Born: August 1, 1987 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
As a finalist in the 2011 National Trumpet Competition (NTC) Jazz Division, 24-year old trumpeter Shawn Williams is beginning to make a name for himself among the jazz scene. Prior to competing at NTC last spring Shawn struggled to re- learn the trumpet as he went through a drastic embouchure change and intensive dental implant surgery. Shawn questioned himself many times if he would be able to play the trumpet again, yet he still made many decisions that risked his future with music. Shawn has overcome many challenges and obstacles in a very short amount of time. He is thankful for the risks he made that have led him to the accomplishments he has achieved to this day.
A native of California, Shawn grew up in the Bay Area where he was active in many youth ensembles including the San Jose Youth Symphony (SJYS) and the San Jose Youth Jazz Orchestra (SJYJO). As a member of SJYS, Shawn gained much experience playing classical repertoire and was lucky to have travelled on tour with this group to Japan in the summer of 2003. Playing the jazz trumpet chair with SJYJO gave Shawn plentiful experience playing for the San Jose Jazz Society’s annual summer jazz festivals and jazz camps at an early age. In March of 2005 Shawn was fortunate to have been a recipient of the International Trumpet Guild’s Youth Artist Award.
In the fall of 2005 Shawn moved to Los Angeles, CA to begin his undergraduate studies in jazz trumpet at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). At CSUN Shawn studied jazz trumpet with jazz trumpet master Bobby Shew and Howie Shear. Shawn has also been greatly influenced by Gary Pratt; jazz dept co-director. While at CSUN Shawn was apart of the award winning Jazz “A” Band under the direction of Matt Harris. In 2008 this ensemble won first place at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Competition, which resulted in a performance at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival. In the fall of 2008 the CSUN Jazz “A” Band was given a tremendous opportunity to play a composition by the 2008 Thelonious Monk Composition competition winner Sherisse Rogers at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition at Kodak Hall in Hollywood, CA. This gave the ensemble the chance to perform for a number of renowned jazz artists, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John Patitucci, Terence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and B.B King just to name a few. The Jazz “A” Band was also the rehearsal band for a 2008 Buddy Rich tribute concert. Some of the drummers featured were jazz drum set master Peter Erskine, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Neil Pert of the group Rush. Shawn was also fortunate to have traveled on tour with this ensemble to Germany & Austria in the summer of 2007. In 2010 the CSUN Jazz “A” Band released their third album entitled “CSUN Originals II”, which was recorded at Capitol Records the summers of 2008 & 2009.
After graduating from CSUN in 2009, Shawn was accepted to the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Shawn moved cross-country to begin his studies at Eastman in the fall of 2009. As a master’s student in the Jazz & Contemporary Media program, Shawn studied jazz trumpet with Clay Jenkins and Mike Kuapa. While at Eastman Shawn was apart of the Downbeat awarding winning Eastman New Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Rivello as well as the renowned Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Bill Dobbins. Shawn also played in the Eastman Chamber Jazz Ensemble, which was the featured ensemble for the Gil Evans Centennial Project that was initiated by composer Ryan Truesdell. After compiling and piecing together over 50 undocumented Gil Evans compositions Truesdell gave the honor of having the Eastman Chamber Jazz Ensemble perform this music for the first time in at least 50 years. This music has either never been played or was played at a rehearsal somewhere in the 1940s, 50s or 60s, but none of it has been recorded or heard since. A performance at St. Peter’s in New York City in Spring 2011 launched the beginning of this historical project. The performance featured a number of well-known jazz icons including: Phil Woods, Steve Wilson, Helen Meril, Frank Kimbrough, Howard Johnson, and Andy Bey. The release of this project will be on Gill Evans’ 100th Birthday on May 13, 2012. To assist Shawn in his studies at Eastman, he was granted a graduate award scholarship where he taught a jazz Improvisation class to Eastman non-jazz major students.
After recently graduating from Eastman in May 2011 Shawn accepted a position as lead trumpet for Royal Caribbean International Cruise lines. Shawn joined the Independence of the Seas in May 2011 where he traveled to Europe performing for audiences of thousands daily. As a member of the Independence of the Seas Orchestra, directed by former Johnny Mathis MD Jim Barnett, Shawn had the opportunity to enhance his lead trumpet ability and was also a featured soloist during the weekly jazz sets. England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy are among the counties Shawn was lucky to have travelled.
Shawn plays on a custom Edwards generation III model Bb trumpet.