, and what I learned there, from the incredible teachers that I was so fortunate to study with (Grant Wolf, Don Bothwell, Roger Harris & Jim Hendricks), has stayed with me and continues to influence me.”
After finishing her A.A. in Music Performance (1982) at MCC, Deborah moved to Las Vegas, NV to finish up her B.A. in Music Performance (1984) at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). “While attending UNLV I began studying trombone with another wonderful teacher, Bobby Scann, who showed me what was really there in Las Vegas; an amazing community of great trombone players. The 11 1/2 years I spent in Las Vegas were what I call my years in ‘trombone school.’ I had the opportunity to play with all the trombone players in town, study with some of them, and learn from all their own experiences.”
It was a great opportunity for Deborah as Las Vegas, at the time, was filled with many musicians who had worked extensively with all the great jazz big bands, and had moved to Las Vegas to settle down and work there in the 1950s & 1960s. “I was the age of their own kids, and they told me their stories of being on the road with groups such as Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. The musical history lessons were just as important as the trombone lessons. It was an amazing place to be as a young trombonist.”
Special mention has to be made of one particular trombonist that Deborah was fortunate to work and study with; Carl Fontana. “I would hear these musicians speak about knowing Charlie Parker and other great jazz artists, hearing their idols play, in person, many times. Well for me, that was Carl Fontana; one of the greatest jazz trombonists. I can tell my own students that I knew him and heard him play hundreds and hundreds of times. Truly this is one of the greatest gifts I received from my time in the ‘trombone school’ of Las Vegas.”
While in Las Vegas Deborah began working as a free lance musician; performing for production shows, different star acts such as Joe Williams, etc... Eventually forming her own groups, composing music/contracting work for them. It was during this time that she began performing for Frank Sinatra. “It was an honor to work for him. I saw so much of the world, while in the presence of this great artist.”
Having spent a lot of time in New York City, while on the road with Sinatra and other groups, Deborah met musicians there and realized it was where she wanted to be. So in 1993, she relocated to New York City and began performing with various groups, and continues to play a wide variety of music. Including: Broadway shows, chamber and orchestral groups, studio recording work for TV/Film, the big bands of Jimmy Heath, DIVA, Jamie Begian, Joe Phillips’ Numinous, and The NY/BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra. She has performed in small jazz ensembles with artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Don Braden, Fred Hersch, Roswell Rudd, Sonny Fortune, and has been a featured guest jazz artist at various festivals, including:
1998 Many Colors of A Woman Festival 1999 International Trombone Festival 1999 & 2003 International Women in Jazz Festival (JVC Jazz Fest.) 2000 Eastern Trombone Workshop 2000 & 2004 New York Brass Conference 2000 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival/The Kennedy Center 2000 International Women’s Brass Conference 2001 Primavera Jazz Festival 2001 Jazz Arts Group - Fargo 2004 Festival-au-Desert, Essakane (Mali, West Africa w/Roswell Rudd) 2004 International Jazz Meeting - Monterrey, Mexico 2004 Fellowship Recipient, Music Omi International Music Collective. Ghent, NY 2005 Blaine Jazz Festival/Camp for teens - Blaine, WA 2007 Trombonophila Festival at The Stone New York, NY
Throughout Deborah’s career as a performer she has been involved with both teaching and composing music. Another wonderful teacher that Deborah has been fortunate to study with (1989 NEA study grant), in this regard, is Jazz Pianist/Composer Jim McNeely. “I met Jim before I moved to NYC, while I was on the road, working on the East Coast. Jim inspired me in so many ways, but especially as a composer. Returning to school, Deborah received her Masters of Arts in Music Composition (2003), New York University (NYU), and, combined with her studies with Jim McNeely, helped her to become much more versatile as a musician/composer, and teacher; bringing about a lot more variety of work in her music career as well.
As a teacher, Deborah has worked in the following capacities:
Sept. 2002 - May 2004 at Rutgers University, subjects - Jazz Composition & Arranging/Jazz Trombone/Jazz Combo Private music studio (since 1995) - teaching improvisation, trombone & composition Faculty member of the NY Pops Educational Programs including: Salute to Music (since 1994), Create a Symphony (since 2004), and Musical Mentors (2005) 2003 taught Jazz Improvisation/Composition/History for teacher in-service - Plainfield School District, New Jersey. Deborah is also active as a guest artist/clinician at various schools/camps across the U.S. (Educational Specialist for Conn-Selmer Inc.)
As a composer/arranger Deborah has been commissioned by various groups including: Afrikan Amerikan Jazz Orchestra, NYU Concert Jazz Orchestra and Lou Caputo (Urban Still Life - JazzCat47 Records). She was an award winner in the 2000 Julius Hemphill Jazz Composition contest, Prize/Finalist in the 2002 BMI Foundation/Charlie Parker Composition Award, and received a 2004 NEFA Meet the Composer Commission.
With the release of her new quintet CD, Grace (September 2005), a new Trio CD, TRIO (2007), new compositions in the works for other artists, and her own ensembles, Deborah continues her diverse life in music, communicating her personal vision along the way.